Disclaimer : This is not a sponsored/advertorial. All tips are from my own shopping experience on Taobao.com (淘宝网).
If you hadn’t heard about Taobao, where the hell have you been?!
For the benefit of the doubt for those who are really clueless, it’s okay, you will soon be introduced and wow-ed by this very awesome e-Commerce shopping platform whereby you can buy almost anything and everything (except for prohibited items) from none other than…China!
I know I should have done this a looonnnnggggg time ago but I guess I never really got my ass down to do it. But today, I will! I will be sharing with you some of my useful tips and shopping experience on Taobao!
I have been shopping on Taobao since 2008 thereabout which spells about 8 years?! Previously, Taobao did not open to overseas shipping yet and shopping on Taobao was tough because you had to engage a Taobao agent who has a Taobao account and warehouse in China for the goods to be sent to. This was because Taobao’s shopping platform was only restricted to purchases in China, unless you have your own connections as mentioned above.
More costs were involved as you would be required to pay a handling and/or agent fee to the Taobao agent. Sometimes, these agents conduct bulk pre-orders which also means longer waiting time. They would also be the ones liaising with the Taobao sellers directly on your behalf.
Until recently, Taobao decided to open up to global shopping (like finally) which has proved to be a very smart and successful move for them as their revenue and profits skyrocketed thereafter.
However, it may seem intimidating for first-timers, especially since I believe most of our Chinese proficiency is sub-par. Ahem, like Yours Truly.
BUT, it can be done so not to worry! 🙂
In short, here is what you need to do before you shop away :-
- Sign up a Taobao account
- Download Aliwangwang
- Choose your shipping method and input your shipping particulars
- Choose your payment method (take note of the surcharge invovled) and input your payment details
- Browse/search and start shopping!
I have listed down whatever tips I can think of so here goes…!
If you are struggling to understand what the heck the website is saying, then you need to overcome this problem first.
Get help from Google Translate! Although it’s not 100% accurate, but it does help in some way or another 🙂
The main reason why most of us shop at Taobao is because of the relatively cheaper stuffs we can get from there as compared to other online and retail shops. As you would already have known, most of the stuffs from China are relatively cheaper due to the cheaper labour costs as they have a wide supply of workers which also explains why so many products are Made in China.
But how do you get the most out of Taobao? Will you purchase the exact same item at a higher costs? Will you forgo an opportunity to get it cheaper?
Of course, not. Because this is the very reason you are shopping at Taobao, right?
So how do you check for the lowest price for the item you are searching for?
Take for example, you are browsing for shorts for women – 短裤女.
Click onto the option – 价格, which simply means ‘Price’.
Previously, there is a drop down menu whereby you can select from lowest to highest or highest to lower price, but not sure why that menu disappears now. I’m using Google Chrome by the way, perhaps it may be due to the internet browser you are using? Taobao app on mobile works just fine, with the drop down menu.
So anyway, click once (if the dropdown menu does not appear) or choose ‘lowest to highest’ 价格由低到高, and your search will be refreshed and refined accordingly.
One thing you need to note is to always counter-check and ensure that it is the same item you are intending to get. Click on a few same items and compare. Pay close attention to the measurements especially.
Online shopping runs the risk of not getting you thought you would be contracting for. In order to mitigate such risk, reading reviews by other customers would help!
Another important issue to highlight when shopping on Taobao is, apart from the quality (which requires some compromisation with such low prices), the measurements of your clothes/shoes. Even though most of sellers put up a disclaimer that measurements are not exactly accurate, with a plus/minus of 1 to 3cm discrepancy, sometimes it goes wayyyyy off.
Also, the cutting may be sucky too sometimes.
The most convenient method to convert RMB to SGD is to google.
It may not be the most accurate but I guess it acts as a very much reliable gauge?
Don’t forget to add the domestic shipping fees also known as ‘快递’ (from seller to your courier company’s warehouse) and also the overseas shipping fees (from your courier company’s warehouse to your local address).
For clarification purposes, the total cost price of an item = item price + domestic shipping fees (from seller to your courier company’s warehouse) + shipping fees (from your courier company’s warehouse to your local address).
Checking your orders thoroughly before paying
There were a few times where I had experience a laggy Taobao website, which has caused me to order more than what I wanted. I had accidentally checked out 3 of the same item… -.-”
So be sure to check through your orders (quantity, colours and designs) are correct.
Monitoring your delivery status
Based on my experience, most sellers ship out their goods 2 to 3 working days after payment has been made. So this is a good gauge to bear in mind when monitoring your delivery status.
One factor that affects the delivery speed is the location of your seller. The further the seller is from your warehouse, the longer it takes to reach. Choosing a seller who is located at the same state as your warehouse saves you delivery time and costs, but this is not a major issue as 2 to 3 days is pretty quick. 😉
Once the seller sends out the item, the delivery status will be updated to “卖家已经出货”, which means that the seller has delivered the item. However, if item has not been sent out after 1 day from the date of payment, there will be an option for you to remind the seller to deliver the item “提醒卖家送货”.
So what else can you do if you need to chase the seller?
This brings me to my next point.
Download aliwangwang to contact Taobao sellers
What I usually do when I see that a particular seller has been taking a long time to send out the items is to contact them directly via Aliwangwang. It is a messenger program which allows you to message the sellers personally.
Take note that there will be sellers who will take some time to respond or totally not respond at all. Speak about responsibility.
For me, I usually shop in bulk from several different sellers located differently, so what I do is to monitor and collate all orders to arrive at the warehouse and send them over as 1 big parcel to SG. This is so that you save on shipping costs which is calculated based on the weight. There are some courier companies which charge based on volumetric, so you need to take note of this.
I use Global Consolidate and Shipping and engage 4px 递四方全球转运服务, which is more pricey than other courier companies but so far I am very pleased to engage them as I receive my items very quickly – takes about 2 to 3 days to arrive? Even on Saturdays via speedpost. So far, no items were lost or damaged. Crossing fingers.
However, my friends who have opted for Taobao Global Direct Shipping did also mentioned that their costs are lower and their parcels are well-received too. So no harm trying that too! 🙂
Buying fragile items from Taobao
More and more people are getting their household items from Taobao, which may be fragile. Although I have not personally experienced this, I have chanced upon other buyers requesting sellers to crate their items. Sellers may or may not require additional costs for crating, you can try to negotiate with them 🙂
Usually, items which are fragile will be wrapped securely with bubble wraps, boxes etc. However, if you want additional protection, try requesting that to the seller.
Engaging a Taobao Agent
If you are buying fragile items or large expensive items such as sofas, beds (yeah there are people who get such items from Taobao!), you may most probably consider engaging an agent as they would help you to open up the parcels to CHECK for defects and that your orders are in place. Of course, you would need to pay additional costs for that assurance!
Online shopping always runs the risks of not receiving what you had expected. The same goes for Taobao, and especially Taobao in particular.
There are several times which I had purchased a clothes or a dress, which is too short or too big for me, despite the measurements listed on the seller’s website. So you will need to lower your expectations on the sizing and quality.
Some sellers even go MIA after you have made payment, so be prepared. Try seeking for a refund and contact and chase the sellers whenever possible.
You can mitigate your shopping risks by reading reviews as pointed above 🙂
Hope these tips help in one way or another!
HAPPY SHOPPING!!! 😀