1688 or Alibaba – The Differences and Which One You Should Choose

1688 vs alibaba

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When you want to import from China, you will definitely think about searching desired products on Alibaba and place an order. Foreign customers must be familiar with Alibaba, but do you know there is a Chinese version of Alibaba in China – 1688.com. However, it doesn’t simply mean that it is the Alibaba platform in Chinese language. 1688 and Alibaba are two separate platforms. Though both belong to Alibaba group, they are operating very differently.

What is 1688?

1688, affiliated to Alibaba Group, is a platform supporting B2B wholesale and dropshipping. More Chinese manufacturers as well as big distributors (most of whom do not sell on alibaba.com) can be found here. Many Chinese Alibaba sellers are dropshipping products from 1688 to international buyers.

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Although 1688 only serves the Chinese market, it has advantages over Alibaba’s platform, which serves international customers.

Difference between 1688 and alibaba

1688 Has Lower Prices

This is the biggest advantage of 1688 and the biggest reason why I recommend buying from 1688.

Many of the suppliers in 1688 are factories, which means you can buy directly at factory prices.

In addition, the 1688 platform serves the local people, so the prices on it are all local prices, while the prices on Alibaba are foreign prices. It can be imagined that there is a price difference among them.


If we search for the same dress on 1688 and Alibaba, here is the result.

dress.price .1688

The price ranges from almost 27 CNY to 96 CNY.

dress.price .alibaba

The price ranges from 8.85 USD to 25 USD, and if we take 6.3 as the exchange rate difference, the price will range from 55.8 CNY to 157 CNY.

For the same product, the price difference between the two platforms is obvious, so it can be seen that 1688 platform has an advantage in price.

1688 Has More Transparent Pricing

When you’re trying to place an order on Alibaba, you’ve definitely experienced that the order price is uncertain. And you still need to negotiate with the supplier for the final price. While the price on 1688 is very transparent, the more you buy, the cheaper the price is. Even the freight is also clearly shown on the website.

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When you purchase socks for 2-99 pieces, the price is 1.3 CNY per piece;

When you purchase socks for 100-9999 pieces, the price is 1.2 CNY per piece;

When you purchase socks for more than 10000 pieces, the price is reduced to 1 CNY per piece.

Apart from that, you need to pay 1.8 CNY for freight.

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Compared with the clear and transparent pricing system of 1688, the pricing system of Alibaba is relatively vague, such as the freight needs to be negotiated with the supplier. And there has also been the case where suppliers will raise prices on the basis of rising raw materials.

1688 Has Lower Or No MOQ

The minimum order quantity of goods on Alibaba is generally relatively large, and the minimum order quantity of goods with small value may reach hundreds or thousands. This means you’ll need to buy a lot of items at once to stock up on your own. But the minimum order quantity on 1688 is very small, or there is no minimum order quantity, you can buy only one piece. This is very friendly for small sellers because there is no risk of overstocking. Therefore, 1688 is a very suitable platform for those who have just started their own business.


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Here the MOQ is 2 pairs.

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From the two pictures above, we can find out that the MOQ on Alibaba is much higher than that on 1688.

More Products And Suppliers

If we search for sandals respectively on 1688 and Alibaba, here is the result.


Results of Products
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Results of Suppliers
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It is obvious to see from the pictures above, 1688 is superior to Alibaba both in products and suppliers. As 1688 mainly serves Chinese customers and some traditional suppliers only focus on the domestic market without developing overseas markets, which leads to some products and suppliers that cannot be found on Alibaba. In other words, there are more suppliers to choose from on 1688, and you may find products that are likely to sell well but you can’t find on Alibaba.

Apart from the pros mentioned above, there are still some cons for foreign customers.

1688 Has Language Barrier

As you can see, the website is shown in Chinese and there is no English version, which makes it difficult for foreign users to understand. In addition, most of the suppliers of 1688 can’t speak English, so communication may be troublesome.

1688 Has Payment Restriction

As a foreigner, it is easy for you to register on 1688.com, the biggest problem is that if you want to pay money to the suppliers, you will find that you are unable to do so since you have no Chinese bank card. No matter which way you choose to  pay to the suppliers, a Chinese bank card is a must.

How to Solve the Mentioned Problems?

Translation Tools

You can use some translation tools like Google Translate to help you translate the whole website into English or other foreign languages. Then you can search for the products you want to buy.


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“Pay for me” Function

On 1688.com, there is a ” pay for me” function which means that if you happen to have a Chinese friend, then you can press the ” Pay for me” button and ask your friend to pay the money for you.

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Finding A Sourcing Agent

If you  just started your business and want to buy products from 1688, a sourcing agent is a wise choice for you. Normally, a sourcing agent can provide you with a professional and comprehensive service. Once you convey the requirements, they can do the rest of the work for you, and you just have to wait at home for the delivery.

For newbies who are not familiar with 1688, finding a sourcing agent is the safest and most reliable way.

It eliminates a lot of communication barriers because they usually can speak English and they can understand your needs better. Also, a sourcing agent can do a background check in China for you to avoid loss. In addition, the Sourcing Agent will provide quality inspection service. If there is a problem with the goods, it can be immediately returned and replaced. If the quality issue is not found until you receive it, it will cost you a lot to return to China, and you will also suffer unnecessary losses.

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Compared with Alibaba, 1688 has certain advantages. Whether you want to do wholesale or retail, 1688 is a great platform. If you need an agent to dropship or source products from 1688, please contact us, we are professional in this area. Also, if you have some problems and want to learn more about 1688, feel free to ask us for help.

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