Ah. Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon or eBay.
If you’ve never heard of Taobao, it’s a mega marketplace that allows you to buy everything from tissue paper to wedding dresses at dirt-cheap prices.
But to be completely honest, the only two times I have EVER bought something off Taobao is when I had friends sitting next to me (as my translators) while I checked out my items.
That’s because… I HAVE NO CLUE HOW TO TAOBAO.
Since everything is in Chinese.
And sadly, there isn’t a Taobao English version for us jiak kantang (Hokkien: only English-speaking) people.
However, I decided to set things straight and learn how to buy from Taobao myself.
And surprisingly, I found out that it’s really not that difficult.
So if you’re a noob like me, this is the comprehensive how-to Taobao guide you need.
TL;DR: A STEP-BY-STEP TAOBAO SHOPPING & SHIPPING GUIDE
Always wanted to buy from Taobao but don’t know how?
Here are a couple of how-to guides we created to help beginners and those of you who can’t read Chinese:
HOW TO BUY FROM TAOBAO GUIDE
First and foremost, you’ll want to use Google’s Chrome browser before navigating to Taobao as it allows you to perform a page translation.
It’ll look a little off since the translation is ad verbatim.
But at the very least you can kind of figure out what is on the page.
1. REGISTER YOUR ACCOUNT
If you prefer not to use Google Translate, simply click on “登录/免费注册” (Login/Register For Free) and you’ll be redirected to a registration page.
Next, click on “English” to create your account in English
The next part’s pretty straightforward.
Just follow the instructions.
You’ll need to key-in a verification code sent to your local mobile number, provide your email address, as well as set-up your username and password.
Once you’ve set-up your account. You can start shopping!
2. CHOOSE YOUR PRODUCT
Here’s the part where you’ll catch yourself endlessly scrolling through the millions of products on Taobao.
If you already know what you’re searching for, enter your product keywords into the white search bar located at the top of the Taobao home page.
You can filter your search results based on the various categories like brand, size, type, price range, and etc.
Once you’ve selected your desired product on Taobao, you’ll be brought to the product page.
Here you have a couple of options:
- “宝贝详情” (Product details) for more information about the product
- “累计评论” (Read reviews) where buyers leave ratings, comments, and upload images of their purchases
- “立即购买” (Buy now) to buy immediately after making your selection
- “加入购物车” (Add to cart) to add to cart and continue shopping
Once you’re ready to checkout, you can either click “立即购买” (Buy now) to pay for your purchase immediately.
Or you can click on “购物车” (Shopping cart) on the Taobao home page instead.
Select the items you want to checkout and click on “结算” (Payment).
You’ll be prompted to add your shipping address, postal code, name, and mobile number.
Once done, click on “设置为默认收货地址” (Make Default) if you want to make it your default shipping address.
And click on “保存”(Save) to complete the form.
Once you’ve selected your “跨境配送方式” (Shipping Method), click on “提交订单” (Confirm order).
I’ll talk more about international shipping options in a bit.
After confirming your order, you will be redirected to an Alipay account page.
If it’s your first purchase using Alipay, you will need to create an Alipay payment password (6 numerical digits).
Once done, click “确定” (Confirm).
Key in your credit card details and click “下一步”(Continue).
Pro tip: if you want to avoid the currency conversion fees, you can use a multicurrency card like Revolut or YouTrip.
All that’s left is to verify your payment details and await the delivery of your “宝贝” (Precious item) or purchase!
HOW TO SEARCH FOR TAOBAO PRODUCT KEYWORDS GUIDE
Looking for a specific product on Taobao but don’t know what to search for in Mandarin?
Here’re a couple of commonly searched terms and product keywords which you can use to find the item you want.
ACTIVEWEAR & EXERCISE EQUIPMENT
|Activewear & Exercise Equipment|
|Dry Fit Long Sleeved Tops||速干长袖衣|
|Dry Fit Sleeveless Tops||速干背心|
|Dry Fit Socks||袜子|
|Dry Fit T-Shirt||速干运动T恤|
|Sports Hooded Jacket||运动连帽衫|
|For Men (add this to the back of your search term)||男|
|Suit or Formal Pants||西裤|
|Suit or Formal Jacket||西装外套|
|(Low/ Medium/ High) Heeled Shoes||(低/ 中/ 高)跟鞋|
|Alphabet LED Lights||LED 英文字母灯装饰|
|Happy Birthday Decorations||生日快乐装饰|
|Party Table Cloth||派对桌布|
|Paper Pom Poms||牡丹纸花球|
HOME & DECOR
|Home & Decor|
HOW TO SHIP FROM TAOBAO GUIDE
Since we’re in Singapore, the only way we can get our Taobao purchase is via international shipping.
For international shipping, Taobao’s preferred delivery partner is Cainiao.
The following options are presented at checkout, just before you confirm your order.
These 4 delivery options are:
- “官方直送” (Direct shipping)
- “官方集运-空运” (Consolidated shipping via air freight)
- “官方集运-海运” (Consolidated shipping via sea freight)
- “自行联系卖家发货” (Contact seller personally to arrange for shipping)
So… which one should you choose?
Well, it depends on what you are shipping.
OPTION 1: DIRECT SHIPPING
Method of shipping: the shop or seller will ship your items to you via international courier service.
Time it takes for delivery: 8 to 12 business days
Recommended for: single purchases which are small or light, or if you need something immediately
|Delivery Method||“宅配” (Home Delivery)||“自提” (Self Collect)|
|Price (per subsequent 0.5kg)||RMB10.50||RMB10.50|
|Maximum Weight Limit (kg)||≤ 25kg||≤ 30kg|
|Maximum Measurements (cm)||Width: <80
Length & Height: <150
OPTION 2: CONSOLIDATED SHIPPING VIA AIR FREIGHT
Method of shipping: the shop or seller will consolidate your purchases and ship it to you via air freight, unfortunately, Taobao’s delivery provider doesn’t provide direct shipping to Singapore for this option.
Which means you’ll need to use a freight forwarder to take delivery of your items in Malaysia and forward it to Singapore on your behalf.
Time it takes for delivery: 7 business days (to Malaysia)
Cost: $$ (might run up a bit more as you’ll need to use a freight forwarder)
Recommended for: multiple purchases which you need as soon as possible
|East Malaysia||West Malaysia|
|Delivery Method||“宅配” (Home Delivery)||“自提点” (Self Collection Point)||“宅配” (Home Delivery)|
|Price (per subsequent 0.5kg)||RMB11||RMB10.50||RMB14|
|Maximum Weight Limit (kg)||25kg||20kg||25kg|
|Maximum Measurements (cm)||Width: <80
Length & Height: <150
Length & Height: <120
Length & Height: <150
OPTION 3: CONSOLIDATED SHIPPING VIA SEA FREIGHT
Method of shipping: the shop or seller will consolidate your purchases and ship it to you via sea freight
Time it takes for delivery: 18 business days
Recommended for: heavy-duty purchases (furniture, lights, tables etc.); multiple purchases which you can afford to wait for
|Delivery Method||“集运小件包裹” (Consolidated Delivery – Small Package)||“集运大件包裹” (Consolidated Delivery – Large Package)|
|Weight/ Volume||0 – 30 kg||0 – 0.5CBM||0.5 – 1CBM||1CBM and above|
|Price||RMB22 (first 1kg)
RMB7.40 (per subsequent kg; full price charged even if subsequent kg is not fully met)
|RMB230||RMB460 per CBM||RMB460 per CBM|
Total weight: ≤30kg
Total volume: ≤0.5CBM
Total dimensions: ≤500cm
|Total weight: more than 30kg but less than 500kg
Total volume: more than 0.5CBM
Total dimensions: ≤500cm
OPTION 4: CONTACT SELLER PERSONALLY TO ARRANGE FOR SHIPPING
Method of shipping: depends on your arrangement with the seller or shop
Time it takes for delivery: varies depending on your chosen method of shipping
Recommended for: sensitive or personalised items which require constant communication with the shop representative or seller
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING HOW TO BUY FROM TAOBAO
Besides the how-to guides, here are some commonly asked questions about Taobao.
CAN I BUY FROM TAOBAO?
With this guide in hand… Yes, you can!
You just need to sign up for a free Taobao and Alipay account, link your credit card or bank account, provide verification, and you can start shopping immediately.
However, there are a few issues which you should be aware of:
CAN SINGAPOREANS BUY FROM TAOBAO?
Yes, you can!
You can either buy from Taobao direct, which gives you the complete range of products and sellers to choose from.
Or go through a third party like Ezbuy.
Or search on Lazada’s Taobao collection, but your choices will be limited to whatever is curated.
IS THERE A TAOBAO ENGLISH VERSION?
We get it.
Language is a big issue for most international customers. That’s why we created this guide so you can get in on the cheap shopping goodness.
If you can communicate in Mandarin with the Taobao seller, that should give you more assurance with regard to your purchase.
If not, ask a friend who can speak and read Mandarin to help you just in case anything goes south (eg. shipping problems, stock unavailability) and the seller reaches out to you.
Then just buy them a drink for the favour lah…
TAOBAO REFUND POLICY
Returning an item is pretty much out of the question because of the delivery time, distance, and expensive shipping fees.
However, if you received a defective product or aren’t satisfied for whatever reason.
You can choose to submit a refund request to Taobao directly, along with your reason and photographs for evidence.
Once you submit your Taobao refund request, the seller will have 48 hours to respond to you.
If they reject the request, you may re-submit your refund request or communicate with the seller directly via AliWangWang.
If the seller does not respond after 48 hours, Taobao will refund the amount to you on a case-by-case basis.
Shipping is still a problem for some Taobao customers depending on what you choose to purchase.
Even though Cainiao delivers almost everywhere internationally, you might still need to use freight forwarders if you’re taking delivery for certain items.
This adds a layer of complexity as it includes GST charges, shipping and handling fees.
As a result, delivery times aren’t the most accurate either.
Taobao also has an extensive list of prohibited items, which they cannot ship internationally.
Some examples include:
- Batteries and items with in-built batteries
- Electronic devices
- Food (eg. bamboo products, instant noodles)
- Items exceeding size or weight restrictions
- Liquid, paste, and powdered items (like cosmetics)
So take note before buying!
IS IT SAFE TO BUY FROM TAOBAO?
Considering that most things we use in our daily life are ‘Made in China’.
Yes. It is safe to buy from Taobao.
However, the marketplace is so huge that there could be unscrupulous sellers hawking counterfeit products and fake goods.
This is despite Taobao’s best efforts to weed out counterfeiters.
Here are a couple of tips which you can follow to protect yourself:
- Only purchase from shops or sellers with a high number of reviews
- The reviews should have a mix of good and bad reviews, and reviewers should upload pictures of the actual item (watch out for fake reviews though)
- Reach out to the seller via AliWangWang to find out more about product availability or more pictures before committing to the purchase
If the deal looks too good to be true, then it most likely is…
This article was first published in Seedly.