I think it’s because I’ve previously mentioned on some blog posts that I like to buy stuffs on Taobao so I’ve had some people writing to me and asking questions about the shopping process. Hence, I’ve prepared a step-by-step tutorial on how to shop on Taobao like a pro. This post will come in handy for 11.11 (happening on this coming Friday) which is China’s Black Friday, the biggest online sales day of the year.
For those who are not familiar with Taobao, well it’s an e-commerce platform under the Alibaba Group that’s based in China and it’s similar to Amazon, Rakuten or Qoo10 except that everything on the website is in Chinese. Unless you understand the language, otherwise shopping on Taobao can be quite challenging. But don’t worry, I’m here to show you how.
Even though I can speak and read Chinese, I did encounter a lot of difficulties initially while navigating through the website, trying to look for the products I want and contacting sellers (and conversing with them in Mandarin on chat) when I had questions. I couldn’t find the right words to use and then it dawned on me that perhaps I didn’t have a good grasp of the Chinese language especially after leaving school for too long. Also, the Chinese language in China and what we have learnt here in Singapore since young are a little different. For example, potato in China is called 土豆 (‘tu dou’) but here we call it 马铃薯 (‘ma ling shu’). Spoon is read as 汤匙 (‘tang chi’) here but 勺子 (‘shao zi’) in China.
Before we begin, I would suggest that you use the Google Chrome browser as it provides an option for web page translation which will come in handy while shopping on Taobao. If Chrome is already your default browser, please clear your history and cache before proceeding with this tutorial.
While this is quite a detailed tutorial (I hope so), it is probably still easier to grasp the know-hows if you can at least read some Chinese. Otherwise, just use Google translation all the way.
Shopping on Taobao:
1. Go to www.taobao.com
When you type the URL (www.taobao.com) on your browser, you might be redirected to its global platform world.taobao.com because your IP address is based in Singapore.
On the top left corner, point your mouse cursor over 新加坡 (Singapore) and then select your region as 中国大陆 (China) from the drop-down menu.
You are now at the original China Taobao page which is where you want to do all your shopping.
2. Register a new account
Translate the page to English. Web page may look a little funny but that’s fine.
Click on ‘register free’ on the top left.
You should come to here. Click ‘Consent agreement’ (to agree to the terms & conditions).
The registration process from here onwards is pretty straightforward.
Just follow the instructions and proceed as follows:
– Input your mobile number and drag the slider to the right
– Key in the verification code that is sent to your mobile via sms
– Set your username and login password
And your account is set up.
Next, click on 我的淘宝 (I Taobao) on top and click on 我的收货地址 (My shipping address) to come to this page:
Select 海外其他 (Overseas/Others) from the 所有地区 (Region) drop-down menu and input your address and contact number. Once done, click 保存 (Save).
You can now start shopping!
3. Searching for an item
Go back to the Taobao homepage.
If you know what the item you want is called in Chinese, use your existing Chinese input editor and type in the Chinese characters in the search box on Taobao homepage.
Otherwise, open a new tab on your browser.
Type in the Google searchbox ‘translate english to chinese’ to get this online translation tool.
For example, I want to find out what a ‘flour sifter’ is in Chinese.
Next, just cut and paste the Chinese characters into the search box on Taobao homepage to see what are all the available flour sifters for sale.
Researching is probably one of the most important aspects while shopping on Taobao as there can be hundreds or even thousands of different shops/sellers that sell the same product.
Under every product image, you will see the price (in RMB) on the left in orange colour and the number of people who have ordered/paid for the product on the right.
I would normally compare the prices between several shops/sellers (scroll down and go to the next page, etc) so as to get an idea on the ‘standard price’ of the product. I mean, you wouldn’t want to be paying $50 for something that only cost $20 in other shops.
You may want to consider a shop/seller who has made a considerable amount of sales for that particular product. For example, 550 people have ordered T-shirt A but only 3 have ordered T-shirt B. Both t-shirts are of the same design/material and of the same price too but I will still be more inclined to pick T-shirt A.
It is also very important to check seller’s reputation. Once you’ve shortlisted the product you want after considering the two points as mentioned above, click on the image to go to the item page.
On the right hand side, you can see the ratings for the shop based on 描述 (Item Description), 服务 (Service) and 物流 (Delivery). The figures in red (‘4.8’) are the ratings out of a maximum 5.
Click on any one of the number rating to go to their main seller ratings page.
From the ratings provided, you can then determine the following:
- Item Description: Do actual products fit true with the images and description provided?
- Service: Is seller prompt at answering queries? Does seller assist customers appropriately when they encounter problems with the product? Do they provide good packaging?
- Delivery: Does seller mail out items on time? Is their delivery/courier service reliable? Is the speed of delivery fast enough?
Scroll down to read the reviews from past customers who have bought the product. Translate the page to English if you’re having difficulty reading Chinese – that may not be 100% accurate because Google will just translate word by word and some sentences may not even make sense but should be good enough to give you a rough idea.
If everything’s good and you’re happy with the shop/seller, then click Back to return to the item page.
5. Adding an item to cart
Below the item price, you will see this line “配送 [seller’s location] to [must select 全国 here]”. It just means ‘delivery to anywhere in the whole of China’. Some sellers offer free delivery but some do charge a domestic courier fee (from seller’s locaton to warehouse) which will be added to your cart later on.
If you scroll down below to the item description, you will sometimes see a note that says delivery will be free with a certain mininum purchase which means you will have to add more stuffs from the shop to your cart to be able to enjoy free delivery.
To add item to cart, click on 加入购物车. You can now repeat all the above steps to search for other products and continue adding them to your cart.
Each cart checkout can take up to a maximum of 50 products. These 50 products can be from different shops/sellers and is not dependent on product quantity. That means if you select 5 pieces of Handbag A, it is still considered as ONE product.
When you’re done adding items to your cart, click on 购物车 with a shopping cart icon at the top of the page.
On your shopping cart, make sure all your products are checked in the box.
On the bottom grey bar, you will see the number of items selected as well as the total amount payable (excluding domestic/overseas shipping).
Click on 结算 on the bottom right.
7. Selecting a shipping option
You will come to this page.
Check that your address and contact number are correct and make sure the checkbox under 淘宝集运 (consolidated shipping) is checked. It just means all your orders will be sent to the warehouse of your selected freight forwarder (which you will choose later on) and it will consolidate all your parcels and re-direct/deliver them in one shipment to you.
Scroll to the bottom and click on 提交订单 to submit your order.
8. Selecting a freight forwarder
On the next page, you can select your freight forwarder.
I normally go for 4PX. They may be the most expensive compared to the rest but they have been very responsive and reliable so far.
Once selected, click 确定 at the bottom to confirm.
You will be asked to create an Alipay account which is Taobao’s e-wallet similar to Paypal.
Do that and you will come to the payment page as follows:
This payment that you’re making is only for the total product price and domestic courier/delivery charge if any.
As of September 2016, eNets is no longer available as a payment option so we can only pay via credit card. Do note there will be an extra 3% surcharge for credit card payment.
Fill in your credit card details and click CONFIRM at the bottom.
10. Tracking of domestic delivery
To see what you have purchased, click on 我的淘宝 -> 已买到的宝贝.
Here is where you can get updates about your orders – what have arrived at the warehouse, what has not been sent out by seller, etc.
Do note whenever a parcel reaches the warehouse and the freight forwarder receives it on your behalf, a SMS notification will be sent to your registered mobile number.
11. Consolidate orders/Shipping
Once all parcels have arrived at the warehouse, you are ready to consolidate orders and have everything shipped to you.
Click on 我的淘宝 -> 已买到的宝贝 -> 淘宝集运 (on left column).
Select (check the boxes) all the orders you would like to consolidate in one shipment.
At the top of the little pop-up window, you will see the number of consolidated orders, total weight and total shipping fee.
Each shipment can only accommodate up to 30kg of goods (from not more than 20 different shops/sellers). If the total weight of your parcels exceeds 30kg, you would have to split up the shipment into 2 or more separate ones. Similarly, if you have ordered items from more than 20 different shops or sellers, you’ll have to split up the shipment too as each shipment only accepts a max. no. of 20 shops/sellers i.e. 20 parcels regardless of no. of items.
Click on 合并订单.
Make sure the first bullet on top is selected and check that your address is correct. This option means the shipment will be delivered to your doorstep.
If you select the 2nd bullet option, it means you are opting for self-collection at the local freight forwarder’s warehouse.
If you select 4PX as your freight forwarder, the local handlers in Singapore would be either SingPost (Speedpost) or Airpak Express.
Scroll to the bottom and click 提交并支付 to submit your shipping order and to make payment.
You will be directed to Alipay page where you can make payment via credit card. There will also be a 3% surcharge.
And you’re done! Now you just need to wait for your stuffs to come!
12. Tracking of overseas delivery
Click on 我的淘宝 -> 已买到的宝贝.
Click on 淘宝集运 (on left column).
Click on the tab 海外物流订单 and click on 物流订单详情.
Click on 物流明细.
And you can see a detailed summary of the shipping status.
13. Receiving your goods
All the parcels will be packed in a big sack bag like this.
Open the sack bag and unwrap your parcels. Remember to check the condition of every item and also make sure your order is accurate. Otherwise, you should contact seller immediately to have the problem rectified asap. Taobao auto-releases money to sellers within 10 days (can be extended by another 3 days) and if you don’t take action in time, it will be too late to request for any refund thereafter.
Should you need to contact seller, you may do so via Aliwangwang which is Taobao’s chat/messenger program.
My Taobao Tips
Having speedy delivery is very important so all your parcels will reach the warehouse in time. For example, you’ve ordered products from 10 different shops/sellers. 9 packages have arrived at the freight forwarder’s warehouse and 1 is still on transit somewhere. The warehouse only offers free storage for 20 days and if you exceed the 20 days without checking out your parcels in time for re-direction/delivery to your home country, there will be a daily charge incurred. And if you decide to have the 9 parcels delivered first and arrange the delayed parcel to be in a separate shipment, you will incur more delivery fee for that delayed package as you’d need to re-pay that first kg fee instead of paying lesser for subsequent 500g.
Hence, try to go for sellers with good rating/reputation in delivery. Contact the seller on Aliwangwang to let them know you’re consolidating orders at warehouse for overseas shipping so kindly ask them to process your order quickly.
Are you buying fragile/breakable items? Chat with seller on Aliwangwang to let them know your parcel is to be shipped overseas so have them pay more attention to packaging and reinforce the packing materials as necessary. I didn’t do that once and the plates I ordered came broken into pieces because the box was too filmsy.
Taobao has a system similar to Qoo10’s Q-points. You can log into Taobao daily to receive a reward (领淘金币抵钱) which you can then use to offset your purchases.
For sellers who do not offer free domestic delivery but you are interested to buy a few things off their shop, feel free to chat with them and negotiate. Most of them are happy to give a little discount if you’re buying in bulk.
As mentioned earlier, the local shipment handlers in Singapore are Singpost (Speedpost) and Airpak Express. While Singpost had never once given me any issues, I was quite annoyed with my recent poor experience with Airpak Express.
I was notified on Taobao that my shipment had arrived in Singapore and would be delivered on this particular day so I made sure I stay at home to wait for the delivery guy. No one came and I received an sms at 6.30pm that the delivery attempt failed and there was a number I was supposed to call. Tried calling numerous times – no answer. I called the next morning several times and someone finally answered my call at around 9.15am. She sounded very unfriendly and didn’t seem willing to assist me. I said I needed the delivery to come on that day because I would be away the next day. She said the driver wasn’t able to complete all deliveries the day before so I didn’t understand why it would be a failed delivery attempt when no one came and they sent my stuffs back to the warehouse and expected me to reschedule the delivery. She said she would try to reach the driver and call me back. One hour later, no one called so I called back the number and got another lady to assist me who managed to contact the driver and arrange for the delivery. I managed to get my stuffs by noon time. And this was the same shipment whereby my dinnerware ended up broken. My worst Taobao experience ever!
In another previous purchase, I had encountered an error on Taobao website whereby I couldn’t combine one of the packages with the rest for shipping.
When I contacted 4PX, they told me to pay the shipping fee for that package separately (they set up new link for me to add to cart and make payment). Only subsequent weight was charged, not by first kg. Thank goodness, everything arrived in good order in one shipment.
In general, most of the sellers are quite easy-going. If something is damaged or not as what’s described, they are happy to make a refund to make things right as at the end of the day, they just want us to leave them positive feedback because negative ones will greatly affect their shop reputation.
All in all, the whole process from online ordering to doorstep delivery took about 10-12 days which wasn’t too bad. Things on Taobao may or may not be cheaper than you think especially when you buy heavy stuffs like furniture, home decor items, etc. Product price may seem cheap at first but don’t forget there will be shipping fee (by weight) to add on. For example, I had previously made an order of tableware (about 17 items in all including plates, soup bowls and tea cups) and paid just under RMB100 (approx.) SGD20 for everything. Sounded like a great deal. When the package arrived at the warehouse and was weighed by the freight forwarder, I saw on the system that its total weight was just under 10kg and it cost about RMB213 + 3% SURCHARGES (approx. SGD44) for shipping so total price for the order worked out to be SGD20 + SGD44 = SGD64.
While that might be so, I still like shopping on Taobao because there are many things on there that I couldn’t find in Singapore – vintage-style or hand-painted tableware, linen cushion covers, patterned fabrics, photography props, particle counter (hubby wanted that to measure air quality at home during haze period) and many other interesting kitchen gadgets and knick-knacks.
It all depends on what type of products you’re buying and whether you’ve picked the most competitively priced among others. I must say clothing is generally inexpensive on Taobao plus they are not heavy so will not incur a lot of shipping fee but quality and sizing can be a hit or miss. Some cheap buys I had gotten in the past included hair/beauty accessories, photography background props (incl. artificial flowers), cute pouches, hand towels, baking cups, coasters, chopsticks, etc which cost from as low as S$0.10 to S$0.20 each. Shipping fee was also insignificant as the items weren’t heavy.
Shopping on Taobao can be a really gratifying experience. It may sound difficult to use Taobao for the first time (looking at how long this tutorial is, lol) but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, shopping on Taobao is as easy as ABC and before you know it, you’re already addicted to it. 😉
Have fun exploring Taobao! 🙂 And feel free to leave a comment below ⬇︎ if you have any questions.