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1688 Complete Guide, Sourcing from China

Things you should know about 1688.com

What’s is 1688?

Recently, I have few friends who run Amazon business who have been sourcing from China a lot, asked about 1688, they are quite interested in it, but it looks they all quite a lot of misunderstanding about 1688.com.1688.com belongs to Alibaba group which also owns Aliexpress.com, Alibaba.com,Taobao.com, and Alicloud, so basically it is a Jack Ma’s company. 1688.com was established in 2010, at the beginning it served as a platform for seller to source product for e-commerce in China, mainly for Taobao and JD. Now as more and more Chinese seller start to sell on Amazon, eBay, 1688 also become the primary website for Chinese Amazon\eBay sellers to source products. 1688.com now even set up the dedicated category for Amazon\eBay\drop shipping as the cross-border e-commerce is growing rapidly.

What’s the difference between 1688 and other websites? You may also find this company is worth of your time to take to, Supeton

There are so many websites you can source from China, why should you source from 1688, or what makes 1688 different others?

Closer to the manufacturer

Why closer to the manufacturer, because in China most of the factory they don’t really have the ability to market their company in English. So most of the so-called manufacture on Alibaba.com are either trading companies. Even though they claim that they have all those documents and verification, I assure you many many companies listed on Alibaba.com are trading companies. Because 1688 is in Chinese, so manufacture or factory is able to market their companies or products much easier than on Alibaba.com. Of course, not all companies in 1688 are factory either, but the percentage is much higher.

Product wholesale model

1688 is not a B2C model or C2C model, It is the wholesale model. And also unlike Alibaba which focus more and manufacturing capacity, 1688 focus more on products. And most of the time, the MOQ on demo unit on 1688 is just 1, however on Alibaba, there is always a certain volume for you to request for a demo.

More friendly price

Why? As I said, if you source product from China on Alibaba or Aliexpress, they are mostly trading companies which need 1 tier profit for sure. On the other hand, in 1688 it is quite likely you end up working with the manufacturer so the cost will be definitely lower. Another important aspect is the information gap between China and other countries so the trading company will take this advantage to earn more. But, not everything is absolute. What said above is in general.

Earlier and wider access to new products

As a Chinese, I have been seeing the Chinese companies are catching up in terms of product quality and design, there are so many good products which are not available to other countries. Because of the fast-growing Chinese middle class is able to consume all these new products. However, these new products are kind of expensive, if relisted on to Alibaba by trading companies, the price will go even higher. So if there were foreign companies are able to source products from 1688, there might be still a margin to market the products in other countries.

Is 1688 really good place for sourcing from China?

I would say both YES and NO.


Access to more first-hand resources, this is the key to win an ever growing trading or e-commerce business. Lower cost in general, since other tiers will be cut off.

Earlier access to new products, especially that good stuff only available to Chinese sellers.


If you don’t understand Chinese, or there is nobody in your company understand Chinese. Even though you can use Google translate to figure out some language barrels, there are still so many things can not be done with fluent language skills. The communication cost will be huge.

The whole import and export process gonna be difficult since most of the 1688 seller or manufacturer they don’t have the know-how or experience of sending product outside China. So either the Chinese company or you have to hire forwarder and product labeling so this may be quite a headache at the beginning.

Payment. 1688 only accept the payment system which works in China, they accept Chinese RMB only. So how can you pay? Another headache.

Can non-Chinese citizen buy from 1688?

YES. But the condition is that you have a Chinese bank account or Alipay(支付宝),also if you have Taobao account, you can also register on 1688.com. And an address in China for receiving the product is needed. This is the most ideal scenario which basically means you already live in China or work in China. But what if now, you are sitting in the USA or Europe and reading this article. How can you do? You need someone or a company you can trust, help you out.

There is also another approach, contact the company directly. They will list their phone number and Aliwangwang(kind of instant message like Skype). After talking with them directly, see if they accept the international Bank transaction or PayPal. In China, there is a foreign currency control, everyone can only have a 50,000USD transaction quota, so if they don’t have an off-shore bank account, it will also be a headache. But personal account or PayPal account is enough for a demo request.

How to find products on it without knowing Chinese?

With all these headaches you may encounter, and you feel you have the patience and resource or skill to counter all these. Then how can you find products on 1688.com, even though you have no knowledge about Chinese at all?

 Google Chrome Translate Extension\Baidu Chrome Translate Extension

This approach is for browsing on the desktop/laptop.

Google is my first choice, but the Chrome extension may not be working well in China, because Google is blocked in China. If Google not working, turn to Baidu which is the equivalent of Google in China. Download Baidu Chrome. But you can not talk to the seller since you don’t have ID. What you can do is to compare the price and study the product.

As you can see above, with the Google Translating, you can understand more of the content on it besides the pictures cannot be translated, but it already helps a lot to understand what’s available on 1688.

The product page for a cloth.

The below picture is interesting and useful.
The deal means how many transactions were made, the evaluation is review. Mostly the review and transactions in 1688 are more trustworthy than on Amazon.


1688 App

Search 1688 on Appstore or Google Play. But 1688 app is not available in English. So you can only check the product via picture, But if you search English keywords, if also show the products. the picture down below, I searched headphone, it does show many results for headphones. It also works when I search for the armband.



I also searched armband on Amazon, As you can see the price on 1688 is 10RMB, meanwhile on Amazon is 15.99USD, same product, 10 times more expensive on Amazon. Meanwhile, on Alibaba.com, the price is 2.89USD(equals to nearly 20RMB) at least. So the advantage of 1688.com is obvious.


What’s the ideal process of buying from 1688.com

 Scenario 1, buy it by yourself.

You need to prepare the following things

A Taobao account, or AliPay account. But how to have a Taobao account or AliPay account? You need to have a Chinese Bank account which links to your Taobao or AliPay Account. here is a guide on how to open a bank account in China. Once you have the Chinese bank account you have the green light to register AliPay, then you are able to register on either 1688 or Taobao.com.

A Chinese phone number, and it should be a mobile phone number for SMS verification. Getting a Chinese mobile phone number is not like buying in the street, you need to show your passport too. Please check this one for detail how to get a sim card for registering 1688

Download Aliwangwang, Aliwangwang as I mentioned above, it is the instant messenger for 1688 and Taobao, it is a quite convenient tool to communicate with sellers. Do remember to turn on Google Chrome Translate. Coz the official site does not offer English. Aliwangwang offers both Windows and Mac version.

when all 3 above are in place. You need a Chinese warehouse or address to receive the products or sample.

Contact the forwarder to help you ship the products from China to your place for import.

Of course, the above process is a very rough process. There so many details need to cover. ideally, if there is someone in your company can speak or write in Chinese, it would be perfect.

Scenario 2. Hire somebody or a company to do

Hire or cooperate with a Chinese locally

Let say, there is a Chinese you know in your city, you can ask him/her for help. Now with the online Payment, it is very easy for Chinese to pay with internet or smartphone. Someone locally you can trust and help communicate with a Chinese company will be way easier. I bet it is not very difficult to find some Chinese people around since now Chinese are everywhere in the world.

Hire a company or individual in China

You can find some trading company or sourcing agent in China to help you go through all the process. I would prefer sourcing company, coz in general, they charge less than trading company. the sourcing company usually charge certain commission from2-5% and plus bit service fee. A trading company may mark up the price. Of course, if you were able to do the study on 1688 first, then you have the power to bargain more.


Our thought on 1688.com and sourcing from China

Sourcing from 1688 is also losing its advantage.

 Nowadays even sourcing from 1688 is becoming more and more competitive. One reason is that more and more Chinese company starts to sell directly to end users in different countries, like to USA, UK, and other developed countries, so it is quite likely what you find interesting on 1688 is already being sold on Amazon or other platforms. Another reason is more and more companies outside China also start to look into 1688. We can tell this from the following picture.

Surely, the majority who source from 1688 is in China, but the trend is obvious, more and more companies outside China know about 1688.

More about the insights, we have on manufacturing and sourcing from China.