The Ultimate Guide to AliExpress Dropshipping with Shopify

AliExpress Dropshipping with Shopify is great. You don’t have to buy large quantities of stock, keep them piled up in your mom’s basement and drive to the post office 5 times a day to send packages to your customers (you know how cheerful the people at the post office are).

Your supplier takes care of all of that, so you can focus on running your store and promoting it. In this guide, we look at AliExpress dropshipping so you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon and make some dropshipping money yourself.

What is dropshipping?

Dropshipping means your supplier ships the items to your customers directly. This saves you lots of time and energy that you’d rather spend on running your store. Here’s how the order process for dropshipping works:

  1. Your customer places an order on your website
  2. You place that same order with the supplier. When you use an app like Oberlo, this happens automatically. The customer’s information and address is included here.
  3. The supplier then sends the package directly to the customer

It’s stupidly simple but it bypasses all the headache of buying inventory and holding your own stock.

Needless to say, this business model has become extremely popular over the last decade and keeps on growing. From large retail stores to kids in their parent’s basements, anyone can start their own Dropshipping store and it’s a low-barrier way to make some good money online.

What is AliExpress?

AliExpress is an online shopping platform and it’s huge! It’s part of Alibaba, the Chinese retail giant owned by Jack Ma, one of the world’s richest men. The company is on its way to surpass Amazon as the two are battling for the $500 billion mark.

So what can you do there? You can buy stuff, just like on Amazon. The difference is that AliExpress is popular with dropshippers. Why? Because unlike Amazon, AliExpress allows you to place as many orders as you like and have the items shipped to alternative addresses.

And since Ali’s prices are often lower than American retail prices, you’re able to sell them to the U.S. market with a nice profit.

AliExpress has millions of products; from watches to safety tape and from car parts to Hello Kitty backpacks. They sell (almost) everything and many of the products can easily be dropshipped.

Although not everything is nearly free, many products are super cheap. Expect for find $0.89 watches, $5 t-shirts and lots more items you can re-brand and resell at a great mark-up. I know many people who run successful watch stores that simply resell $2 watches for $39.99 a piece with loads of satisfied customers.

Sellers on the platform use “wholesaler” product titles and descriptions. Of course when you resell the products through your store, you’ll be using consumer language and good product images / videos instead.

Feel free to head on over to AliExpress.com and browse through some of their categories to get a feel of what they offer. You can also reverse-engineer products you see trending on Facebook or Amazon and see what price they go for on AliExpress.

What to sell?

You can resell nearly anything from AliExpress, but I don’t recommend it. As a general rule of thumb, stick to products that can easily be shipped and don’t break easily. Jewelry, pet toys, phone cases, kitchen appliances clothing, home deco stuff is all very popular for Dropshipping.

Some AliExpress sellers offer a shipping method called e-packet. What that is is an arrangement between the U.S. Postal Service and Hongkong Post that speeds up shipping significantly. While AliExpress Standard Shipping can take up to 40 days, e-packet delivery time is about 12 to 20 days, sometimes even fast.

You should only sell e-packet items. If you don’t, expect lots of unhappy customers and plenty of emails after 2 weeks, asking where their order is at.

What not to sell:


These Star Wars items look hella cool but I wouldn’t sell them

There’s some items you just shouldn’t sell when you dropship, and for good reasons.

First of all, you should never sell items that may infringe on a trademark. Chinese copyright law is very different from that in the U.S. and selling Star Wars apparel or Pokémon wristbands is a guaranteed way to get in trouble.

Even if you don’t live in the U.S. and you don’t really care for these laws, you’ll still have your domain, Shopify account, PayPal or stripe taken down so you should avoid stuff like this at all costs.

Second, I would stay away from drug paraphernalia. I once received a warning from PayPal because one of my products was named “weed pipe” or something like that. Yeah, apparently PayPal isn’t very 420 friendly.

I also don’t recommend getting into any niches that are restricted by Facebook. What does that mean? Certain products can not be advertised because of Facebook’s policy, meaning you won’t be able to run ads to your store through Facebook and other platforms. If you do decide to sell restricted products (they’re not illegal or anything), you’re creating a huge unnecessary obstacle for yourself by limiting your advertising potential. And since Facebook advertising is one of the best ways to promote your Shopify Dropshipping store, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Restricted niches include:

  • Firearms & ammunition (including knives, holsters etc)
  • Surveillance cameras and equipment
  • E-ciragettes
  • Tobacco / drug paraphernalia
  • Sex toys
  • Gambling

Unless you love unnecessary challenges, you should stay away from these all together.

How do I create a Shopify store and dropship through AliExpress?

We’ll go over finding products in just a bit, but first let’s get into the process of Dropshipping through Shopify a little more.

First, go to Shopify.com and sign up for the 14-day free trial. Then set up your store.

Our coach Ryan has done a step-by-step, 1-hour video where he walks you through all the steps of setting up your Shopify store:

Apps: Install the free app Oberlo for Dropshipping. This allows you to import AliExpress products directly into your store and it even automates the ordering process!

Finding products

Alrighty, this is the fun part. After you’ve installed the Oberlo app, you’ll get a little Chrome browser extension that allows you to grab any product from AliExpress and import it directly into your store. Here’s a video that explains it:

Let’s go over the rules here one more time:

Products: Small items that don’t break easily

Orders: Only resell items with at least 100 orders and solid feedback. I don’t recommend selling from suppliers with a rating below 4.5 stars.

Shipping: e-packet only. I don’t care how nice the product is, regular shipping just takes too long.

Price: you only want to sell items you can resell at a decent mark-up. After shipping, you want to have an 80% mark-up or higher

Once you’ve added some products to your store, here’s what you do:

Product names: rewrite all the product names. You don’t want to use Ali’s weird keyword-filled titles. Go with something people would buy.

Product descriptions: write your own strong product descriptions. Take a look at Shopify’s 9 Simple Ways to Write Product Descriptions that Sell or go to Amazon.com, find similar products and rewrite those.

Shipping times: make sure you include shipping times on your product pages. If people don’t know it can take up to 20 business days for their order to arrive, expect angry customers and refunds.

Product images: only include high-quality images that you would expect to see on a brand website. Include videos where you can.

Taking Orders

Once you start making sales, ordering products from AliExpress is very simple. The Chrome extension will automatically fill out the order form so all you have to do is a few clicks and you’re done. Here’s the step-by-step: How to Fulfill AliExpress Product Orders

Handling Returns & Refunds

So what happens if a customer receives a broken item or wants a refund? It’s very simple: eat the loss. Why on earth would you go through the entire process of setting up a return address, physically handling all the packages, communicating with suppliers in broken English about an item not received, when you can just refund the money?

Look, you will get returns and refunds at some point, it’s all part of the business. But getting into actually handling all this is a huge waste of time.

So what do you do when a customer emails you asking for a refund? You give them a refund and tell them to keep the item. If they want a replacement item, send them one for free.

If you make a decent amount of sales, a few refunds here and there aren’t going to hurt you so just refund them, it’ll save you time and lots of headache.

F.A.Q.

Finally let’s go over some common objections and questions you guys have when it  comes to Ali dropshipping

12 to 20 days, isn’t that too long for shipping?

e-packet shipping definitely takes longer than regular domestic shipping, but customers are surprisingly open to longer delivery times. Just make sure you clearly state that the item can take a little longer to ship and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Pro-tip: say something like this on your product pages

“Due to popular demand, this item can take up to 20 business days to ship”.

Ta-daa.

If everyone is doing this, why don’t people just order from AliExpress themselves?

You might think that AliExpress has made it a little too easy for consumers to just order from them directly. I thought this too at the beginning “why wouldn’t they just buy from the supplier directly? This isn’t right, I probably need some super secret supplier to make things REALLY work”.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t. Surely some Americans order their stuff from AliExpress, and good for them, but is your house stacked with AliExpress items? The way to make e-commerce work is by MARKETING your store efficiently, not by having some sort of monopoly on the cure for cancer.

Shops and delis at the airport charge ridiculous amounts of money for a tuna sandwich. Jerry Seinfeld made the joke that the entire airport could probably be financed from these outrageous $17 tuna sandwich sales.

So why do people buy tuna sandwiches at grossly inflated prices when they’re flying? Because they desire a bite while they’re waiting for their flight (wow, big reveal). The shops cater to a desire, and they do it well.

In e-commerce, you put cool products in front of your audience. Products that are useful and / or fun. The customer wants them and buys it. Through basic marketing and sales tactics you urge your customers to buy the item now, not next week, and you’ve just made a sale.

Your job is not to be the cheapest online WalMart, you job is to grab people’s attention and cater to a desire.

Can’t I just dropship from Amazon?

Nope, Amazon doesn’t allow dropshipping. If you go and order multiple products with different shipping addresses, your Amazon account will probably be suspended.

There are plenty of ways to buy low and sell high. You can buy from the dollar store and sell it on Ebay or flip something else. But that’s not what this guide is about.

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How do I find a reliable dropshipping supplier for Shopify?

How do I find a reliable dropshipping supplier for Shopify?

Starting a dropshipping business can be fun and exciting but there are many roadblocks you can run into. Today we look into suppliers. Where do you find one for the products you’re looking to sell?

What is dropshipping?

If you’re starting an online store that sells physical products, you need a wholesaler or manufacturer who can provide you these products at wholesale prices. But holding inventory may not be the most practical way to run your new ecommerce business.

Wholesalers often require a high initial purchase and you could easily end up paying $1000 or more, just to get the inventory. If you don’t want to invest this kind of money or just don’t like the idea of investing money in an unknown business (your own), dropshipping might be a better alternative.

Dropshipping simply means that the supplier takes care of shipping, and sends the package directly to your customer. A good supplier will remove their own labels and replace them with your store’s, so the customer has no idea that they received the package from the supplier and not from you.

This model works extremely well and is widely used by ecommerce businesses. If you’re just starting your first ecommerce business, I recommend you go with dropshipping. Since you’re not obligated to do anything, you can always combine dropshipping with your own inventory later.

Step 1: Choose a product

What would you like to sell? This sounds simple, but you must know EXACTLY what you want to sell.

For example, you shouldn’t say: “fashion”, but niche is down to something a lot more specific. How about “fashion for plus sized women”? That’s better, but still pretty broad and highly competitive. Can you niche it down even more? How about “RETRO fashion for plus sized women”? Now we got a pretty good niche.

Why so specific? We want to eventually have an audience of followers and influencers who love our brand. This is very difficult in a broad niche like “fashion”. The exception is when you’re starting a general store. But still in that case, you want to know exactly which categories and products you need.

Once you know what kind of products you want to sell, you need to find them. Unless you’re designing your own unique product, other stores will already sell items in the same style you’re looking to offer.

Find these stores.

You want to know exactly what type of products you’re looking for, otherwise how are you going to find a supplier for them?

Tip: while you’re looking at your competitor’s websites, note the URLs. Later you might want to use similar colors, designs, content and marketing strategies as them. After all, in business, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Step 2: Finding a supplier

Now that you’ve found other merchants selling products you’re interested in selling, you should (sorta) know what to look for. Finding a supplier can be a time-consuming task but it ain’t so difficult when you know the tricks.

Method #1: AliExpress

This is one of the easiest and most obvious ways to find a supplier. AliExpress is home to millions of products that can be shipped directly to the customer’s home, anywhere in the world.

Simply go to AliExpress.com and type in the products you’re after. You will see products that match your search.

What’s crazy about AliExpress is that you can start selling these items right away if you want to, just put them on your site (or Craigslist for all I care) and buy directly off Ali when somebody buys your product.

But it’s best to first contact the supplier and ask about shipping, labels (they mustn’t put their own labels on it) and possible customization options. If the supplier is terrible at communicating with you, it’s probably better to find someone else.

Method #2: Reverse Google Image Search

Sounds pretty fancy, ey? What it means is this: browse through your competitor’s website and right click on their product images using Google Chrome, then click “Search Google for image”

Search google for product images

Scroll down a little and you’ll find pages that use this image. If you see AliExpress, Alibaba.com or any other website that indicates it’s a supplier: bingo! You’ve found a supplier that sells this very product.

Obviously this only works if the merchant used the original supplier’s images and hasn’t replaced them with their own professional photos. But you’d be surprised how many good products I’ve found using this simple little Google hack.

Of course, this doesn’t work for large, professional e-commerce websites but it’s a wonderful way to find nice products that other starting Shopify stores have found.

How to find small Shopify stores? Go to Google.com and type in:

“your keyword” inurl:myshopify.com

For example: fashion inurl:myshopify.com

This shows you all Shopify stores with that keyword that Google has indexed. You can make it as specific as you like.

Method #3: Google

Yep, the old-school method. Finding a supplier through Google can take some time, but finding a reliable dropshipping supplier you can work with long-term is worth the wait.

A huge advantage here is that you’ll find plenty of U.S. and Europe based suppliers, unlike on AliExpress where they’re all based in China. This has great advantages, like Shipping times, communication and general trust and liability in doing business.

Now if you think you’ll find what you’re looking for on the first page like normally, think again! Wholesaler and manufacturers often don’t rank high in Google, don’t offer a user-friendly website and some don’t have any website at all!

It may take a couple of days or weeks and a combination of 100 different keywords before you find what you’re looking for. Remember that these manufacturers and wholesalers aren’t there waiting for starting e-commerce entrepreneurs to approach them. They usually sell products in bulk with thin margins and you’ll have to ask if they would consider dropshipping.

You can also use search shortcuts in Google, that’ll help you refine your search.

Method #4: Directories

Let’s take a look at some free directories that list profiles of manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers.

Online Domestic Directories

Online Overseas Directories

Method #5: Just ask the internet

The internet knows, at least that’s what we hope. There’s many great places you can ask about suppliers, from forums to Facebook groups. Some interesting places are:

Next steps…

After you’ve found some suppliers you might want to work with, it’s time to contact them. Send them an email and inquire about dropshipping. Suppliers get bombarded with shady dropshipping requests so you want to sound professional and to-the-point.

Good luck!

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