We gave you a brief idea of what Alibaba is and how it works, but is this online portal for buying or selling wholesale goods a benevolent merchant, or a petty thief? We'll break down what's good and not-so-good about using Alibaba for business.
Large selection of wholesale goods — You can buy and sell many different things on Alibaba, including clothing, accessories, furniture, sports equipment, toys, and more. There's something for everyone!
Skip the middleman — When shopping on Alibaba, you get direct-to-consumer prices on most of their goods, so you stand to save a bit of money by avoiding distributor markup.
Supply companies in need — You can also register as a seller on Alibaba. Since Alibaba is one of the biggest e-commerce companies in the world, your products will be in front of thousands of potential buyers!
You have to buy in bulk — Most products on Alibaba have a minimum order quantity attached to them. There are some products that you can buy one at a time, but they are relatively few and far between.
Watch the shipping costs — Most of the products that you buy on Alibaba come from mainland China or one of its overseas territories (like Hong Kong), so shipping costs can get expensive. See if you can get free shipping on certain items!
Limited seller capabilities with free account — Without a Gold Supplier membership, you can only list about 50 different products for sale on Alibaba, among other restrictions. Free accounts are also usually not as trusted as Gold Supplier accounts, since they have less to lose if they are caught breaking Alibaba's rules.
The bottom line: 6.5/10
Our score for Alibaba is based on if you're using it as an individual buyer. If you own a business that needs to move a lot of product at once, Alibaba is significantly better in terms of putting your merchandise in front of a lot of prospective buyers at once, or buying your base product in bulk. If you're just shopping for yourself, though, Alibaba is very hit-and-miss. It has a wide selection of goods at below-retail prices, but shipping costs can drive prices back up, and you often have to buy more than one of an item at once. You may want to try Alibaba's sister site, AliExpress, or American-based online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon if you're looking for an e-commerce portal better suited for solitary shoppers.
Next, we'll share some tips for buying or selling safely on Alibaba (which can be used on AliExpress, too), and then get to how to buy or sell with it!