What Is AliExpress?

Discover the Chinese shopping site that's used worldwide

A man and woman shopping on the AliExpress website on their laptop computer

 Sam Edwards / OJO Images

AliExpress is a popular online store for buying products at much cheaper prices than you would pay if shopping on Amazon and other similar services. The store was founded in 2010 and is owned by Alibaba, a massive Chinese multinational company focusing on e-commerce and computing and is one of the world's largest internet companies.

How Does AliExpress Work?

To use AliExpress, you first need to sign up for a free account via the sign-up link in the top-right corner of the official AliExpress website. Create a new account by manually entering your email address in the sign-up form, or by logging in with your Facebook, Google, or VK account.

After the initial account creation, AliExpress will ask for your first and last name, your gender, your date of birth, your nationality, and a selection of several shopping categories that interest you, such as men's fashion, tech accessories, and consumer electronics. Other information asked of you include your marital status, your children's birthdays, which industry you work in, your average salary, an estimate of how much you spend when shopping online per month, and other online shops you use. All of this information is required with the exception of your child's birthday and other online stores that you use.

AliExpress shopping website questions
AliExpress will ask several personal questions when signing-up.

Once your profile is set-up, you'll be able to browse AliExpress and search for products via the search bar at the top of the site. Products can be purchased from their individual pages by selecting the Buy Now button or added to your shopping cart by selecting the Add to Cart button. The shopping process on AliExpress is very similar to most other online stores such as Amazon or Target.

What Items Can I Buy on AliExpress?

AliExpress sells a wide range of items, from men's and women's fashion, toys, and electronics to hair and beauty products, jewelry, furniture, and even cars and motorcycles.

Products you won't be able to buy on AliExpress include weaponry, software, ebooks, and digital media.

Why Are Items So Cheap on AliExpress?

Unlike Amazon, the majority of merchants selling products on AliExpress are based in China and source all of their merchandise directly from Chinese manufacturers. This keeps costs down and means they can afford to offer free or very cheap shipping as well.

Who Can Use AliExpress?

AliExpress is open to users from all major regions around the world. It offers alternative language versions of its website and smartphone apps in English, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Turkish, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Arabic, Hebrew, and Polish.

What Do the AliExpress Smartphone Apps Do?

The official AliExpress smartphone apps on iOS and Android simply allow you to shop on AliExpress and manage your account on your mobile device. These apps use the same account you use on the AliExpress website and let you browse products, add items to your cart, and complete orders.

Is AliExpress Safe?

AliExpress is considered to be a reliable place to buy products at a cheaper price than you would domestically. AliExpress is part of Alibaba Group, a large established company which focuses on commerce and media. AliExpress also provides shoppers with complete refunds on products that arrive damaged, late, or don't arrive at all.

What to Expect When Using AliExpress

  • Lower prices: When shopping on AliExpress, you can expect to see products selling for significantly cheaper prices than they would on other online or physical stores.
  • Adding Address and Payment: Unlike other sites that usually have you add a shipping address and payment method to your profile when setting up your account, AliExpress will require you to add this information during the checkout phase of your first order. Once this information is entered, it will be saved to your account for use when making future orders.
  • Missing Locations: Some regions and cities may be missing from the drop-down menus when adding your address on AliExpress, but you can manually enter these in the text fields for your apartment number or street name.
  • English: The English on AliExpress is very good, though you may occasionally encounter some grammar that will prompt a double-take. In general, though, you shouldn't have any problems understanding the English on AliExpress even though it's a Chinese website.

AliExpress Tips

AliExpress can be an amazing website for finding a great deal, but there are some important points to consider while using it.

AliExpress Men's Fashion Category
Some products on AliExpress may look legit but they're probably bootleg.
  • Credit is king: AliExpress doesn't accept cheques, money orders, or PayPal for orders, instead focusing almost exclusively on credit cards as payment. The good news is all major credit cards are accepted.
  • Beware of bootlegs: In general, there aren't many Western brands selling directly on AliExpress and a lot of the non-Chinese products are fakes. This won't be a problem if you just want something that looks like the real thing and costs half the price, but if you're after authenticity, it's well worth spending the time to research the seller and read the product reviews written by other customers before buying. AliExpress is legit, but some of its products aren't.
  • Long shipping, no tracking: Most sellers on AliExpress offer free shipping for their products. However, choosing this option usually means you'll have to wait more than a month for it to arrive and you won't be given an AliExpress tracking code to follow its journey. Depending on how quickly you want an item, you may want to pay extra for faster shipping and a tracking number. You can do this during checkout for most orders.

    AliExpress Competitors

    AliExpress has several rivals that also target consumers looking to buy a wide variety of items at discounted prices. Some of the major ones are:

    • Wish App: Like AliExpress, Wish App also connects Western shoppers with merchants in China that can sell them popular products for a fraction of what they'd pay back home.
    • DHGate: DHGate has been around for over a decade and offers products sold from wholesalers in China. It directly competes with AliExpress' target audience and even mimics a lot of the AliExpress website's visual aesthetic.
    • LightInTheBox: Products on LightInTheBox are slightly more expensive than on AliExpress, but they're still much cheaper than what you'd find online. What sets LightInTheBox apart from AliExpress is it has some warehouses in the U.S., meaning some of its products will ship much faster than they would if they were being posted from China.