Why and How You Should Buy From 1688 instead of Alibaba?


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Among our past clients, many complained about bad purchasing experiences on alibaba.com. Many problems seem to have no solution if they are trying to buy from alibaba.com. This is especially true for small business owners who want to:

  • Buy in small quantities;
  • Avoid hassles in price negotiation;
  • Buy different types of products from different suppliers in one purchase and still have a reasonable shipping fee;
  • Have a third-party take a look at the general product quality, etc.

To address all these problems, we would suggest them buy from 1688.com (the Chinese version of alibaba.com) instead of alibaba.com

Background of 1688

Founded in 2010, 1688.com also belongs to Alibaba Group. It is the largest online B2B wholesale platform in China. As the price of products on 1688 is relatively cheap and transparent, many enterprises, including many forward-looking eBay and Amazon sellers, choose to purchase on it.

1688 homepage

Why Should You Buy From 1688 Instead of Alibaba?

1. More Resonable Prices

Many alibaba sellers are middlemen or trading companies who would add a big mark-up. Why is this happening? A vast majority of factories in China are located in rural areas where few college graduates (with proper English speaking skills) are willing to work.

For example, in Huangqiao (a town in Taixing, Jiangsu Province), about 35% of the world’s violins are produced there. However, when you search “violin” on alibaba.com, you will see few sellers’ locations are in Huangqiao, Taixing. Not too many college graduates want to work in small factories in these rural areas, which means these factories have to depend on trading companies in cities to sell their products globally.

But these factories do have stores on 1688.com where no language barrier for them exists there. Similar situations happen to many, many other factory owners in China. This means you can more easily contact manufacturers directly on 1688.com.

Also, because of fiercer competition (compared to alibaba.com) among factories and trading companies, the sellers on 1688.com offer more reasonable prices. Let’s take this pair of shoes on Alibaba shown in the following picture for an example. Its price ranges from $5.55 to $7.99 USD on alibaba.com (which means you can only get the price $5.55 if you order a very large quantity):

alibaba shoes

What’s the price of this product on 1688.com? Here is the result:

1688 shoes

From the picture, we can see that the price ranges from 24 CNY to 29 CNY (around $4.44 USD)

2. Lower MOQ

For small business owners who do not know how their products will sell in the market, ordering a small quantities of goods to test the market is key. Many sellers on 1688.com offer a very small MOQ.

1688 stainless steel bottle

From this picture above, we can see the MOQ for this stainless steel bottle is 2 pieces. However, similar products on alibaba.com require a much larger MOQ (shown in the picture below).

alibaba cups

3. More Transparent Price

When placing an order on Alibaba, most of the time, you will find that you need to communicate with the supplier about the price of the goods.

alibaba no transparent price

Among our clients, many complained that they would never get the low price shown on alibaba. This is actually very typical among Alibaba sellers who would attract buyers with a very low price. But when buyers do contact them, they will find excuses like “your request is different”, “the raw materials are more expensive now”, “the low price is for products of lowest quality”, etc, so that they can require a higher price.

But on 1688, the prices are much more transparent. You can avoid the hassles in price negotiation and place orders directly for the prices shown on the page. The purchasing experience is similar to that of a B2C online store like Amazon. If the sellers do not deliver your products on time as promised on the page, you can get your refund with a simple click.

1688 hats

In this picture, you can see the wholesale price of this fishermen’s hat is 28 CNY ($4.4 USD) if you are buying 3 to 10 pieces; When you buy 11-99 pieces, the price will be 22 CNY ($3.4 USD) per piece; When you buy more than 100 pieces, the price will be reduced to 18 CNY ($2.8 USD) per piece.

Cons of 1688

1. Language Barrier

Because 1688 is for the Chinese domestic market, the platform is only available in Chinese language. This is difficult for foreigners who do not speak Chinese. At the same time, most of the sellers on it can’t speak proper English, so it will be difficult to communicate with suppliers.

1688 language barrier

2. Payment

Payments have to be made with a Chinese bank account on 1688.com.

3. Quality inspection

With no one helping you in China, you will never know the real quality until you get the products (too late).

4. Shipping

Most sellers will not help you send products overseas. Most of the time, they don’t even have export qualifications. If you are buying several different kinds of products, with no one helping you repack them into one box, the shipping fees can be very high.


Then, how to solve the problems mentioned above? All you need to do is to find a sourcing agent.

sourcing company

What A Sourcing Agent Can Do For You?

1. Source Products

1688 is only in Chinese, so it is difficult for a foreigner to source products on this platform. A sourcing agent can help you source the products from 1688. If you know the name of the product, just tell them. But if you don’t know the certain name or just have a picture, you can send the picture to the agent, then they can search for the products and list some qualified suppliers for you to choose from. At the same time, a sourcing agent will do some background check of these potential suppliers to avoid loss.

1688 search

2. Communicate With Suppliers

Since most of the suppliers on 1688 can’t speak English, a sourcing agent can help you communicate with the suppliers and express your requirements clearly. A sourcing agent acts as a bridge between you and the supplier to get the deal done.

1688 communication 1

3. Pay for You

You don’t have a Chinese bank card? It doesn’t matter once you have a sourcing agent. They can place the order for you and make a payment for you.

4. Free Warehouse and Repacking Service

You may want to buy many different types of items at once, and it’s too expensive to ship them one by one. In this case, a Sourcing Agent can help you store your goods for free until all your goods have been received so they can repack them in one box and ship it out at a more reasonable international shipping fee.


5. Quality Inspection

After receiving the goods, you can entrust your sourcing agent to conduct quality inspection. For most daily products, a general look at the products will solve everything. Once the quality problem is found, your sourcing agent can timely return and replace the goods for you. But if the problem is found after you receive them, then it will be difficult for you to ask for compensation and the cost of shipping the goods back to China is very high.

6. Free Photography

If you want to sell your products online, buying agents can take photos of products for you so that you can prepare your online store earlier.

7. Agent Export Your Products

For small quantities of goods, products can be exported easily by claiming as gifts, but for a larger quantity, your agent with export qualification can be a huge help.


For small business owners who want to avoid hassles in negotiation and still get a competitive price, 1688.com is a much better wholesale platform than alibaba.com. Although it is difficult for overseas buyers to use 1688.com directly, the problems can be easily addressed with agent help.

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