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1688 vs Alibaba: Which Serves Your China Sourcing Needs Better?

1688 vs alibaba

When considering sourcing from China, it’s essential to evaluate Alibaba and 1688, both subsidiaries of the Alibaba Group, for their ability to meet your business needs. Alibaba, with its global outreach, caters to an international audience, providing access to a wide range of products suitable for e-commerce, dropshipping, and more. On the other hand, 1688 serves the domestic Chinese market, specializing in wholesale and manufacturing, making it an ideal platform for businesses looking for Chinese suppliers, factory owners, and sourcing bulk items at competitive prices.

As we delve into the 1688 vs Alibaba debate, it’s crucial to understand the distinct markets and audiences these platforms target. Alibaba is designed with international trade in mind, offering multi-language support and various export options to cater to worldwide countries. Conversely, 1688 focuses on serving Chinese businesses, offering a localized approach to sourcing everything from manufacturers to payment options within the domestic sphere. This comparison will guide businesses in choosing the right platform between 1688 and Alibaba for efficient sourcing and procurement transactions, whether for local or global purposes.

1688 vs Alibaba: Origins and Ownership

Alibaba and 1688, while both under the umbrella of the Alibaba Group, have distinct origins and purposes tailored to their specific target audiences and market focuses. This differentiation is key to understanding their roles within the e-commerce landscape:

  • Foundational Background:
    • Alibaba, a giant in the e-commerce and technology sector, was founded by Jack Ma and 17 friends in 1999 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang. It quickly rose to prominence, becoming a global B2B platform connecting international buyers and suppliers.
    • 1688 is Alibaba in Chinese, targeting the domestic Chinese market as a wholesale marketplace. It focuses on facilitating transactions between Chinese manufacturers and the local market.
  • Strategic Positioning within Alibaba Group:
    • Alibaba serves as the international face of the group, focusing on exporting Chinese goods globally and connecting businesses across borders.
    • 1688, on the other hand, was upgraded to become a strategic innovation business under the Taobao Tmall Commerce Group, Alibaba’s domestic e-commerce arm, cementing its role in serving the domestic Chinese market.
  • Market Focus and Audience:
    • Alibaba’s audience includes international buyers and suppliers looking for a global B2B platform.
    • 1688 caters primarily to the Chinese market, emphasizing connections between local businesses and manufacturers.

Understanding these distinctions helps in comprehending the unique value each platform offers to its respective audience.

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1688 vs Alibaba: Target Audience and Market Focus

Understanding the distinct target audiences and market focuses of Alibaba and 1688 is crucial for businesses looking to source products from China. Here’s a breakdown to guide your decision:

  • International vs. Domestic Focus:
    • Alibaba: Targets international buyers and sellers, facilitating global trade. It’s designed for businesses worldwide, offering a user-friendly interface and English language support, making it accessible for international transactions.
    • 1688: Primarily caters to domestic buyers and sellers within China, focusing on the Chinese retail and wholesale market. The platform operates in Chinese, which can be a barrier for non-Chinese speakers, emphasizing its focus on serving the local market.
  • Product Sourcing and Quantity:
    • Alibaba: Suited for international B2B trading, catering to larger order quantities and higher transaction values. It places a higher emphasis on product authenticity, implementing verification processes to ensure quality.
    • 1688: Offers more options for smaller quantities at lower prices, as it allows direct sourcing from factories. However, this might come with increased risks regarding product authenticity and quality control due to its domestic focus.
  • Market Positioning and Language Support:
    • Alibaba: A global e-commerce giant, Alibaba makes international sourcing easier with better English support and more international suppliers, albeit with higher prices.
    • 1688: Targets the domestic or Hong Kong markets, offering pricing transparency but lacks English support, which might lead to communication challenges and misunderstandings when placing orders.

These distinctions underline the importance of choosing the right platform based on your business’s geographic focus, language capabilities, and sourcing needs.

1688 vs Alibaba: Language Accessibility and User Interface

In addressing the pivotal aspect of Language Accessibility and User Interface between Alibaba and 1688, several key differences emerge, significantly impacting user experience and accessibility for international and domestic users alike.

  • Language Support:
    • Alibaba: Supports 16 languages, including English, facilitating a global user base. This multilingual support allows for basic English communication with suppliers, making it accessible to international users.
    • 1688: Primarily available in Chinese, posing a significant language barrier for those not fluent in Mandarin. This restricts its use to primarily the domestic Chinese market or those with Mandarin proficiency.
  • User Interface and Experience:
    • Alibaba: Known for its user-friendly interface, Alibaba supports seamless navigation and interaction in multiple languages, including English. This enhances the user experience, making it ideal for global businesses.
    • 1688: Offers both web and app versions designed with the domestic user in mind. The platform’s interface and communication are primarily in Chinese, which can be challenging for international buyers. However, it’s noted for its superior customer service and mobile app experience compared to Alibaba.
  • Navigating the Language Barrier:
    • For 1688, users can employ translation tools like Google Translate or collaborate with a Chinese professional translator or sourcing agent to ensure accurate communication and product searches. This workaround, though not seamless, enables international users to access the platform’s extensive product listings and direct factory prices.

These distinctions underscore the importance of considering language accessibility and user interface when choosing between Alibaba and 1688 for sourcing needs, as they directly affect the ease of use and communication with suppliers.

1688 vs Alibaba: Product Variety and Sourcing Options

In the realm of product variety and sourcing options, Alibaba and 1688 present distinct landscapes that cater to different sourcing needs:

  • Product Authenticity and Quality Control:
    • Alibaba: Places a high emphasis on product authenticity, implementing various verification processes to ensure supplier credibility. This minimizes the risk of fraud and ensures high-quality products, often sourced by Amazon stores.
    • 1688: Offers a wider range of products, directly from Chinese manufacturers, which may result in lower prices. However, this advantage comes with increased risks regarding product authenticity and quality control. The platform’s lower quality standards, compared to the US and EU, may not comply with international regulations.
  • Direct Sourcing and Customization:
    • 1688: Enables direct contact with manufacturers or suppliers, facilitating customization of orders and better negotiation conditions. This direct sourcing option allows for more affordable goods in China, often at prices lower than those on
    • Alibaba: Focuses on verified suppliers to ensure product quality, offering a wide range of products from various suppliers and manufacturers. While it supports various payment methods, pricing lacks transparency compared to 1688, which provides accurate pricing information.
  • Supplier and Product Diversity:
    • 1688: Focuses on domestic suppliers and manufacturers, offering a vast selection of products primarily from Chinese suppliers at competitive prices. It has far more product SKUs than Alibaba due to its extensive industrial categories and millions of suppliers.
    • Alibaba: Offers a wide range of products from various suppliers, including high-quality products often sourced by Amazon stores. It caters to a global audience with a strong emphasis on verified suppliers to ensure product quality.
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1688 vs Alibaba: Payment Methods and Security

When comparing Payment Methods and Security between Alibaba and 1688, several key differences are notable, affecting the ease and safety of transactions for international and domestic buyers:

  • Payment Options:
    • Alibaba: Offers a broad spectrum of payment methods catering to its international clientele, including credit cards, bank transfers, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and Alipay. This diversity ensures that buyers from different parts of the world can transact smoothly.
    • 1688: Primarily focuses on payment methods popular within China, such as Alipay and bank transfers. International buyers may find it necessary to use a Chinese credit card or employ a local agent for payment processing, which can add complexity to transactions.
  • Security and Transaction Protection:
    • Alibaba: Features Alibaba Trade Assurance, a transaction protection system that safeguards buyers by holding payments until orders are confirmed received and as described. This system offers a layer of security for international transactions, reducing the risk of fraud.
    • 1688: While it has a domestic transaction protection system, it is not as robust or recognized internationally as Alibaba’s Trade Assurance. Payments on 1688 are not explicitly protected, posing a higher risk, especially for international buyers unfamiliar with the platform.
  • Pricing Transparency and Refund Difficulty:
    • Alibaba: Sellers may provide less transparency in pricing, which could lead to unexpected costs. However, Alibaba offers easy refunds through its Trade Assurance program, mitigating some of the risks associated with overpayment or unsatisfactory products.
    • 1688: Known for its transparent pricing, which helps in avoiding overpayment. Nonetheless, obtaining refunds can be challenging due to direct payments to suppliers, requiring buyers to navigate the process with less institutional support.

1688 vs Alibaba: Shipping and Logistics

In the discussion of Shipping and Logistics between Alibaba and 1688, it’s crucial to understand how each platform addresses the needs of their respective audiences, especially in terms of shipping options, logistics handling, and the requirements for international buyers:

  • Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs) and Logistics Partners:
    • Alibaba typically requires larger MOQs, which might suit businesses ready to buy in bulk for international shipping.
    • 1688 offers smaller or no MOQs, beneficial for e-commerce sellers testing product viability. However, international buyers often need a local shipping partner for storage, repackaging, and shipping, adding an extra step in the logistics process.
  • Experience in Handling Shipments:
    • Alibaba has a broad experience with international shipping, integrating resources from numerous freight agents to facilitate these processes.
    • 1688 focuses on domestic logistics within China, requiring international clients to have a Chinese address or warehouse, or to work with third-party logistics providers for international shipping.
  • Protection and Shipping Options:
    • Alibaba offers Trade Assurance, protecting buyers against poor quality, late delivery, or non-delivery, and has a wider range of international shipping options .
    • 1688, while offering transaction protection, mainly utilizes domestic shipping methods and requires an export license for international shipping, which most suppliers lack.

These distinctions highlight the importance of considering your business’s shipping needs and readiness to navigate the logistics intricacies when choosing between Alibaba and 1688 for sourcing products.


Navigating the complexities of sourcing from China demands a thorough understanding of the operational strengths and market focuses of Alibaba and 1688. This exploration has highlighted several critical points: the contrasting international and domestic orientations of these platforms, the importance of language accessibility, and differing approaches to product variety, quality, payment security, and logistics. Choosing the right platform hinges upon your business’s specific needs—whether it requires the global outreach and verified supplier network of Alibaba or the highly competitive prices and direct manufacturer access provided by 1688.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for making informed decisions that align with your business goals. While Alibaba offers a safer bet for businesses looking for an international audience with its multi-language support and Trade Assurance, 1688 caters to those with a focus on the Chinese market, offering lower prices and direct sourcing options, albeit with higher risks. Ultimately, successful sourcing is not just about selecting a platform but also about strategically leveraging each platform’s strengths to meet your business’s unique sourcing requirements.


What are the drawbacks of using 1688 for sourcing products? is designed mainly for the Chinese domestic market, focusing on wholesale products at lower prices. While it offers a wide range of products and competitive pricing with direct access to manufacturers, the platform presents certain challenges for international users, such as a language barrier, potential issues with quality control, and additional shipping costs.

How can I identify the most reliable suppliers in 1688?

To find the best suppliers on, follow these steps:

  • Access and look for sellers who are “trustpass members.”
  • Choose strong merchants, indicated by a bull’s head logo.
  • Opt for suppliers that offer “Deep Factory Inspection.”
  • Preferably select a company with a substantial number of employees, ideally more than 50, and more preferably over 100.

What strategies can I use to find reputable suppliers from China?

To locate reliable suppliers from China, consider using online B2B platforms such as Alibaba, Made-in-China, and Global Sources. These directories provide a convenient way to search for products, examine supplier profiles, and place orders online, facilitating an efficient sourcing process.

Which platform is best for connecting with Chinese exporters?

Alibaba is renowned for linking small businesses globally with Chinese manufacturers and suppliers, making it an excellent platform for international trade. This has contributed to its growth into one of the largest tech companies worldwide.

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