1688 vs Alibaba: Which One Is Better for Sourcing in China?

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1688 vs alibaba

Are you looking to source products from China? If so, you’ve probably come across two popular platforms: 1688 and Alibaba.

Both platforms are owned by the Alibaba Group, but they cater to different market segments and offer unique features.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the world of 1688 and Alibaba, exploring their differences, advantages, and disadvantages.

By the end, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which platform is best for your business.

Understanding 1688


1. What is 1688?

1688, also known as Alibaba.cn, is a Chinese e-commerce platform primarily catering to the domestic Chinese market.

It is a B2B platform that connects Chinese manufacturers, suppliers, and wholesalers with local businesses, providing a wide range of products at competitive prices.

2. History of 1688

Launched in 1999, 1688 was initially designed to help small and medium-sized Chinese enterprises with online sales and marketing.

Over the years, it has evolved into a leading wholesale platform in China, boasting millions of suppliers and a vast product selection.

3. Who is 1688 for?

1688 is primarily for Chinese businesses looking for local suppliers.

However, international buyers who can navigate the Chinese-language platform may also find value in the competitive prices and wide product range.

Understanding Alibaba

alibaba homepage

1. What is Alibaba?

Alibaba, or Alibaba.com, is a global B2B e-commerce platform connecting international buyers with Chinese manufacturers, suppliers, and wholesalers.

It offers an extensive range of products and services, from consumer goods to industrial machinery, and supports multiple languages, including English.

2. History of Alibaba

Alibaba was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma and his team, with the aim of helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China access the global market.

Today, Alibaba has grown into one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, with millions of suppliers and buyers from over 200 countries and regions.

3. Who is Alibaba for?

Alibaba is designed for businesses outside of China looking to source products directly from Chinese manufacturers and suppliers.

It is particularly popular among small businesses and online retailers seeking competitive prices, product customization, and bulk order discounts.

The Key Differences Between 1688 and Alibaba

the key differences between 1688 and alibaba

1. Market Focus

While 1688 primarily serves the domestic Chinese market, Alibaba caters to international buyers.

This difference in market focus influences various aspects of their platforms, such as language, payment methods, and shipping options.

2. Language

1688 is predominantly a Chinese-language platform, which can pose a
challenge for international buyers who don’t speak Chinese.

On the other hand, Alibaba supports multiple languages, including English, making it more accessible for a global audience.

3. Pricing

Generally, 1688 offers lower prices compared to Alibaba, as it targets the domestic market and has fewer intermediaries.

This can be advantageous for international buyers who are willing to navigate the language barrier and can manage logistics and quality control.

However, Alibaba’s pricing is still competitive, and the platform often provides better support for international transactions.

4. MOQ

what is moq

On 1688, MOQs are generally lower than on Alibaba, as the platform caters to the domestic market, where smaller businesses often require smaller order quantities.

And Alibaba’s MOQs tend to be higher, as it targets international buyers who often require larger quantities for cost-effective shipping and economies of scale.

5. Payment Methods

1688 primarily supports payment methods popular in China, such as Alipay and UnionPay.

This may be inconvenient for international buyers who need to use other payment methods like PayPal or international credit cards.

Conversely, Alibaba supports a wider range of payment options, catering to the needs of international buyers.

6. Shipping

Shipping options on 1688 are typically geared towards domestic deliveries, which may not be suitable for international buyers.

Alibaba, however, offers more comprehensive shipping solutions, including partnerships with major international logistics providers, to accommodate the needs of global customers.

Pros and Cons of 1688

pros and cons of 1688

Advantages of 1688

Lower prices: Due to its focus on the domestic market, 1688 often offers lower prices compared to Alibaba.

Wide product selection: 1688 boasts millions of suppliers and a vast range of products to choose from.

Access to the Chinese market: For businesses looking to tap into the Chinese market, 1688 provides an excellent opportunity.

Disadvantages of 1688

Language barrier: The platform is primarily in Chinese, which can be a challenge for non-Chinese speakers.

Limited payment options: 1688 supports mainly Chinese payment methods, which may be inconvenient for international buyers.

Shipping limitations: 1688’s shipping options are more focused on domestic deliveries, making it less suitable for international transactions.

Pros and Cons of Alibaba

pros and cons of alibaba

Advantages of Alibaba

Global reach: Alibaba is designed for international buyers, making it more accessible and user-friendly for a global audience.

Multiple language support: Alibaba supports various languages, including English, making it easier for non-Chinese speakers to navigate the platform.

Wider payment options: Alibaba offers a broader range of payment methods to accommodate international buyers.

Comprehensive shipping solutions: Alibaba has partnerships with major logistics providers to facilitate international shipping.

Disadvantages of Alibaba

Higher prices: Alibaba’s prices may be higher than 1688’s, as it caters to the international market and has more intermediaries involved.

Intense competition: With millions of suppliers, competition on Alibaba can be fierce, making it harder for businesses to stand out.

1688 vs Alibaba: Which is Better for Different Types of Businesses?

1688 vs alibaba which is better for different types of businesses

1. Small Businesses

For small businesses, Alibaba is generally a better choice due to its global focus, language support, and international payment options.

However, if a small business has Chinese-speaking staff and can handle logistics and quality control, 1688 may offer more competitive prices.

2. Large Businesses

Large businesses with the resources to navigate the Chinese market and manage logistics may benefit from the lower prices on 1688.

However, Alibaba still provides an excellent platform for sourcing products, particularly for businesses looking for a more user-friendly experience and international support.

3. Online Retailers

Online retailers who want to source products at competitive prices while enjoying the ease of use and support for international transactions should opt for Alibaba.

1688 may be more suitable for online retailers targeting the Chinese market or those with the necessary resources to overcome the platform’s limitations.

Using Third-Party Services to Bridge the Gap Between 1688 and Alibaba

third party services

While both 1688 and Alibaba have their unique advantages, businesses can leverage third-party services to bridge the gap between the platforms.

For instance, some services provide language translation, payment facilitation, and shipping logistics, making it easier for international businesses to navigate and benefit from both platforms.

1. Sourcing Agents

Sourcing agents can help businesses navigate the complexities of international trade, particularly when dealing with Chinese suppliers.

They can assist with tasks like supplier research, negotiations, quality control, and logistics, helping businesses make the most of both 1688 and Alibaba.

2. Translation Services

Language barriers can be a significant challenge when dealing with Chinese suppliers, particularly on 1688.

Using translation services or hiring bilingual staff can help businesses communicate more effectively and mitigate misunderstandings.

3. Quality Control and Inspection Services

Ensuring product quality is crucial when sourcing from overseas suppliers.

Quality control and inspection services can provide an extra layer of protection, helping businesses verify product quality and supplier reliability before committing to a large order.


The choice between 1688 and Alibaba will depend on your business size, target market, and ability to navigate the platforms.

By understanding their differences and leveraging their strengths, you can make the most of these platforms to source high-quality products at competitive prices.

We are Yansourcing, a leading sourcing company in China, dedicated to helping our clients source products from China at the most competitive prices. If you are interested in importing from China, please feel free to contact us.


1. Can I use both 1688 and Alibaba for my business?

Yes, you can use both platforms to source products, depending on your needs and resources.

However, it’s essential to consider the differences between the platforms, such as language, payment options, and shipping, to make the most of each.

2. Is it safe to source products from 1688 and Alibaba?

Both platforms have measures in place to protect buyers, but it’s crucial to conduct thorough research, order samples, and monitor supplier feedback to minimize risks.

3. Do I need a Chinese bank account to use 1688?

While having a Chinese bank account can make transactions on 1688 more convenient, it’s not a requirement.

You can use other payment methods like Alipay, but be aware that this may involve additional fees or complications.

4. Can I find the same suppliers on both 1688 and Alibaba?

Some suppliers may be present on both platforms, but not all.

Each platform has its unique supplier base, so it’s worth exploring both to find the best fit for your business.

5. How do I find reliable suppliers on 1688 and Alibaba?

To find reliable suppliers, carefully review supplier profiles, ratings, and feedback, request samples, and consider using third-party inspection services to ensure product quality and supplier reliability.

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