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AliExpress is a global ecommerce marketplace made up of small retailers, wholesalers, and suppliers. It offers an extensive product selection and enables consumers to buy directly from businesses and manufacturers in China. Its main product categories include fashion and accessories, mobile, consumer electronics, jewelry and watches, home and garden, appliances, toys, outdoor, beauty and health, automobiles and motorcycles, home improvement, and tools. AliExpress is based in China and owned by Alibaba, a global ecommerce company.
Although AliExpress positions itself as an online retailer, most sellers understand that most of their customers are resellers and drop shippers. For instance, thousands of online retailers combine Shopify, a top-rated online store app, with AliExpress to run dropshipping businesses. (See these free drop shipping and ecommerce courses by Shopify.) AliExpress competes with the likes of Amazon, eBay, Rakuten, and other high-volume ecommerce companies.
- Founded by the Alibaba Group in 2010
- Headquarters: Hangzhou, China
- Stock ticker: BABA (Alibaba Group Holding Ltd – ADR)
- Over 200,000 sellers, suppliers, and manufactures
- Over 100 million product listings
- Customers hail from 200+ countries and regions
- The site supports multiple languages including English, Spanish, French, and German
AliExpress Affiliate Program
AliExpress has an affiliate program and anyone can join it. Its self-hosted program, AliExpress Portals, uses proprietary affiliate tracking software. It also has offers on affiliate networks including FlexOffers and CJ Affiliate. Let’s review the benefits, drawbacks, commission rate, cookie duration, and details of the program.
Affiliates can earn high commissions. Standard commissions range from 0 to 9 percent. Special events, sales promotions, and hot-selling products can pay up to 90 percent. Affiliates may also receive new buyer conversion fees of up to $4 per user.
The payout threshold is low. When you accumulate a minimum of $16, you can withdraw your commissions on or before the 20th of each month. However, there is a $15 processing fee per withdrawal.
Affiliates can create tracking IDs to monitor performance. For example, you could create a link with an ID for your website and one for your promotional activities on Facebook. If you have multiple sites, you could build links/IDs for each to compare their stats and results.
Deep linking is available. Deep linking is the practice by which an affiliate creates a link to a specific page on the merchant’s site. For example, instead of using a generic homepage affiliate link, I can link to an article that relates to my post. AliExpress affiliates can link to search results, hot-selling products, events, daily deals, and more. Also, webmasters can use its API to obtain, filter, and display all kinds of product information.
Publishers can choose from a handful of ad banners. Furthermore, dynamic ads are available. Based on your website’s content and your visitor’s browsing behavior on AliExpress, dynamic ads will automatically update to show relevant goods.
AliExpress is a trustworthy and highly visited website. It offers excellent value, worldwide delivery, payment options, buyer protection, and a 24/7 help center. Customers can browse through thousands of sellers and millions of products. Seller profiles feature how long they’ve been on the site and customer feedback ratings.
The affiliate landing page needs work. An affiliate landing page is supposed to be informative, but AliExpress misses the mark. It provides a few standard details such as the commission rate. However, its help center and FAQs are only available inside the portal. Those resources should be easily accessible from the landing page. Secondly, the landing page is poorly designed with multiple fonts, font sizes, and grammatical errors. Finally, there’s a link to an inactive Facebook page about the affiliate program, which doesn’t make sense.
Commissions are capped. Although there’s the potential to earn high commission rates, AliExpress states, “The limitation of total commission for anyone order/transaction between Buyer and Seller is $50.” Therefore, affiliates can earn $50 per sale at most, which is disappointing given transactions could be for thousands.
The cookie duration is insufficient. Publishers will receive credit for purchases that occur within three days of their links being clicked. However, the three-day cookie period pales in comparison to the standard thirty days afforded by many merchants.
Inside the portal, program details are scattered and disorganized. One of the worst things about the program is that the help center isn’t as helpful as one would expect. Moreover, AliExpress affiliate managers don’t take a holistic approach to updates. Instead, they update pages, terms, and guidelines separately. For instance, the affiliate fee statement page was updated on March 17, 2019, the program rules in April 2019, and the service agreement on February 16, 2019. Other observations are as follows:
- On the affiliate fee statement page, there are multiple effective dates, fonts, font sizes, and grammatical errors.
- On the top questions page, questions are answered incorrectly. For example, “how long is the cookie tracking period?” “AliExpress uses session-based tracking after a visitor was directed to AliExpress through your affiliate link.” (The correct answer is three days).
- The affiliate member level page outlines a nonsensical and useless scheme that is supposedly designed to help affiliates “optimize their performance.”
- The latest news page doesn’t contain news per se, but content that could be put elsewhere. Case in point, it would make sense to move the deep linking instructions to the new user page. Secondly, the news featured on the dashboard doesn’t match the news found in the help center, but the feeds should mirror each other.
Reporting is underwhelming. AliExpress offers three types of reports, i.e., traffic, income, and live order tracking. The reports dashboard is oversimplified, and some category/data headings are confusing, for example, “PV” doesn’t represent clicks, but the “Number of page viewed on a website.” Next, affiliates can’t export their performance data, which is a standard function with many affiliate tracking software apps.
The affiliate portal is buggy. Each time I tried to log out, I was logged back in. I had to visit the main website to log out. Also, I was occasionally and automatically logged out after trying to return to the homepage.
There are a few commission/performance-related statements that can’t be verified, for instance:
- “We paid out over US $100,000 per month last year, with top sellers earning up to $20,000 every month.”
- “Our top publishers earn over $30,000 / month and continue to earn more month over month.”
- “Average 3.5% site conversion rate and $140 USD order amount.”
Statements like those are equivalent to the suspect statements and income reports that many affiliates use to promote themselves. Secondly, are top publishers earning “$20,000” or “$30,000” each month? It can’t be both.
There are a few inconsistent statements. Here are some examples:
- “We pay you for every purchase that originates from your website, blog, or SNS page.” That statement is false because a “special category” product sale attracts a commission rate of zero.
- “Our commission rates vary by product, with some rates as high as 50%.” I’ve seen commission rates as high as 90 percent.
- “The Portals Affiliate Program offers a minimum 8% commission.” The minimum is zero percent as per the commission schedule.
There isn’t a dedicated affiliate manager. Instead, random customer service representatives are responsible for addressing publisher inquiries. When a merchant has the staff to support publishers, it quickens processes and shows commitment.
Can you make $1,000 a month as an AliExpress affiliate? While AliExpress is a top ecommerce company, it’s unlikely that you will make that amount or a significant income. Low commission rates and a 3-day cookie will constrain your earnings and conversions. While you can earn high commission rates, you’re likely to generate standard commissions of up to 9 percent. Also, commissions are capped per order, which is contrary to the spirit of performance marketing. Although the payout threshold is fair, the $15 processing fee per withdrawal is another drawback.
A bigger problem surrounds the management of the program. It’s scattered and disorganized leading me to question its efficiency. Additionally, the affiliate software is buggy, dated, and subpar compared to other tracking software.
Where should AliExpress rank in your marketing activities? It should be a low priority. I don’t recommend joining the AliExpress affiliate program because there are much better ecommerce and retail programs available. If you do want to promote AliExpress, skip its self-hosted program, and participate through FlexOffers or CJ Affiliate. You’ll earn a slightly lower commission rate of 3 to 6 percent, but you’ll gain in the areas of program administration, tracking software, reporting, and more.