Many people now want to buy things from 1688 because they believe there are better prices than Alibaba. Today, I’ll show you the differences between 1688 and Alibaba, then you’ll know if it’s the right fit for your China sourcing.
What is 1688?
1688 is the largest local Chinese B2B wholesale website. There are millions of manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors on the platform, all of whom are Chinese. You can find various product categories there, from daily goods to large industrial items like production and agricultural equipment. Currently, it is available in both web and app versions.
Is 1688 the same as Alibaba?
Both 1688 and Alibaba are wholesale websites, but 1688 is a Chinese procurement platform, while Alibaba is a global wholesale website. Alibaba is always the first choice for most people who want to import products from China, while 1688 is considered to be the Chinese version of Alibaba. So purchasing from 1688 can be challenging due to various difficulties, which I will discuss in the following text.
Varied languages used between 1688 and Alibaba
Alibaba supports a total of 16 languages, including English, French, Spanish, and others. You can switch to your native language when using it. Additionally, suppliers on Alibaba can engage in basic English communication with you.
Due to 1688 being designed for the domestic Chinese market, both its web version and app are exclusively in Chinese. Moreover, most suppliers on the platform do not speak English, which constitutes a significant challenge when using 1688.
Can I use 1688 in English?
You can only use translation tools to use 1688 in English. You can install the Google Translate extension on your internet browser, which can help translate whole web pages as you visit them. However, due to machine translation, the results may not be entirely accurate. Additionally, this method can only translate regular text, as machine translation can not read text from images, so text within images will remain in Chinese.
How to download the 1688 app on an Android phone？
If it’s an Android phone, first, check the app store to see if there is a 1688/阿里巴巴 app. Please note that the app’s icon should include “1688,” as shown in the image below.
If the app is not available in your app store, you’ll need to download the app APK from 1688.com and install it on your phone. On a PC, you may need to scan it, for example, using Google Lens. On a mobile device, you can simply install it directly from 1688.
How to download the 1688 app on an iPhone？
For iPhones, whether you have a Chinese or U.S. account, you can directly download 1688 from the App Store. If you are in another region, such as Japan or Europe, you need to log in to your account and search the App Store to see if 1688 is available. If the app is not found, it means that 1688 is not supported for download and use in that region.
How to register and use the 1688 app?
After completing the app download, you need to register before you can use it.
Open the 1688 app, click on the agreement to agree, and then locate the registration button at the bottom.
After clicking, the following page will appear. Click again for registration.
Click on “个人账号注册”.
Select your country or region. 1688 supports mobile number registration for many countries, such as Canada, the United States, Australia, and more. Since the country names are in Chinese, it might be challenging to locate yours, so look for your country’s area code.
After entering your country, input your mobile phone number. Then, check the agreement box and click the orange button to proceed to the next step.
click to enlarge
Check your phone. You will receive a verification code from 1688 and then enter it. If you haven’t received it after a while, click the text below the arrow to request a new verification code.
After successful verification, you can use the 1688 app normally. The usage of the 1688 app is the same as the Alibaba app. You can search for the products you want through image search or product keywords. Please note that the text you input must be in Chinese.
Different payment methods
Alibaba is oriented towards an international audience, and most mainstream international payment methods, including visa, PayPal, T/T, etc., can be used on the platform.
Moreover, Alibaba launched trade assurance to protect transactions between buyers and sellers. When you use it, if there are any issues with the suppliers, such as delayed shipments or unsatisfactory product quality, you have the option to raise a dispute or request a refund.
However, 1688 mainly caters to the Chinese market and primarily uses Alipay and online banking (only Chinese bank accounts). If you don’t have Alipay, you can ask the supplier if they accept PayPal or other international payment methods.
In most cases, if your order amount is only a few thousand dollars, 1688 suppliers are generally unwilling to set up PayPal or apply for a bank account to receive US dollars.
Now, there is a section in 1688 that supports dropshipping. The column is shown in the image below. It primarily assists Chinese sellers in opening stores on cross-border e-commerce platforms such as AliExpress and Amazon.
The products in this section support cross-border payments with Cross-border Pay (跨境宝/KJB), allowing you to make purchases on 1688 directly with 10 major currencies such as GBP, USD, EUR, and others. This makes overseas personal procurement more convenient. It means you also enjoy dropshipping services, but the destination is your own.
Various shipping arrangement
Alibaba has integrated resources from numerous freight agents to facilitate international shipping. You can utilize the platform’s logistics services or those offered by suppliers. Typically, suppliers have established partnerships with freight agents.
However, arranging logistics on 1688 is challenging. Apart from a few cross-border products that can be directly shipped overseas, most items are primarily intended for domestic delivery within China. 1688 also lacks buyer protection services. If your order quantity is small, few suppliers may be willing to assist with logistics.
If you purchase products from different suppliers on 1688, you’ll need to contact a third-party logistics provider to collect all your items and send them to your address. This process requires significant time and effort for proper communication and coordination. In the end, you might discover that sourcing directly from AliExpress is more cost-effective and efficient.
To sum up, Alibaba is a global marketplace with lots of factories and suppliers, making it convenient for international buyers. On the other hand, 1688 is a Chinese local wholesale website where overseas buyers may encounter various challenges. The most significant is the language barrier, which can lead to high communication costs as suppliers may struggle to understand your needs.
Even if you manage to find suitable suppliers, limited payment methods and inflexible shipping solutions pose additional challenges. Most buyers I know prefer not to source from 1688, as they find it unsuitable for sourcing from China.
If you genuinely wish to purchase from 1688, you can enlist the help of JingSourcing, whether your budget is $1000 or several hundred thousand dollars. We have our warehouse to collect goods from different suppliers and package them for shipping to your designated location. We also have established long-term partnerships with reliable freight forwarders and can help you get competitive prices for shipping.
In addition, we have a professional inspection team, providing you flexible inspection solutions. We’ll check the products based on your focus, and send you photos or videos during the process to ask if you can accept the defect or not. If you have other requirements like e-commerce photography, it is also ok.
Quick Solution to Source from China at a Good Price