Have you done much online shopping in the past?
How was your experience?
It seems like online shopping has become as common in the developed world as breathing and why not I say!
You can usually get a better product for a cheaper price and all without leaving your house.
You can even shop in your pyjamas or underwear (or not even that but we won’t go there 😉 ) and not have to worry about opening hours, traffic or parking.
You can also easily source products that are not available in your local area, or even your country.
Yep, this is an online commerce giant that simply dwarfs everyone else.
Furthermore, when the company behind it listed on the stock market, it was the biggest Initial Public Offering (a.k.a IPO) in human history.
Yet, it is very possible than many of you have never heard of them.
That’s OK, you don’t have to feel bad about that.
The reason why many people in countries like Australia have never heard the name before is because this company is Chinese.
This company is called Alibaba who, after its stock market listing is valued at a whopping 240 BILLION US dollars!
This is actually bigger than the annual Gross Domestic Product of some countries!
This short video by The Telegraph newspaper in the UK gives a brief overview of this retail ‘Godzilla’.
Have you noticed they mentioned in that video something about “Singles Day”?
Well, that is a one day shopping event that they initially ran supposedly for people without romantic partners (cause what’s better to cheer them up than engaging in some retail therapy, right? 😉 ) .
This so called “Singles days” promotion has since become the biggest online shopping event in the world, based on the amount of unique shoppers and the volume of product sold in a single day.
Whatever the reason behind this event, it’s HUGE with millions of individual items going on sale with prices slashed by half and more.
Given the normal prices offered are ridiculously low already, with the sale in place, it is very likely that whatever you will buy from there during the sale, it will be for the lowest price in the world.
There are however, quite a few things to be aware of with this mob and I’ll cover them a bit later in this post.
Aliexpress – Alibaba’s answer to Amazon/eBay
AliExpress is the B2C (i.e. Business to Consumer) platform of Alibaba, which initially was a B2B (Business to Business) platform only which means they were connecting manufactures and large wholesalers with retailers worldwide.
Here is a quick promotional video outlining the growth and history of AliExpress, which is relatively short compared to eBay and Amazon but, as I said already, are selling more stuff than their closest competitors combined (who are obviously giants in their own right)
What happens on 11/11 each year?
Pretty much the entire range of products sold on AliExpress is discounted substantially for one day only (being 11/11).
If you want to understand the sheer magnitude of this event, this 2 minute video does a good job explaining that
To better understand what you can expect on this day, here is a report from the Financial Time’s Beijing correspondent covering the 2015 sale.
What does AliExpress sell?
Well, pretty much ANYTHING, literally!
As a matter of fact, you can buy stuff there that you will never ever find anywhere else (either online or in a physical retailer).
The product range is truly staggering and even makes the likes of eBay or Amazon look bad.
Furthermore, their normal prices can often be as low as 15% of normal retail prices and with this sale they drop further (and usually by a significant amount!).
“What’s the Catch?”
As with many things that seem too good to be true at first, there is a catch.
It is true you can find lots of genuinely unbelievable bargains on AliExpress but unfortunately, it is also true that there is also a lot of stuff sold there that is of poor quality or even counterfeit (or both) so you have to be careful and understand how this platform works and what mechanisms are in place to protect yourself.
Caveat Emptor (Buyer beware)!
I can start writing a long essay now about how AliExpress works and what you need to do to protect yourself but given most people respond better to videos than words, I think this 12 minute video guide will do a better job teaching you everything you need to know about what AliExpress is, how it works and what to look out for.
Another reason I include it here is because it is independent and unbiased and is not affiliated with AliExpress in any way.
You got all that? Have a good understanding what to look out for?
Here are a few more points about AliExpress worth highlighting
- AliExpress don’t accept payments by PayPal. They claim that this is due to ‘compatibility issues’ with their platform that PayPal refuses to address. However, I think that the fact that they have their own competing online payment service called AliPay, has something to do with that too 😉 .
Either way, this means PayPal cannot be used for shopping there and you will need to use a credit or debit card. Please also keep in mind that all sales are conducted in US Dollars so you will be slugged with currency conversion fees by your financial institution unless you have the right credit or debit card.
- If the item you got from AliExpress is counterfeit, despite being described on the site as genuine, you have some additional protection and compensation. However, this additional protection applies only to: Jewellery, Computers, Communication Devices (e.g mobile phones), Consumer Electronics, Watches, and other digital products. If a product from any of these categories is found to be a replica and not the genuine brand name described in the sale listing, your money will be refunded in full by AliExpress and they will also force the seller of the item to provide you with monetary compensation of up to twice your order amount (e.g $200 if you ordered something for $100).
- If there is a problem with the item you bought (or it never arrives) and the dispute resolution and mediation process with AliExpress fails to get you your money back (as it sometimes does), I suggest you cease all communication with the seller or with AliExpress and instead contact your financial institution and ask them to initiate a ‘chargeback’ of the transaction. Based on my own personal experience, as well as that of others, once a chargeback is received by AliExpress, they tend to ‘roll over’ so to speak and just refund the money. I assume that the reason for that is that they are worried about being blacklisted by the major credit card issuers in the west which will mean the effective end of their business. I personally have always been able to recover my money when I initiated a chargeback against AliExpress.
Please also keep in mind that if you buy any item that costs more than $1000, you will need to pay an extra 10% in GST when it arrives to Australia.
If you think that sucks, keep in mind that starting from 01/07/2017, you’ll need to pay GST on anything you buy from overseas in any amount!
If you’ve ever purchased anything from AliExpress before, I’d love to hear about your personal shopping experience with them.
This will be very beneficial for anyone who reads this post and has never bought anything through AliExpress, or their parent company Alibaba, previously.
You can either answer the survey below or leave a more detailed reply in the comments section.