1688 vs Alibaba, two titans of e-commerce platforms in the B2B space. Both platforms are powerhouses in their own right, serving millions of businesses worldwide with their distinct features and benefits. As a business owner or a procurement specialist, you might find yourself at the crossroads, trying to decide which platform is the ultimate choice for your business needs. In this comprehensive article, I will dissect the features, pros and cons, and core differences between these two platforms to help you make an informed decision.

What is 1688?

1688.com, owned by the Alibaba Group, is a leading wholesale and sourcing platform, predominantly serving the Chinese domestic market. It was launched in 1999, and since then, it has been catering to small and medium-sized businesses within China. The name ‘1688’ is derived from the Chinese belief that the number ‘168’ symbolizes a path to prosperity and fortune. The platform is designed to enable manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors to sell their products in bulk, with a wide array of categories ranging from raw materials to finished goods.


What is Alibaba?

Alibaba, also under the Alibaba Group umbrella, is a global wholesale and B2B marketplace that connects suppliers with buyers around the world. Founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, Alibaba.com has grown to become one of the largest online commerce platforms. Unlike 1688, Alibaba has a more international focus, providing a platform for exporters in China as well as other countries to reach a global audience. With its user-friendly interface available in multiple languages, Alibaba simplifies international trade for millions of users.

Considering starting your own business?

Do you know what you need to pay attention to before starting your own business? & How to purchase goods at the best price and with the best quality?

Get my free ultimate guide on how to start your own business

Is Alibaba Legit?

One of the most common questions I encounter is about the legitimacy of Alibaba. It’s essential to understand that Alibaba is not just legit; it’s a pioneer in the e-commerce platform industry. Alibaba is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, which adds a layer of credibility and transparency to its operations. The platform also employs various measures to ensure that buyers are protected, such as Trade Assurance, a service that protects orders from payment to delivery. However, as with any marketplace, due diligence is necessary when selecting suppliers to avoid scams and low-quality products.

Tips: Is Alibaba Legit? Avoiding Alibaba Scams & Fraudsters

Pros and Cons of 1688 vs Alibaba

When considering 1688 vs Alibaba for your business needs, it’s crucial to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each platform. Let’s delve into the pros and cons of both.

Pros and Cons of 1688


  • Localized Market: 1688 is tailored for the Chinese domestic market, making it an ideal platform for those who want to tap into the vast array of products and manufacturers within China.
  • Lower Prices: Due to its focus on the local market, the prices on 1688 tend to be lower than on international platforms, which can be a significant advantage for bulk purchases.
  • Variety of Suppliers: 1688 boasts a massive network of suppliers, which means a wider variety of products and potentially more room for negotiation.


  • Language Barrier: The platform primarily operates in Mandarin, which can be a significant hurdle for non-Chinese speakers.
  • Limited International Shipping: The focus on the domestic market means that international shipping options are not as readily available or as comprehensive as those on Alibaba.
  • Complex Payment Methods: For international buyers, the payment systems on 1688 can be complicated, often requiring a China-based bank account.

Pros and Cons of Alibaba


  • Global Reach: Alibaba’s international focus makes it accessible to a broader audience, with suppliers geared towards exporting globally.
  • Trade Assurance: Alibaba’s Trade Assurance program provides a layer of security for buyers, ensuring that they receive their products as described and on time.
  • Language Accessibility: The platform is available in multiple languages, making it easier for non-Mandarin speakers to navigate and transact.


  • Higher Prices: Due to the global nature of the platform and the associated costs of exporting, prices on Alibaba may be higher than those on 1688.
  • Quality Control Issues: While Alibaba has measures in place to vet suppliers, there are still instances of low-quality products and unreliable suppliers, which requires buyers to be vigilant.
  • Complex Negotiations: Dealing with international suppliers may involve more complex negotiations, including language barriers, cultural differences, and time zone challenges.

1688 vs Alibaba Main Differences

1688 Vs Alibaba Differences
1688 vs alibaba Differences

The main differences between 1688 and Alibaba lie in their target markets, language accessibility, and shipping options. 1688 caters primarily to the Chinese market and is optimized for transactions within China, making it an excellent choice for domestic businesses or those with a presence in China. Alibaba, on the other hand, caters to a global market, offering a more diverse range of suppliers and products that are export-ready.

Tips: Alibaba vs Aliexpress – A Comparison of E-commerce Giants

Market Focus

1688 is designed to serve the Chinese domestic market, which means it is optimized for businesses operating within China. The platform offers a plethora of products that adhere to the needs and preferences of the local market. Alibaba, with its global outlook, serves international buyers looking to source products from China and other countries for import.

Language Accessibility

Language is a significant differentiator between the two platforms. 1688 is primarily in Mandarin, which can pose a challenge for international businesses without a command of the language. Alibaba offers multiple language interfaces, including English, which breaks down the language barrier and facilitates smoother communication between buyers and suppliers.

Shipping and Logistics

When it comes to shipping and logistics, Alibaba has a more established international shipping infrastructure. The platform provides various shipping options and assistance with customs clearance, making it a more convenient choice for international buyers. In contrast, 1688’s shipping options are more suited for the domestic market, and international shipping requires additional arrangements that can be complex.

1688 vs Alibaba The Similarities

Despite their differences, 1688 and Alibaba share some common ground. Both platforms are under the Alibaba Group, which means they benefit from the technological advancements and business acumen of one of the world’s foremost e-commerce companies. They both offer a vast range of products across various categories and emphasize the importance of wholesale and bulk purchasing.

Parent Company

The Alibaba Group’s backing ensures that both 1688 and Alibaba are reputable platforms. The group’s expertise in e-commerce provides a strong foundation for both platforms, allowing them to offer reliable services and user experiences.

Product Range

Both platforms boast an extensive product range, covering numerous industries and categories. Whether you’re looking for electronics, clothing, machinery, or raw materials, 1688 and Alibaba offer a plethora of options to choose from.

Wholesale Focus

1688 and Alibaba are both geared towards wholesale transactions, providing businesses with the opportunity to purchase large quantities at competitive prices. This focus on bulk purchasing allows businesses to scale and manage their inventory effectively.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between 1688 and Alibaba

Choosing between 1688 and Alibaba is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Several factors play a pivotal role in determining which platform aligns best with your business model and procurement strategy.

Business Location and Objectives

Your business’s location and objectives are crucial factors. If you’re based in China or have operations there, 1688 might be the ideal choice due to its localized services and pricing advantages. For businesses outside China looking to import goods, Alibaba’s global reach and export-friendly services would be more suitable.

Language Capabilities

The language capabilities of your team can influence your platform choice. If you have Mandarin-speaking team members, navigating 1688 becomes significantly easier. Conversely, if your team is more comfortable with English or other languages, Alibaba’s multilingual platform would be advantageous.

Shipping and Customs

Consider the logistics of shipping and customs clearance. Alibaba’s established international shipping options can simplify the import process. If you choose 1688, you may need to engage third-party logistics providers to handle international shipping and customs, which could add complexity and cost to your operations.


What does 1688 mean in China?

In Chinese culture, The homophony of 1688 in Chinese is “YiLuFa“, which means getting rich along the way. the number 1688 is traditionally associated with long-term good fortune, making it highly auspicious for many Chinese, particularly those involved in business. Its ease of remembrance and widespread recognition also contributed to Alibaba’s decision to use it for their Chinese website.

Is there an English version of 1688?

Yes, there is an English version of 1688.com, which is called Alibaba.com. Alibaba.com is an international wholesale marketplace operated by Alibaba Group, providing a platform for businesses to connect with manufacturers and wholesalers primarily in China. It allows businesses to source products in bulk quantities directly from suppliers. While 1688.com primarily serves the domestic market in China, Alibaba.com caters to an international audience and offers its services in multiple languages, including English.

Is it safe to buy from 1688?

It is generally safe to make purchases from 1688 as long as the necessary precautions are taken. Researching the seller’s reputation by checking their ratings and feedback from other buyers, reading reviews about the products, and verifying the authenticity of the products are important steps to take. Additionally, using secure payment methods such as credit cards or secure online payment platforms, and being cautious of deals that seem too good to be true can help minimize the risks. Overall, with careful consideration and due diligence, buying from 1688 can be a safe and reliable option for purchasing products.

What is the different between Alibaba and 1688?

Alibaba and 1688 are e-commerce platforms owned by the Alibaba Group, serving different purposes. The price of the same product on 1688 is 30%~50% lower than on alibaba and the quality is the same.

Alibaba.com is a global wholesale platform connecting buyers and sellers worldwide, while 1688.com is a domestic wholesale platform specifically for the Chinese market. Alibaba.com caters to an international audience, while 1688.com focuses on the domestic market within China.

Is it possible to use 1688 without understanding Mandarin?

It is technically possible, but it would be challenging. You might need to use translation services or hire a Mandarin-speaking intermediary to assist you.

Can I find unique products on 1688 that are not available on Alibaba?

Yes, due to its focus on the domestic market, 1688 may offer products that cater specifically to Chinese consumers and are not necessarily aimed at the international market.

How do I ensure product quality when ordering from these platforms?

Always request samples before placing a large order, check supplier credentials and reviews, and consider using Alibaba’s Trade Assurance for added protection.

Tips: What Are The Best Items to Flip on Alibaba to Get Money?


In the battle of 1688 vs Alibaba, the ultimate B2B e-commerce platform depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Both platforms offer unique advantages and cater to different markets. By considering factors such as your business location, language capabilities, and logistics needs, you can choose the platform that will best support your business’s growth and success. Whether you choose 1688’s local market advantages or Alibaba’s global reach, it’s imperative to conduct thorough research and due diligence to make the most of what these powerful platforms have to offer.

Get Wozo Monthly Report

Sourcing tips and insights

Get the trendiest products with Wozo's report, showcasing top picks from 1,000+ orders to find your winning product.