There is no doubt Amazon has changed the world of commerce.  The way the company conducts business is the basis for many other online business retailers.  Sourcing Nova notes AliExpress is China’s answer to Amazon.  People, however ask two questions: AliExpress – Are the deals legit and valid; Is AliExpress safe?

is aliexpress safe

Sourcing Nova is going to address that very question.  Before jumping directly into AliExpress, we do want to share a little history of its background and parent company – Alibaba.

Alibaba began as a B2B, business to business, and expanded to B2C, business to customer with AliExpress, cloud computing and payment services.  Alibaba holds a significant share of the online business world, boasting 75 billion dollars of sales over 11 days last year.  Additionally, Alibaba surpassed Walmart as the largest online marketplace on the globe – an impressive feat.  Strangely, however, the Chinese people cannot shop at Alibaba or AliExpress.  They use Taobao or Tmall for their shopping needs.

The biggest difference between AliExpress and places like Amazon is AliExpress does not sell anything.  It is a marketplace allowing third parties to make sales.  Its largest share of sales comes from Russia and Latin America – Amazon obviously dominates the U.S. and Europe.  Don’t concern yourself about language barriers either.  AliExpress covers the following languages:  English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, Russion, Turkish, Hebrew, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Turkish.

There is one major issue with AliExpress as a marketplace and nothing more – it has a rather shady reputation for cheap products and false advertising.  In other words, it looks like a great deal.  It is – on the webpage.

The world of online shopping can have plenty of duds for every awesome deal you can find.  However, there are some things people want to know about AliExpress and shopping there:

·         What are the differences between the two e-commerce sites?

·         How does Aliexpress work for its customers?

·         Why are the products so inexpensive?

·         Is AliExpress safe for shopping?

·         How can a shopper be certain the seller is legitimate and fair?

·         How are disputes resolved?

Sourcing Nova is going to address each of these questions and then some.  The primary focus is AliExpress, but we do want to touch on Alibaba for reference sake.  Many confuse the two.  Once we cover the basics, the remainder of the piece will focus on a single concept: what is AliExpress to give you an idea of the site.

Enjoy your read!


Alibaba and AliExpress – Differences

Alibaba vs AliExpress

There are a few ways the two companies differentiate themselves outside of parent and child company.

  1. Pay and get paid

Alibaba uses lines of credit L/C and TT, telegraphic transfer, a common method of payment for trading with overseas customers and manufacturers.

AliExpress holds the payments in an escrow account from the seller until the customer gets their products.  This was done specifically because of issues through Alibaba.


  1. Buying

Alibaba is a digital platform linking businesses and businesses together.  It has no warehouses or inventory.

AliExpress for resellers and dropshipping.  Most buy excess products from manufacturers and sell the overage to customers.  This is part of the reason for the mixed quality of products and why people question if AliExpress is safe and legit.


  1. Products available

Alibaba sells almost anything and everything – in bulk.  Do you need 1,000 fishing reels?  Alibaba can make it happen for you.

AliExpress sells individual products just like what can be found on Alibaba.  Not many individuals have need of 1,000 fishing reels.  One or two is just fine.

Neither site will carry firearms, firearm accessories, software, ebooks and digital media as a general rule.


  1. MOQ and personalization

Alibaba deals with various traders with large inventory and sales.  This is actually cheaper in the long run.  If you need 5,000 8”x10” picture frames, Alibaba is for you.  Alibaba also gives its customer base the opportunity for private label sales, something Sourcing Nova has mentioned on its candles blog and will be expanding on this topic later.  MOQ also means paying for the products in advance before shipping, and this may bother some customers.

AliExpress works with individuals and customers interested in single purchases.  Customers cannot order samples as they can on Alibaba.  There is a tradeoff.  Customers do not have to pay in advance, have the escrow account and can pay with a variety of payment methods: PayPal, credit cards and the like.  You do not have the option of personalizing any products with white labels or requesting sample products.  You order what you see online.


  1. Contact

Alibaba has a chat function and plenty of employees fluent in several languages to help its customer base.  You are also free to contact a supplier directly via phone or email.

AliExpress has a messaging system.  Finding and working with a customer service specialist fluent in your particular language can be difficult at the best of times.


  1. Delivery

Alibaba’s shipping takes considerable time to get to its customers.  Delivery can take up to several months depending on any number of factors and circumstances such as samples and MOQ.  Why?  Alibaba ships via sea freight.

AliExpress may take time as well, but products are complete and waiting to be sold.  Freight is done via air, so the time may be cut to a degree.  There will still be a waiting period, however.  Products are still inspected, and sometimes seized, at a country’s customs and importation stations.


  1. Suppliers and manufacturers

Alibaba is worldwide with both suppliers and manufacturers.

AliExpress is strictly Chinese supplied and manufactured.


How does AliExpress work for its customers?

how does aliexpress work

To start, both sites are much like any online retailer.  Create an account with some basic information.  Log in, and start shopping.  Since AliExpress is owned by Alibaba, the account information will work for both locations equally.  However, Alibaba does require trading companies and sellers to register and  pay an annual fee of 29,800 RMB (Around $5,000.00 U.S. dollars) for their basic membership and 80,000 RMB ($12,500.00 U.S. dollars) for the Gold Supplier membership.

Gold Supplier members have a special mark.  These are the most legit of the companies to order products from in bulk.

On-site advertising is also available for company exposure.  Overseas buyers may register and shop at no charge.

At this point, Sourcing Nova does not have much else to add about Alibaba.  The remainder of the article’s focus will be strictly on AliExpress and if the site is legit or not.


Why is AliExpress so cheap?

how is aliexpress so cheap

That is a good question.  Here are the answers:

1. Abundance – AliExpress has thousands of sellers often selling the same products and are coming directly from the manufacturer.

2. No middleman – Since products are coming directly from the manufacturer, there is no middle costs associated with making purchases – shipping, warehousing, transportation, stocking and overhead fees associated with retail industry.

3. Buyer attention – This ties directly back to abundance.  So many are selling the same products, they are looking for an edge above the other competition.  This usually translates into a price war of who can be the cheapest and still turn profit.

4. Economy – China has a strong manufacturing economy and ships products worldwide.  There are very low production costs, inexpensive labor and lax laws on things like copyrights.

5. Counterfeit – The counterfeit industry in China is huge.  Most of the branded products seen on AliExpress are not the actual product.  In other words, the Rolex watch or Nike shirt you see for pennies of the regular price are not going to be the actual products.


A word about counterfeit products


It can be very tempting to order that Rolex, pair of Nike shoes or other high end product from AliExpress, but these high end, luxury, branded productscarry the heaviest risk and penalties in more than one way.


What are counterfeit products?


The name and brand appear the same, and the construction quality may rival the real deal, but these are not the same thing.  The most commonly counterfeited products: bags, garmets, electrical products, clothing, watches and cosmetics.


Why are counterfeit products bad?


Many times the products will be faulty in some way, break after a short time, fail to function at all, injure someone or even create allergic reactions from the metals or ingredients in the cosmetics.


What is the big deal about selling counterfeit products?


This is a question many sellers ask, particularly when the products in question are coming from multi-billion dollar corporations.  The small amount purchased and sold should not have an effect, but there are serious ramifications.

  • Payment issues – The payment system you use to process customer purchases could block you and ban you completely.  Starting another payment provider could prove difficult.


  • Facebook/Instagram – Facebook owns Instagram and does not take well to counterfeiters.  Both are powerful tools to build a client base and advertising.  Losing them could be devastating.


  • Penalties – The U.S. cracks down hard on counterfeiters – up to 10 years in prison and fines into the millions.  The U.K. is equally serious, except their fines have no upper limit.


  • Competition crackdown – Your competition is always looking for a leg up, and bad press sells.  Do you really want your direct competition flaunting the fact you and your business were caught selling counterfeit products?


  • Lose your business – Self explanatory.  If you lost your freedom beforehand, this is moot.


Is AliExpress safe for shopping?

is aliexpress safe to buy

Online shopping is not going to be 100 percent safe at any time.  eBay has been hacked before.  However, 99.9999 percent of the transactions done through AliExpress are perfectly safe.  Consider: It is one of the most visited sites on the Internet – would this be so if it were constantly hacked with customers losing their identities and hard earned money?

One other major consideration: Alibaba has its own Cloud security.  This arm stays in line with the rest of AI technologies for security and risk analysis.  So good in fact, they are often used by other large companies because of the efficacy of the product.

The majority of the issues do not arise from the actual transaction but with the products themselves – more on that later.


The safety net – Buyer Protection


AliExpress is safe and legit because it has one of the best buyer protection programs available.  In fact, for many who use AliExpress for dropshipping, the program bests eBay in terms of value.  AliExpress makes extra effort to keep the unscrupulous off the site, but they do come through.  This is why there is the Buyer Protection.

Basically, the protection promises you, the customer, the product as ordered on the screen or your money back.  It is that simple.  More importantly, as the buyer, you do not have to do anything in the case of a bad transaction.  AliExpress covers you 100 percent.


Buyer Protection – The Process


Suppose you ordered a product.  AliExpress provides you with tracking information and a date when your products will arrive.

Your product arrives late and/or damaged.  You simply initiate the process with Eva, the customer support bot.  This will start negotiations with the seller.  As the buyer, you can provide any evidence you may have (pictures are great).  The seller can reject your claim or make a counter offer – a partial refund, for example.

You then have the option of accepting or rejecting.  This will continue until one of two things happens: 1. A resolution is reached; 2. 45 days passes.

If there is an impass after 45 days, a customer support team member will step in and resolve the issue.

Customers who elect a full refund will have their money returned in about 15 business days.  There are some times when sellers will drag feet and try to avoid repayment.  There are a few instances of new buyers being rejected for their claims since they are not established.  This is exceptionally rare and should not keep you from shopping on AliExpress.

Do make a note about returning products to China.  It is not cheap to send anything back to China, and the amount of shipping may exceed the cost of the product itself.  There is always the chance of being lost in transit as well.

Be realistic.  Do not post a one star review, and expect a refund.  Minor things like color being a different shade than the picture or other minute issue really needs to be weighed – is this worth my time and effort, or can I live with this?

Lastly, pay attention to your delivery times.  If the delivery was promised in 14 days, and you get your products on day nine, you have five days to file a dispute.  After the 14 day window, AliExpress will not help you, and your only recourse may be to file with your credit card or PayPal.


Smart shopping on AliExpress

smart shopping on aliexpress

So far, Sourcing Nova has given you some pretty solid reasoning why AliExpress is perfectly safe and legit for online shopping and purchases.  There are some great deals and bargains available on the site with a bit of smart shopping.

We emphasize smart here.  Smart shopping.  This means you cannot jump onto AliExpress, find a great product, order it and be happy.  There is a bit more to it than that if you are trying to get the best value for your money.  What do you do?  There are a few things, actually.


Research the seller and reviews


Sellers on AliExpress have a business history and reviews just like other sites.  If you are not sure what to check for, here is a quick primer:

·       Number of items sold – Idealy, the seller should have at minimum 100 products sold in a year’s time.  This is not unreasonable.

·       Individual feedback – Anything over 100 individual pieces of feedback is also a good idea to check.

·       Percentage feedback – Anything under 95 percent can be hit or miss.  Read the most recent dates to see if it was at the beginning of the seller’s time on the site.  Everyone has growing pains when starting out.  Additionally, no one person is going to be 100 percent happy 100 percent of the time.

·       Seller guarantees – Is the seller buyer friendly?  On time deliveries, returns, good refunds and honest about big money electronic items – stereos, computers, speakers and the like.

·       Store front – How long has the store been in AliExpress?  Established stores are better.


Know what is legit and not


Most of AliExpress has legit sellers and storefronts.  Like we said, AliExpress works hard to keep the place safe and legit for its customer base.  You will have the occasional bad apple.  Here is what to look for and avoid once found:

·         Poor photography – Good sellers take time to get their product pictures neat, crisp and from a variety of angles.  Check for inconsistencies.

·         Descriptions – Descriptions should certainly speak of the value of the product but not to the point it seems too much.

·         Huge variety – Good sellers do not branch out into everything from childrens’ clothing to high end fishing equipment.  They will focus on a theme or a few things.

·         Fujian – This province is known for counterfeit sportswear, sneakers and designer bags.    However, it is well-known for manufacturing sports equipment for many international brands.  Outside of the products mentioned specifically, the AliExpress sellers are legit.

·         Questions – Three days is about the limit for getting an answer to a question.  If you do not get an answer to a valid question, there is a good chance you won’t get an answer at any other time.

·         Brand names – Sellers offering brand name products from high end brands are counterfeit. Refresh yourself on the consequences of counterfeit products above.

·         Glittering gold – ‘All that glitters is not gold.’  If the deal seems to be too good, it is.  Do not be fooled with promises of low prices for high end items.


Payment – Protect yourself


AliExpress will hold payments in escrow for you.  Some fraudsters will promise a better deal if you cut AliExpress out of the transaction.  Doing so will keep you from any protection with the Buyer Protection program.

Secondly, use PayPal or a credit card.  You can open a dispute with either of these in case of problems that are not remedied with Buyer’s Protection.


Check first; post later


Your products arrive at home, and you are certainly thrilled.  Before you jump onto the site and post your satisfaction, exercise some restraint.  Give it a day or two.  Make sure the product works like was promised without fail, and everything is included.

You have 15 days after the product arrives and marked as received to open a dispute.  Do not rush the feedback as you may need to open a dispute ticket.




Products coming from China will take time to get to you.  Many times the products will arrive in customs and sit for some time until released if at all.  Free shipping is an option, but it comes at a cost of around 60 days to make it to you.  Also, you will likely not get a tracking number.

If you are in a hurry, pay the shipping costs, and get a tracking number.  It will not be as cheap, but that is the trade off.

Good, fast and cheap – pick two.


Electronics – One of the reasons people use AliExpress


Electronics on AliExpress is a huge portion of the market, and there are some legit deals to be found. Computers are particularly popular but come with the same issues as any computer bought online.  Thousands of people have ordered computers online with no problems, and a handful have had nothing but headaches.

The one area where people looking for legit deals on AliExpress have issue is with storage and memory.  It is common for memory sticks to promise one amount and arrive as a fraction of that amount.  Storage media can be promised new but will have bad clusters.  Firmware can be hacked and corrupted.  Until you try the entire drive, there is no way to be sure.  Find out, and the scammer is long gone to its next patsy.

Check the AliExpress reviews of the seller over completely like recommended above, and you will be fine with your electronics purchase.


The iPhone


Many will look for iPhones on AliExpress for obvious reasons – a fraction of the cost.  The phones may be ‘frankensteined’ – thrown together from parts of other phones.  Better sellers will have some iPhones as they are not quite the rage in China as they are elsewhere.


Final thoughts


This was a long piece, but necessary to cover all of the information Sourcing Nova felt was important.  It is up to you to decide if AliExpress is legit or not at this point.  Let us know: Is AliExpress legit?  Have you shopped there?  What was your experience?  Share with us below.