E-commerce is one of the biggest winners of the internet boom. Jumia, Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba, Rakuten, JD.com, and other online retailers have emerged as some of the largest internet companies in the world today. They’re not just retailers, but are also classified as tech innovators. Among the pioneers in this field is Chinese giant Aliexpress, owned by the Alibaba Group.
Started in 2010, Aliexpress.com is an online platform that allows both B2C and C2C transactions. It ships to dozens of countries, as well as being available in at least a dozen different languages.
Other than Black Friday, it has major annual sales on Singles day, also known as 11.11 (November 11th), and Anniversary Sale (last week of March). Others occur in the run up to Christmas and Winter. During these sales, it’s not unusual for the Chinese giant to process transactions worth tens of billions of dollars in 24 hours.
Its parent company Alibaba is said to be more profitable than Amazon. Although Aliexpress generally has very affordable offers, the only possible downside is in shipping. Sometimes you might be interested in buying an item, only to be told it doesn’t ship to your country. Although it’s an inconvenience, this is somewhat understandable because logistics can be complicated.
The site has various convenient payment methods. These include debit/credit cards, PayPal, Western Union and bank transfer. It also tries hard to include smaller but popular payment methods for diverse regions, such as Yandex.money for Russian customers.
Recently MPESA was added as a payment option for Kenyan and East African consumers after sealing a partnership agreement with Safaricom. For now, MPESA is only available for those using Aliexpress’ smartphone app.
Buying on Aliexpress
For purposes of this article, I set out to buy a lavalier microphone. It’s used to improve audio for TV shows and other media, such as YouTube channels. Although there are high quality, highly priced options in the market, I wanted to test whether an affordable Chinese option could work.
I will now show you a step by step account of my purchase:
Login to your Aliexpress account
This requires only your email address and password. If you don’t have an Aliexpress account, signing up for one is a walk in the park.
Search for your item
Aliexpress has a very powerful search function. You’ll be spoilt for choice by the thousands of results for each query. You can also conveniently filter the results until you get exactly what you want. For example, picking the free shipping option only shows products that will be shipped to you free of charge.
If you’re not ready to purchase, you can save your desired item using the wish list function. That way, you can easily buy it the next time you log in.
Placing your order
Once you settle on an item, buying it is as simple as clicking on the “Buy Now” button. If you plan on buying more than one item, you can add the current one to your cart and keep shopping. In my case I bought a $3.49 lavalier with a $3.37 shipping fee, bringing the total to $6.86.
Depending on the shipping option you choose, your package might take up to 2 months to arrive. Free shipping is supposed to take longer, though they generally arrive earlier than the maximum time stated. I’m sure I’ll receive my package in about 3 weeks.
Premium shipping options such as DHL and FedEx exist, but they’re very expensive. Most times they charge multiple times the cost of your product as shipping charges. For example, you might buy a $20 pair of shoes, only for DHL to charge you $74 for shipping. This doesn’t make any sense, unless you’re urgently looking for a unique product that’s not available in your country.
If you’ve bought from Aliexpress before, your card details will be on file. Paying will be as easy as picking your saved card and authorizing the payment.
To avoid becoming a victim of online credit card fraud, never share your card details with a party you don’t trust. PayPal is a good option for such circumstances. Aliexpress has proved to be a secure platform for me, so I have no problem adding my Visa card details to the site.
After doing this, you should review the details before clicking on the “Place Order” button.
The transaction process is automatic and will be completed in seconds. So long as you have enough money in your bank account, you don’t have to do anything else. If successful, you’ll be notified both on Aliexpress and via email.
Now, all that remains is to sit back, relax and wait for your package to arrive. I usually pick mine from the City Square post office along Haile Selassie Avenue. Most small packages don’t require any further payment in custom fees.
When I pick the parcel I’ll give elaborate instructions on how to do so. In future I’ll also post a YouTube video showing detailed step by step instructions on how to shop on Aliexpress.
Shopping on the Aliexpress app
Although the experience is nearly similar to that of desktop shopping, using the Aliexpress official app comes with some more benefits. The biggest is the convenience of being able to shop on the move. You can also receive notifications about offers for items you’re interested in.
Since the future is mobile, Aliexpress has been trying hard to get consumers to download their app. For that reason, there are discounts available for merely using it over their website. For Kenyans, the MPESA payment option is only available when you use the app.
If you want convenient shipping options, sign up for an M-post account. This innovative service allows you to have a mobile post office box at a cost of shs. 300 per year. Your mobile phone number becomes your P.O. Box, and you receive SMS alerts whenever you receive mail, parcels or any other item.
For extra fees, you can choose to have your package delivered to the nearest post office to you. To sign up for Mpost, dial *890*90# and follow the prompts.
Buying through the Aliexpress app
Once you’ve registered for Mpost, you can use it as your Aliexpress shipping address. The format will be PHONE NUMBER-POSTAL CODE
For instance, if your phone number is 0701 234 567 and you prefer to pick your parcel at City Square (postal code 00200), your Mpost address will be 0701 234 567-00200. Click on this link for other Kenyan postal codes.
Once done, purchasing through the app is no different from the process already described above. If you choose MPESA as a payment option, you’ll be prompted to enter your mobile phone number and PIN. Before clicking on the PAY NOW button, you’ll also have the chance to pick the most affordable or convenient shipping option available.
Once done with payment, you can track the parcel via your Aliexpress app via the account orders function. Aliexpress and Mpost provide calculations for all the fees you’ll pay, so you won’t encounter any nasty surprises when you pick your parcel.
It took around a month for the parcel to arrive. Purchases on Aliexpress are more affordable if there’s no urgency to receive the product.
Anyway, this is how the item looks like.
The lavalier looks exactly as advertised. I’m yet to test its quality. Once I do I’ll let you know. Overall I’m satisfied with my Aliexpress shopping experience.
In case you thought shopping on Aliexpress is a complicated procedure, I hope this article has proved otherwise. As the company makes inroads into Kenya and Africa, I’m sure it will become easier and more convenient to buy goods online.
Before making a purchase, make sure you exhaust all your options. Online sellers generally have better deals than brick and mortar stores. So long as you can withstand shipping periods, buying from Aliexpress might be the best decision you’ll ever make.