Almost certainly, you have all heard of Alibaba. In China, it is the largest business-to-business marketplace. Some of the world’s most inexpensive goods can be found there.

What you might not know is that Alibaba has a similar but separate website called 1688.

While Alibaba caters to businesses all over the world, 1688 primarily serves Chinese companies.

The catch is that many claim that 1688 offers even lower prices than Alibaba. Herein lies the origin of the age-old dispute between Alibaba and 1688.

And that’s why, in this article, we’ll contrast the two, so you can make an informed decision.

Get going, then!

Overview of Alibaba

After launching in 1999, Alibaba has grown to become a major business-to-business marketplace.

It’s the best place to stock up on cheap Chinese imports in bulk. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Alibaba supplies the vast majority of Amazon’s goods.

Chinese manufacturers and distributors have established a strong presence on the platform. However, the number of international sellers is rising, and Alibaba is doing its part.

The Pros of Alibaba

Let’s take a look at Alibaba’s benefits to see why it’s considered one of the safest online marketplaces:

Trade Assurance

Alibaba provides a service called “Trade Assurance” to boost confidence between their customers and their suppliers.

It safeguards consumers by enabling them to file claims when a purchased item fails to live up to their expectations, is lost in transit, or arrives late.

However, please be aware that prepayment is required before we can ship any orders to the buyer.

Product Quality

Alibaba is a major supplier to many Amazon Marketplace stores. Furthermore, some of you may already be aware that Amazon demands superior quality.

That’s why you know Alibaba will have only the highest quality items for sale.

However, as usual, it is important to research the buyer’s reputation. Since the marketplace is so large, scammers still have a chance.

Payment Methods 

PayPal, wire transfers, and major credit cards like American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are just some of the payment options presented by Alibaba.

The payments made through Alibaba are also protected by an escrow service. You won’t release payment to the seller until you confirm that you did not receive the goods in the agreed-upon condition.

A Comprehensive Comparison of Alibaba and Year 1688

English Language

The international market is Alibaba’s primary focus, so the site is entirely written in English.

Furthermore, the site’s language can be switched to a number of other languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, and many more, to help remove any linguistic barriers that may exist.

The Cons of Alibaba

It’s true that Alibaba, like any other platform, has room for development. So, here are the platform’s drawbacks:

Finding Manufacturers

On Alibaba, it’s difficult to tell if you’re dealing with a supplier or a manufacturer. Your relationship with them will be predicated largely on trust.

This can be problematic if you’re using them as a supplier for your online store.

They wouldn’t be able to ensure the level of quality you’d like. They would instead just relay your orders.

To learn more about how to locate a suitable manufacturer for your company, read on.

High MOQ

Selling overseas comes with plenty of additional costs like shipping, customs, warehousing, and whatnot. This is why many vendors have high minimum order requirements and prefer larger orders.

But there’s always room for negotiations, so you can discuss the quantity you want with the supplier and reach a common ground.

Lack of Transparency 

Alibaba frequently faces issues due to a lack of price transparency. This pricing information would initially just be a placeholder in the search results.

The real price of the product and the minimum order quantity would need to be communicated to the buyer via private message.

Bad Mobile App

The Alibaba mobile app is slow and poorly organized. They could also put in some time on their site. You wouldn’t expect this from the biggest eCommerce platforms in China.

Nonetheless, I believe this is due to the fact that they currently hold a near-complete market share and are under little to no pressure to alter their business practices.

Overview of 1688

Alibaba’s launch in 1999 coincided with the debut of its sister site, 1688. Since it is aimed solely at the Chinese domestic market, however, it is largely unknown outside of China.

The American equivalent of Alibaba would be described as “1688.” Many Chinese consumers have a strong preference for 1688 retailers. Therefore, you can hardly find them on Alibaba.

That’s because in 1688 you can get almost anything for the lowest price on the planet. This is why many commercial establishments also rely on their wholesale offerings.

The Pros of 1688

In what ways has 1688 become one of China’s most popular online retailers? Let’s look at the benefits:

Product Variety 

Compared to Alibaba, 1688 may offer more variety. This is because only a fraction of potential Chinese vendors are aware of Alibaba’s existence.

The main reason they don’t use Alibaba is that it isn’t necessary. Their operations on the mainland are sufficient. The lack of an English-speaking staff is another problem.

It’s not surprising that 1688 has more variety than Alibaba given the large number of local sellers who participate.

Reasonable Pricing

When it comes to shopping in China, 1688 is your best bet for finding bargains. There’s no doubt that the prices here are lower than those at Alibaba.

That’s because Alibaba focuses on expanding into international markets. Therefore, not only are the costs of production and distribution accounted for, but so are a variety of other expenses.

However, 1688 caters to Chinese consumers by charging prices typical in China.

Pricing Transparency  

We warned that the sellers on Alibaba can be less than forthright about their prices. Their posted price is usually just a starting point, and once you initiate communication with them, they quote a higher price.

However, in the year 1688, this was not the situation. The prices displayed online are usually accurate at most stores. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that shopping there is very much like shopping on Amazon.

If your order doesn’t arrive by the promised date, you can ask for a refund.

Customer Service and App

Ironically, the 1688 mobile app is far superior to its international equivalent. Furthermore, the customer service is very responsive.

Perhaps the low cost of labor in China is a contributing factor to the company’s efficient response times for customers. As a result, if there is ever an issue with your order, it will be fixed promptly.

The Cons of 1688

Although 1688 seems like a good idea at first glance, it actually has quite a few flaws. Let’s then highlight its drawbacks:

No English Support

Challenges in communicating with 1688’s customer service staff are common. Only Chinese is available on the website.

The auto-translate plugin is available for most browsers, but it provides rather shaky translations.

This means that you might be missing out on some essential details about a product before placing an order.

Quality Issues 

The cheapest option isn’t always the best. We already know that Alibaba is the primary supplier for Amazon’s goods. As a result, there are always some retailers who go to great lengths to guarantee the highest quality.

However, since 1688 primarily serves the local Chinese market, the consistency of the quality of its offerings is inconsistent.

Find either a top-notch original or a cheap imitation.

Export Problems

Since 1688 focuses on the domestic market, it can be difficult to locate reliable suppliers from which to export goods. The vast majority of them lack the proper documentation to ship abroad.

Although a solution exists, it may take extra effort and time to implement. Moreover, sellers may reject your order if your MOQ is too low.

Supplier Experience

In 1688, the suppliers lack international experience. Therefore, they are unfamiliar with the protocol that may be required for international business deals and legal agreements.

Most of them also don’t speak or understand English, so communication is difficult.

Comparison Table of Alibaba vs. 1688

Product Pricing Alibaba usually has higher product pricing as it caters to the foreign market.1688 has cheaper products because it targets the local Chinese market. 
Product QualitySuppliers on Alibaba sell higher quality products to meet the international export standards. The product quality on 1688 is a hit or miss. You can either get top-quality products or a complete knock-off. 
Payment MethodsAlibaba offers numerous payment methods to meet the demands of its international audience. 1688 offers domestic payment methods like Alipay, WeChat, and local bank transfer. However, receiving international payments here can be a nightmare for Chinese suppliers. 
Export Experience When it comes to exporting products, the suppliers on Alibaba are more experienced, mainly because they’re targeting a foreign market. The suppliers on 1688 lack foreign trade experience as they mainly operate in the domestic market. 
Site and App The site and app of Alibaba are laggy and disorganized. It could use a revamp. 1688 has a more polished app and site. Not only is it easier to navigate on it but it’s also quite responsive. 

Alibaba vs. 1688: Side by Side Comparison

With the advantages and disadvantages of Alibaba and 1688 in mind, let’s take a look at how they stack up against one another.

User Interface

Even though it is the most popular online marketplace, the Alibaba interface is confusing and difficult to use, as we discussed earlier. Basically, it’s adequate for its intended purpose but falls short of competing with the likes of Amazon or eBay on a global scale.

However, the user interface (UI) and site architecture of 1688 are both well-executed and straightforward. Because of this, 1688 receives our recommendation for best user interface.

Payment Methods

Alibaba’s services are geared toward users all over the world. That it accepts a wider variety of payment options is hardly surprising. This establishment takes all major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

However, it is difficult for sellers in 1688 to accept payments from abroad. Their payment options are geared toward the local community and include bank transfers, Alipay, and WeChat. It looks like Alibaba has won this round.


It’s not just the price of the goods themselves that needs to be considered when exporting; there are also logistics, import taxes, and customs fees to factor in. Alibaba’s prices are higher than 1688, obviously.

In 1688, the majority of merchants focus on the Chinese consumer market. Suppliers can offer such low prices because they produce and ship their goods locally, where demand is high. Whatever the case may be, we must return to the year 1688.

Product Quality

Because Alibaba is so focused on the global market, its suppliers must adhere to the same stringent export regulations.

It’s true that many people rely on Alibaba’s supplier network to help them manage their dropshipping business. Most Amazon sellers also source their goods from Alibaba.

However, when discussing 1688’s product quality, there is no assurance of what you will receive. You had the option of purchasing a high-quality item or a cheap knockoff. Alibaba understands the significance of this ambiguity.


Since Alibaba is intended for use by people outside of China, it makes sense that it would offer support for a number of different tongues. Most of its vendors have also staffed up with English speakers, realizing the value of clear communication.

But unfortunately, 1688 is only published in Chinese. Not understanding it would force you to rely on the translation tool, which is notoriously inaccurate.

However, we can’t hold 1688 responsible because it’s succeeding in its mission to serve the local community. The world being what it is, the last point also goes to Alibaba.

FAQs about Alibaba vs 1688

Which Platform is Better Among Alibaba vs. 1688?

Choosing the superior platform isn’t as cut-and-dried as you might think, as it depends on your specific requirements.

Alibaba is your best bet when looking to import goods from China. The site supports English and provides easy payment options.

But if you want the lowest possible prices and can place only small orders, then 1688 is your best bet.

Which Platform Offers Easier Shipping Between 1688 vs. Alibaba

In comparison to Alibaba, 1688 is a far less reliable option for placing orders across borders. Suppliers in 1688 may have a hard time getting their hands on foreign currency. The vast majority of popular payment methods can be used on Alibaba.

Alibaba vs. 1688: Which Platform is Safer to Buy Products From? 

You can’t go wrong with 1688’s reliable customer service. The company’s support staff reacts quickly to inquiries. So any issues with your order can quickly be resolved.

Alibaba vs 1688 security
However, the quality of Alibaba’s offerings is superior. Mainly because the suppliers there have to meet international standards and then Alibaba also offers the Trade Assurance service.

Can you Change the Language of 1688 to English?

A feature to switch the language in 1688 to English is not available at this time. Plugins that automatically translate text are the only viable option.

Alibaba vs. 1688 – The Final Verdict 

AliBaba and 1688 are useful, but in different ways. One is aimed at a global audience, while the other serves a domestic one.

Consequently, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their physical characteristics reflect this. As for the final tally, Alibaba comes out on top, albeit by a razor-thin margin of victory.

Nonetheless, 1688 can save you a ton of cash if you can overlook the erratic quality of their products and figure out a way to avoid making payments.