Taobao is the biggest online shopping marketplace in China where you can find products and services at very low prices. The website is 100% Chinese, but there are tools you can use to translate Chinese to your preferred language.
Google Translate Service
Using Chrome as your browser can offer convenient translation of the whole webpage since it has built-in translate tool. It might not offer accurate translations, nevertheless it will significantly improve your shopping experience due to the fact that you need to understand important information about buying, payment method and shipping. Likewise, you need to check sellers’ rating and read customers’ reviews in choosing a reliable seller.
Finding a Trustworthy Seller
Sellers are ranked as follows: hearts, diamonds, blue crowns and gold crowns. This is based on the number of successful transactions they have handled. Sellers with gold crowns are considered to be the best and most experienced. Newer shops may have lower ranks but it does not necessarily mean you cannot trust them. It is best that you see sellers’ profile to check their respective service evaluations.
Taobao’s rating system is a good measure of a seller’s trustworthiness. When you go to seller’s profile page, you will find the shop’s Dynamic Scoring within six months, where a seller is given a rating of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest. This evaluation is based on three important criteria: the description and pictures of the item matched to the actual product, attitude of the seller, speed of dispatching and shipping the order. It is important to pay attention to this scoring system as this will tell you what to expect with the service. We recommend that you choose sellers with average score of at least 4.
Likewise, you also need to check sellers’ Credit Evaluation which shows their favorable rating. We recommend that you buy from shops with at least 99% favorable rating. The table also quantifies customer feedback based on the following categories: favorable comments, average comments and bad reviews.
Alongside the table is Seller Credit history which shows seller’s rank (gold crowns, blue crowns etc.), the item category with the biggest market share within the shop, and the corresponding market share percentage.
It is crucial to find out if the product is of good quality by going to Customer Reviews located below the product page. It is rated using a 5-Point Scale scoring system based on previous shoppers’ feedback of the actual product. If the product is rated 5 stars, you can be assured of good quality. However, you might need to check the number and quality of reviews. Some reviews are just made up.
If there are no reviews for a particular item, you may also check seller’s evaluation from buyers by going to seller’s profile page. Here, you can read reviews by people who bought any of the seller’s products.
International buyers can shop in Taobao on their own. If you decide to be adventurous, there are shopping options in Taobao so you can buy directly.
Taobao has an International Parcel Forwarding Service System. This is a move by the Alibaba-operated site to make merchandise available outside China.
The built-in logistic system will enable you to monitor status updates regarding your purchases; and allow you to consolidate multiple orders in one package. But this is only available for selected countries or regions.
Paying for your Purchases
Taobao accepts Alipay, bank deposit, cash-on-delivery and credit cards like Visa, Mastercard, JCB, etc. The shopping platform also accepts direct debits from foreign bank accounts in selected Countries and Regions. You need to check the payment method accepted by the seller in Product Page.
Most sellers use Alipay because it protects both buyers and sellers. Alipay is a third-party online payment platform, once controlled by the Alibaba Group and is integrated with Alibaba-operated sites’ payment system. It is the biggest online payment platform in China. But it might be new to what you have been accustomed to in other popular sites like Amazon and eBay.
As a direct competitor of Alipay, it is very unlikely that Paypal will be accepted in Taobao. Cash-on-delivery is also not available outside China.
The Pitfalls of Buying on Your Own
Shopping in Taobao seems to be an intriguing experience for an international shopper. The website is 100% Chinese. It is best if you can communicate in Chinese or you have someone Chinese-speaking who can help. There may be few sellers who can converse well in English, but they charge higher prices for their products.
You may encounter problems like delay in delivery, the seller has not yet shipped out your item after a week, item is out-of-stock; then you start to communicate with the seller to figure out what’s happening. The seller makes excuses and worse, ignores your message. There’s however a refund option but it can lead to a very tedious and frustrating process especially when you are dealing with problematic sellers.
Other common problems: you got the item but it’s the wrong one, you received the item but it’s defective or damaged, or you got your order but there’s an item missing. Furthermore, most sellers are not experienced in international shipping as they already have a huge market in China. It may become very costly for you.
Using Agent Service
If you want to avoid all the pitfalls of buying in Taobao on your own, you may choose to avail of Agent Service.
They are very experienced in both buying and international shipping. So you can just sit back and relax. No need to deal with several parties, e.g. Chinese Sellers, Forwarders, Taobao Helpline, etc. The Agent will fulfill all your needs to optimize your Taobao experience.
You can also save a lot in shipping cost. They offer consolidation service to combine multiple orders in one package. The first 500 grams (half kilo) is the most expensive with couriers, so you can save more by consolidating your orders in one package. Moreover, most of them also offer free warehouse storage to stock your items until you decide when to have them shipped.
There may be extra charges as they also need to earn from the services that they provide to you but in totality, the benefits of using a reliable agent is definitely worth the extra costs.