If you’re thinking about shopping with AliExpress for the first time, you may be wondering, “Is AliExpress legit?”
Worry not – we’re here to help you learn how to avoid scams and shop safely.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress.com is a B2C online marketplace that has quickly grown to become one of the leading ecommerce websites for international buyers. It was launched in 2010, and the Chinese Alibaba Group, a company renowned for online commerce, owns it.
With its tremendous online presence, shoppers can find almost everything they need at competitive prices. AliExpress offers products such as apparel, accessories, computers & office supplies, electronics & technological gadgets, among many others.
For a more in-depth look at AliExpress, check out our learning center article: What is AliExpress?
To learn more about how AliExpress is different from Alibaba, check out: Alibaba vs. AliExpress.
Is AliExpress Legit?
eCommerce giant AliExpress is one of the largest ecommerce companies out there. As a top online retailer, they offer millions of products at reasonable prices, but it’s important to note that not all suppliers on the platform are reliable. AliExpress works similarly to Amazon or eBay in that it’s an online marketplace with multiple sellers.
Many reputable Chinese manufacturers use the platform to sell a wide range of outstanding products.
But plenty of suppliers also provide cheap hot-selling products, which aren’t always what you’d expect in terms of qualify.
Unscrupulous sellers have been known to practice deceptive pricing tactics– so make sure you read reviews before making any purchases.
Just because there’s a reputation for bad sellers, though, doesn’t mean it’s not a legitimate ecommerce marketplace. Like eBay, the company has solid financial backing but some bad apples.
Public on Multiple Stock Exchanges
The AliExpress ecommerce platform itself is legit. The parent company, Alibaba Group, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Alibaba Group (BABA) had an initial public offering (IPO) of $68/per share when it hit the NYSE in 2014.
Buyer Protection Policies
AliExpress offers shoppers Buyer Protection with a simple claims process should anything go wrong with your order.
The AliExpress Buyer Protection Program provides shoppers with a money-back guarantee. It assures them of a safe and secure shopping experience.
The program ensures that buyers can receive a full refund if they are unhappy with their purchase or if it does not arrive within the expected time frame.
All orders through AliExpress come with a buyer protection period of up to 90 days (beginning when the order ships to provide an adequate delivery window) and can be extended to 15 days after order receipt. If you allow the buyer protection period time to expire, you may not be able to get a refund.
This helps buyers protect themselves from dishonest merchants on the platform and makes buying from AliExpress a worry-free experience.
If you receive an item that’s not as you expected, you can ask the seller about a complete refund or replacement. Depending on the circumstances, they may try to offer partial refunds.
Suppose the seller doesn’t communicate or resolve the issue. In that case, you can contact AliExpress to escalate the Buyer Protection Redemption case to get your refund within 15 days.
Works Well as a Reliable Dropshipping Supplier
Becoming a dropshipper is a popular business model for entrepreneurs looking to start their own ecommerce business.
It provides money-back guarantees and buyer protection periods and has quality products if you know how to find them.
Dropshipping with AliExpress consists of five simple steps:
- Registering an AliExpress account (it’s free)
- Finding a reliable seller (We recommend talking with the supplier first to ensure they can accommodate you. You may also be able to negotiate dropshipping business deals for better profit.)
- Ordering samples to check the quality of products before you start selling them as your own
- Connecting your ecommerce platform to AliExpress so you can list the products from the suppliers you want to work with.
- Pushing the product listings live so your customers can purchase. The supplier receives a purchase notification and ships the product to your customer for you. You keep the profit between what you pay the supplier and what you charge your customer.
You can choose from a variety of reliable suppliers who offer excellent customer support.
After you’ve found authentic suppliers, use a product importer app on your ecommerce website to make it easier to add the products you’ll sell to your store.
Strong Payment Security
AliExpress and AliPay (the Alibaba Group version of PayPal) use top-tier security to protect your payment information.
Nowadays, no company is completely immune to a data breach, but Alibaba has a good track record of keeping its customers’ information safe.
This means you’re no more likely to have your information stolen from AliExpress than from Amazon or eBay. eBay has had data leak in the past, and so has Amazon. So, if you’re still willing to shop with them, don’t use payment security as the only reason to avoid AliExpress.
While Alibaba Group hasn’t been immune to data leakage, the web crawler attack didn’t affect AliExpress, and the hacker didn’t sell the data.
Why People Think AliExpress is a Scam
So, if the AliExpress platform is a legit player in the ecommerce space, why do so many people think it’s a scam?
It starts with the simple fact that many people fear what they don’t know – it is, after all, based in China – and here in the US, we’re exposed to platforms like Amazon and eBay.
But that’s not to say even the most reliable platforms don’t come without reasons to be skeptical.
Long Delivery Times
Depending on the country where the product is to be delivered, AliExpress shipping times vary. It can take anywhere from 12 to 60 days for your package to arrive, even with express shipping methods. You can always ask your seller for an estimated delivery time, but the window is often large because of customs.
You can choose the premium shipping option if you need your product faster. The price of this service is slightly higher than the standard shipping, but it offers faster delivery times.
Even still, it will not beat Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping because of the time the items go through customs to make it in the United States. Certain items can spend weeks sitting in customs.
It helps to find products that ship from the United States rather than China because they’ve already made it through customs and don’t have to travel as far. In this case, the suppliers have already shipped stock to the United States and can have your items shipped from a U.S.-based warehouse to speed up the process a bit.
Most sellers are located in China. The further you are away from China, the more likely you’ll run into delivery issues.
Items Aren’t Always as Described
Even when you pay close attention to the product listing, you may sometimes end up with items that aren’t as described.
Some sellers list poor quality products, with misinformation in the product details to entice people to buy so they can make a quick buck.
It’s not a good business practice, of course, because it leads to many unhappy individual customers and ultimately degrades the quality of AliExpress as a whole.
This is especially the case for branded items. Prominent brands like Nike, Gucci, and other luxury clothing brands aren’t using AliExpress and similar platforms to sell genuine products.
If you see things like this advertised and think you’re getting a deal because of the cheaper prices – you’re getting fake items. They may look good enough to pass for the real thing, but you will not have an authentic product.
Tracking Info is Hit or Miss
The Free shipping option may entice you to buy since there’s no added expense, but your tracking information may not be all that reliable.
With AliExpress Standard Shipping, your physical products are delivered by Airmail and then transferred to your local mail service for the “last mile” to get to your door. This is the United Postal Service in the United States, but in the UK, it’s Royal Mail.
Upgrading from the cheapest shipping options to premium ones means that your order will ship with a courier like DHL, FedEx, or UPS, the tracking information is not always updated in real-time.
Sometimes, you can blame this on the customs clearance process. Goods entering or leaving the United States must go through customs for security purposes. Goods may be scanned into customs and sit for weeks or more before moving to the next step. It’s frustrating for both buyers and sellers.
Without real-time updates, regardless of the shipping service used, you can’t be sure where your AliExpress products are at any given time. You just have to wait and see if they’ll make it to you.
With other ecommerce marketplaces, the shipping situation is much different, with near real-time updates, simply because the product is already in the country and can ship from a warehouse close to you as the customer.
If you place an order with AliExpress and don’t have a tracking number after ten business days, reach out to the seller to ask for more information.
Remember, you won’t be able to start the dispute process for non-delivery until after the maximum delivery window has passed.
Tips to Protect Yourself from Scammers
AliExpress may be a legitimate marketplace, but there is still the potential for scams.
Pay Attention to AliExpress Seller Reviews and Ratings
Whether you’re buying from AliExpress for the first time or you’re looking to do more business with this ecommerce site, it’s important to pay attention to seller reviews and ratings since they give you an idea of the seller’s track record.
Unfortunately, there are some bad sellers on the platform, and they’re easy to spot. Here are a few tips to help you identify them.
- Check the last sale date of the seller. This will indicate the frequency of purchases made by the seller. If you see that a seller is still active, they’re more likely to be reliable.
- Look for stores that have at least 100 ratings. This is similar to eBay’s feedback score. It indicates that the seller has been active on the site for a long time. You’ll also want to look at the number of orders they’ve received. This is especially true if they’re dealing with expensive consumer electronics. Pay attention to the positive feedback they’ve received more than the number of ratings. If they’ve got 100+ ratings, but most are negative, steer clear.
- Check the price history. If you’re worried about overpriced products, check the item’s price history to see how it has fluctuated recently.
- Avoid products with low prices. Cheaper goods may be a sign of low quality or fraud. Similarly, branded goods often don’t come with an authenticity guarantee.
- Ask the seller about the guarantees they offer. If a seller offers different guarantees for different items, it’s not clear they know what they’re doing.
Many suppliers offer buyer coupon codes to first-time buyers to entice sales. Don’t let the coupon code alone guide your decision about which supplier to use, whether you’re buying a product for yourself or considering dropshipping it to others.
Read Product Reviews
Reading reviews is one of the most important things you can do when shopping on AliExpress.
By reading reviews, you can get an idea of what to expect from a seller and whether or not they’re trustworthy. You can also learn about the quality of the products they sell, their shipping times, and customer service.
Look for reviews with pictures. If a seller only has a few pictures of their products, this is a good indicator that the reviews are fake. (Sometimes, sellers will pay for fake reviews to inflate their ratings to encourage people to buy from them. It’s a shady business practice and not something you should do as an ecommerce business owner.)
The product reviews give you a good idea of what you can expect if you were to place an order. If you see many of the same kinds of complaints – whether it be about the product itself or the service from the supplier, you’ll know whether you want to do business with this supplier or find another.
Communicate with Sellers Ahead of Placing Orders
You always have the option to reach out to the seller with questions or concerns before placing an order. If you’re considering a bulk purchase of any kind, you should definitely reach out to the seller before placing the order. You may able to get what you need at more affordable prices because of the bulk order.
If you don’t get a response from sellers within a day or two of reaching out, it’s safe to assume they’re no longer in business or too busy to handle your orders.
You’re usually getting such economical prices because you’re buying directly from the manufacturer. There’s no middleman for markup, allowing small businesses to purchase products at lower prices.
Should You Shop on the AliExpress Marketplace? Is it Safe to Buy From AliExpress?
Shopping with AliExpress in China is much like shopping with third-party sellers on Amazon in the United States – except you need to do a bit more homework first.
And honestly, if you’re shopping with a third-party seller on Amazon or Walmart Marketplace, you should still check the seller and product reviews. You can be scammed on those platforms, too.
You’ll be okay if you take the proper precautions – checking to ensure the seller is reputable with positive product feedback, reading product reviews, and paying attention to the delivery guarantee. Even if you need to take advantage of Buyer Protection, the claim process is simple.
Regardless of the platform, online shopping will always come with some risks. Sure, the shipping situation is a bit different with AliExpress because of the distance products have to travel, but if you’re willing to wait, the feasible prices and economic shipping method can make shopping on AliExpress worth it for many items.
If you’ve never shopped with AliExpress before and want to use it as the basis for your dropshipping business, you’ll treat it differently than you would if you were shopping on Amazon.
In either case, start with a small order if you’re going to try it. That way, if something doesn’t go as planned, it won’t be a major inconvenience.