This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase
AliExpress is a global marketplace based in China that offers products to international online buyers. Just like almost any other big retail business, AliExpress uses an affiliate program to boost sales on the platform.
This review will cover everything you need to know about the AliExpress affiliate program. You will also learn how this affiliate program stands in comparison to Amazon Associates.
AliExpress directly connects Chinese businesses with international buyers. Manufacturers and wholesalers have their listings on AliExpress, and when you purchase any product, they are the ones who take care of the shipping. AliExpress, unlike Amazon, does not directly sell products to consumers.
The main benefit of shopping on AliExpress is low prices. Since you are buying directly from the manufacturers and wholesalers, you can find real bargains on AliExpress.
However, as you would perhaps expect, since the products are manufactured in China and cheap, the quality of the products is often questionable.
If you buy a watch for just $5 dollars, you simply cannot expect much. You can find quality products on AliExpress too, but obviously for higher prices.
For most people, the biggest drawback of shopping on AliExpress is the shipping time. All products are shipped from China, and if you decide to go with the free shipping through China Post, it can take weeks for your product to arrive.
I ordered a phone case on AliExpress using the free shipping option and it took seven weeks to arrive But that was extreme; usually, the shipping does not take longer than three weeks.
The sellers on AliExpress give the option to ship your product through some of the international couriers like DHL, so if you don’t mind paying extra, you can have a product shipped to your country within a week or two.
AliExpress Affiliate Program
The AliExpress affiliate program is not as popular as Amazon Associates. Actually, not that many people know that AliExpress even has an affiliate program.
AliExpress has mainly become known among bloggers and online entrepreneurs in connection with dropshipping.
You start a Shopify store, import products to your store from AliExpress using Oberlo and then every time you take an order you buy cheaply in China and sell with a mark-up to your customers.
I am mentioning Oberlo because you can actually combine dropshipping and affiliate marketing, but more on that later.
The AliExpress affiliate program is self-hosted on AliExpress Portals but can also be joined on CJ Affiliates.
The self-hosted affiliate program can be joined directly from the AliExpress affiliate landing page.
AliExpress does not provide much information about their program and the little information they do provide is often contradictory.
For instance, in their FAQs, they say that they use session-based tracking, but on other pages they say that they have a 3-day referral period (the latter mentioned is correct); this is just one example out of many.
The sign-up process to join the AliExpress affiliate program is straightforward. You need to complete a short registration form and wait for approval. They state the approval process takes no more than 10 business days.
Once your application is approved, you will gain access to AliExpress Portals.
At AliExpress Portals, you can start creating your affiliate links. The program does allow deep linking so you can create a link to any specific product on AliExpress you wish. You can also link to AliExpress special deal pages and you are even able to create a link to search results.
So, for instance, instead of linking to an iPhone 10 case, you would link to a search result with all iPhone 10 cases on AliExpress so that people could browse and choose the one they like the most.
AliExpress has a plugin called ‘AliPlugin’ which supposedly makes creating affiliate links easier and faster. The plugin also allows importing products from AliExpress to your store if you decide to dropship. However, the plugin is not free, and the licenses start at $69 (one-time payment). If you have a Shopify store, you can install free Oberlo instead.
Besides creating deep links, AliExpress Portals also allows you to create tracing IDs for all your links.
This is very useful if you are promoting AliExpress products across multiple channels. Tracking IDs allow you to compare performance so, for instance, you could see that people are clicking more on the links on your website than they are on Facebook or other social media sites.
I recommend using tracking IDs as they help optimize your campaigns. You want to focus on what’s working and not on what’s not.
Affiliates are also provided with various banners and with dynamic ads. Dynamic ads show AliExpress products based upon your visitor’s browsing behavior on AliExpress.
AliExpress Affiliate Program Commission
AliExpress affiliate program commission ranges from 3% to 9%.
There is 0% for sales of hot products, which is a pity as obviously hot products sell well. In comparison, the Amazon Associates or Walmart affiliate program allows affiliates to promote hot products.
You can see the commission rates in the table below.
A big drawback of this program is that the commission is capped at $50. If someone buys, through your affiliate link, products worth thousands of dollars, you will never receive more than $50.
People often buy more than just one thing on big marketplaces like AliExpress, so affiliates don’t get all the credit for their marketing efforts that they deserve.
Another drawback of the program is that affiliates can withdraw their commission only through international bank transfers; Pay Pal is not supported. For each withdrawal, there is a processing fee of $15.
Because of the withdrawal processing fee, affiliates can withdraw only once they accumulate at least $16.
The commission is added to your AliExpress Portals account for each completed order. An order gets completed after 60 days from the original purchase date – if a customer doesn’t ask for a refund.
When your commission finally shows up in your account, you still can’t withdraw it whenever you like. AliExpress allows withdrawing money only on or before the 20th of every month.
Therefore, hypothetically, you could wait for your commission for up to 70 days if the purchase was made on the 21st.
As I mentioned earlier, there is also a possibility of joining the affiliate program on CJ Affiliates.
CJ Affiliates AliExpress has the same 3-day referral period, but what differs is the commission.
The program has 4% for all selected categories. You can download an Excel spreadsheet on CJ Affiliates with all the categories for which the commission applies. Just as at self-hosted AliExpress Portals, the program on CJ Affiliates also does not allow promotion of hot products.
In general, the self-hosted AliExpress affiliate program has better commission than the program on CJ Affiliates. However, there are categories that have 4% commission on CJ Affiliates and only 3% on AliExpress Portals. If you are planning on promoting just a specific category, then in some instances the program on CJ Affiliates can be a better choice.
How to Make Money with the AliExpress Affiliate Program
I mentioned at the very beginning of this review that AliExpress focuses on international online buyers. The strange fact is that even though AliExpress is a Chinese company, the Chinese cannot shop at AliExpress.
The AliExpress website receives over 500 million visits each month from all around the world. The country where AliExpress is the most popular is Russia.
Twenty percent of all visits come from Russia compared to 5% from the USA. That means that around 25 million Americans shop at AliExpress.
This is obviously an insignificant number compared to how many Americas shop at Amazon, but I am just trying to make a point that even promoting AliExpress products to an American audience makes sense.
I think the key to success is understanding what products to promote. This is of course true for all marketplaces, but even more so for AliExpress.
Ask yourself a question: ‘’Why would anyone buy from AliExpress rather than from Amazon?’’ The main reason is not surprisingly the lower price, and the second reason is, in my opinion, uniqueness of products.
You may have chuckled after reading the second reason as China is infamous for copying the western brands and products and I don’t oppose that, but as an AliExpress shopper myself I also know that there are so many products on AliExpress that are simply not available on Amazon or at other retailers.
Therefore, try to focus on one of these things in your marketing efforts (preferably both).
For instance, you could review products and include links to both AliExpress and Amazon. If you want more people to buy products from your AliExpress affiliate links, then it is a good idea to select products where the price difference is significant.
Obviously, you cannot earn a lot by promoting the cheapest products on AliExpress. Commission from an iPhone case that sells for $2 would earn you next to nothing. You would have to find products that cost more but are still cheap in comparison to Amazon or other retailers.
Of course, if you decide to do a price comparison with other retailers, be sure to be an affiliate for the other retailer as well. In this example, you would also want to join Amazon Associates.
How to Make Money with the Program as a Dropshipper
As I mentioned earlier, if you have a Shopify store and dropship products from AliExpress using the Oberlo app, you can get a commission for the products that you buy for your customers.
When you place orders with Oberlo, it will know that the order is coming from your affiliate link. This way you can increase your profits when doing dropshipping.
You can learn more about how it works at the Oberlo help center.
AliExpress Affiliate Program vs. Amazon Associates
The commission for both programs is very similar. AliExpress commission ranges from 3% to 9% and Amazon from 1% to 10%. For some categories, you will have a better commission with AliExpress and for some with Amazon.
Where AliExpress has a little edge is the referral period. AliExpress has a 3-day referral period while Amazon Associates has only 24-hours.
AliExpress ships to pretty much all countries around the world (around 175 countries) so you can even promote AliExpress products in smaller countries. Amazon ships to around 100 countries, which is still a lot but less than AliExpress.
Amazon is a more trustworthy platform than Chinese AliExpress. Some Americans are familiar with AliExpress, but AliExpress is just not big in the USA. AliExpress is mainly popular in Russia.
Should You Join the AliExpress Affiliate Program?
AliExpress can be used not only for dropshipping but also for affiliate marketing.
The program has its drawbacks such as the commission being capped at $50 or that affiliates cannot withdraw money through PayPal.
The main benefit of promoting AliExpress is that its products are much cheaper than products on Amazon, and for many people, the price is the deciding factor. Therefore, you could have a higher conversion rate.
If your website receives the majority of its traffic from the USA, I would experiment with promoting AliExpress products, but focus more on Amazon Associates. Some products may convert better than Amazon ones, but in my opinion, Amazon Associates still has better overall earning potential.
On the other hand, if you have the majority of traffic coming from Russia, the AliExpress affiliate program is a great opportunity for you as AliExpress is really big in Russia.