I have received many consultations about the 1688 website from many friends before, especially some southeast Asian and African friends. But in recent years, some friends from Europe and America have also begun to show interest in this Chinese domestic B2B wholesale website. Comparing with Alibaba, many of them think it’s more likely to find direct factories and suppliers on 1688. They also think there are many deceptions on Alibaba, which are also mentioned in many articles on Google.
In fact, it’s not an easy thing to find reliable suppliers on any wholesale website. Moreover, 1688, as a Chinese site aiming at the Chinese market, involves many headaches and complicated problems, such as payment, international shipping.
There are many guides teaching you how to register 1688, translate 1688 Chinese pages into English pages, search products you want by keywords and so on. In this article, I won’t elaborate on these aspects, but I will tell you some objective facts and practical experience to help you know and use 1688 better.
In this post, I’ll cover:
- Can you really find the direct factories and suppliers easily on 1688?
- Is 1688 really a good website for sourcing products from China?
- Can you dropship from 1688.com to international end-users?
- The hassles you’ll meet when you buy from 1688.com.
- Buy bulk from 1688 by yourself or hire a 1688 buying agent.
- How to use 1688 to help you source Chinese suppliers？
1. Can you really find the direct factories and suppliers easily on 1688?1688 is specially designed for Chinese businessmen, but Alibaba is a well-known international wholesale website. Hence, many businessmen will have a misunderstanding that it is more likely to find direct Chinese factories on 1688 than Alibaba. And they think suppliers on Alibaba are 2nd or 3rd middlemen. In fact, many Chinese suppliers or factories have stores not only on 1688 but also on Alibaba or Aliexpress. As many Chinese factories’ products are sold not only in China but also in the overseas market, which are called domestic and foreign trade. That is to say, you may find the same supplier on 1688 and Alibaba. For example, some friends of mine who have a factory display their products and receive overseas orders on Alibaba stores. At the same time, they will upload products to 1688 and Aliexpress. It is not expensive for them to settle 1688 and Aliexpress platforms, but it helps to expand their sales channels for products to a certain extent. Moreover, many traders and factories coexist on 1688, which is the same as Alibaba and other wholesale websites. For example, some small wholesalers on 1688 have many product categories, and they can provide small wholesale or dropshipping services for some Chinese small businessmen. I will analyze if they can support overseas dropshipping in part 3. Hence, many articles on Google state all suppliers on 1688 are Chinese factories, which is not a truth.
2. Is 1688 really a good website for sourcing products from China?I have introduced 6 main wholesale websites in my previous post, in which I didn’t mention 1688.com. As I think it is unnecessary for overseas businessmen to take potential risks of finding suppliers on 1688 rather than define 1688 as a bad choice to source products. Here are 2 reasons： First, what’s your aim of purchasing goods from 1688, for business or personal use? If you purchase goods for your business, it is quite natural for you to think you can purchase products at a more competitive price from 1688. But actually, you can find good suppliers on other China wholesale websites, like Alibaba, Made in China, Global sources, etc. Even if you translate the 1688 Chinese page into English version and find a supplier you want to cooperate with, you may encounter many obstacles. The first one is the language barrier between you and the supplier. Second, you may have some payment trouble. As 1688 is mainly a website for Chinese market, usually, the suppliers just receive domestic account transfer method or payment by a domestic third party Alipay. No matter Paypal or other international payment methods, if your order value is just several thousand or hundred dollars, suppliers may be reluctant to open a Paypal account or apply to banks for an account for receiving American dollars. Under such circumstances, you can only find a Chinese sourcing agent or 1688 agent to help you out. Even if you buy products yourself, are you willing to take risks of remitting money to the supplier’s account directly when you can’t identify whether the supplier is reliable? So, if you want to buy bulk from 1688 for business, 1688 is really not a good place. Besides, many friends from Southeast Asian countries or Africa tell me that they want to wholesale a small quantity of products mixed with many different categories on 1688 for personal use. If you have the same thought, you had better find a Chinese buying agent to help you purchase all products and then send them to you packed in one package. Of course, the agent will charge you some commissions. Through calculation, if the whole cost from 1688 is lower than Aliexpress, you can choose to buy products on 1688.
3. Can you drop ship from 1688.com to international end-users?Many suppliers on 1688 will provide dropshipping or small wholesale service for native sellers on e-commerce platforms such as Taobao, Aliexpress, Amazon, eBay. Hence, many non-Chinese e-commerce sellers also will want to find dropshipping suppliers on 1688 to get a lower price directly than on Aliexpress. In fact, there are very few suppliers on 1688 agreeing to dropship products for overseas e-commerce businessmen. Only when you have a substantial sales and 1688 suppliers can dropship many products for you to make a relatively good profit, are they willing to dropship products for you. Otherwise, if you are running a new e-commerce store or your store just has little sales, they aren’t willing to cooperate with you. Even if you make a great effort to find a supplier that can dropship products for you, you will find the cost won’t be lower than on Aliexpress when summing up all the costs including unit price, shipping cost, and so on. In addition, if there is something wrong with your products, it may be troublesome to communicate with suppliers on 1688. All in all, 1688 website is specially designed for Chinese market instead of overseas markets. It is not a suitable platform to provide dropshipping service for non-Chinese people. Therefore, you had better not take uncertain risks to do some things with low returns.
4. The hassles you’ll meet when you buy from 1688.comWhen people source products on 1688, they usually encounter the following 5 difficulties. That’s why it is not a mainstream way to source products from China on 1688 website.
- 1688.com only has Chinese version
- Many suppliers on 1688.com can’t speak English
- Payment methods
- International shipping
- 1688 app only has Chinese version
1688.com only has Chinese versionWe can use Google translate plugin to overcome the difficulty. Step 1: install Google translate plugin on Google Chrome Step 2: after install successfully, right-click “translate English” But it is just simple text translation, Google Translate couldn’t read the Chinese text in the image. Hence the text in the picture still is Chinese, moreover, the translation may cause some ambiguities because of its machine translation. After translating the page into the English version, you can enter English product names to search the products you want or upload your product image to search directly.
Many suppliers on 1688.com can’t speak EnglishAs the main target market of suppliers on 1688 is China, sellers you contact on 1688 may not speak English. To deal with such problems, you can ask them if they have difficulties in communicating with you in English at first. And then you can download the Wechat app, a chatting tool often used by Chinese. You can add the supplier’s Wechat ID, the same as the telephone number. You can find most 1688 suppliers’ telephone numbers on the contact page after logging in the 1688 website.
Payment methodsIf you want to make an online payment on 1688 platform, you can only make payment by Alipay, online banking (only Chinese bank account). Of course, you can ask the supplier if they can receive international bank transactions or Paypal. However, as I mentioned in the above, very few suppliers are willing to get into trouble just for several hundred dollars.
International shipping1688 website only supports Chinese domestic shipping. If you buy many products from several stores on 1688, you had better find a freight forwarder or a Chinese buying agent to help you collect all your products and send them to your address in one package.
1688 app only has Chinese versionNo matter the system of your smartphone is iOS or Android, you can download 1688 app from the app stores. But it just has Chinese version, and can’t be translated into the English version. Hence, the app appears nonsense for you.
5. Buy bulk from 1688 by yourself or hire a 1688 buying agent？From the above analysis, you can notice that buying products from 1688 is not an easy thing, easy to get yourself into trouble. But if you insist on purchasing products from 1688, I strongly recommend you to find a reliable Chinese sourcing agent or 1688 buying agent. With the help of them, you can save a lot of time and reduce the potential risks. In a word, it is a very cost-effective solution. And their service fees usually is calculated in the following 2 ways.
- Charge for per link
- Charge by a certain percentage of the goods value