So Taobao is like really AMAZING. Ever since I started about 3-4 years back, I've been addicted to it on and off.. I've gotten many things from Taobao, ranging from stuff for our wedding (like artificial flowers for our bridesmaid to hair accessories), to baking stuff... to clothes.. and even furniture. More often than not, Taobao offers items that are cheaper than what's sold in Singapore. Also, Taobao offers things that cannot be found in Singapore, like pretty cake boxes.
Taobao has pretty much everything one can imagine. So with what I've gathered through my experience, here's a Taobao Tutorial teaching you how to get started, right down to every detail! (:
[Do check out the Taobao Directory I've gathered based on what I've purchased..]
What I'm sharing is what I'd call direct shipping.. This applies to using Taobao's appointed forwarders to bring items in by air. This bypasses the need for an agent. This is generally applicable to items you need soon (as opposed to sea shipping which can take weeks) or items that are light and those that do not exceed the limit for length.. For bulky items, I'd recommend agents (which I'll explain down the road)..
So you'd first need to get started by setting up an account! Generally, you'd more or less need to be able to read a little mandarin or use Google Translate to play around a bit..
As this blog post is INSANELY long, click on to read more!
Head over to www.taobao.com and click on the link below the orange box.
Choose Singapore (新加坡) for the country.
Drag the bar across for verification purposes.
You'd be prompted to accept terms & conditions.
Key in your mobile number as required. Type in the 8 digit local number. Sms-es will be sent to this number.
A verification code will then be sent to your phone.. Key it into the box provided.
Set up your password and choose a username.
And your account is set up! But we're not quite there yet....
Log in! Please do make an effort to REMEMBER your passwords. It's a pain in the a*s to do verifications for taobao.
Go into your account and choose 我的淘宝.
Click to edit your address.
This is what you'll see..
Input your data in this format.. and with that, you're good to go!!!!!
Now, with taobao, I believe in using both the PC version as well as the Taobao app. Personally, I feel that the PC version is good for payment (especially e-nets) and important transactions while the mobile 淘宝 mobile application is the best shopping companion. I usually surf and cart things using my phone and pay using the desktop.
Of course, you'd be able to surf and source for things using keywords using the desktop version. A general rule would be that you'd need mandarin words to get good search results. Even though you can do your searches in English, results will be limited (more often than not) as Taobao is a Chinese site after all. You can use Google Translate to help you translate. Using Google Chrome with the in-built translator works too. Google Translate isn't perfect though.. so do play around with the keywords.
For example, to source for cake boxes I'd search for 蛋糕盒. The arrow indicates the number of sales for that month.. Generally, I'd go for sellers with a higher number of sales..
The blue icon would indicate that the seller is online and good for chatting via their chat programme 阿里旺旺 (ALWW). A grey one would indicate that the seller is offline. Sellers with the gold icon are those who are more frequented and reliable. Those with a red paper bag with a black cat are T-mall sellers. It means that these sellers have a physical retail store in China. Sometimes this would mean that they're more reliable.. but I've also come across crappy T-mall sellers.
Which brings me to my main point. Online shopping is all about risk taking. No one can guarantee you that the items are gonna be of good quality. No one can guarantee you that it's cheaper to get things online (you'd need to do your research)... Generally, of say.. 30 things that I buy, 1 isn't of standard or up to standard. But of course, one has to discern if an item is worth buying or if the quality is good.. If you're still apprehensive, brick and motar shops might be your thing.
If online shopping is your thing, read on! (:
As a general rule of thumb, this is how the layout of each page is like.. You'd be able to figure out the item price, stocks available, product options, quantity and the ability to add to your cart.
Add the item to cart!
And that's the first item in my cart! There are a few things to take note of...
1) One can only cart out 50 items (lines in this page) regardless of quantity per item
2) multiple quantity of the same item constitutes as 1 item
3) One can only have orders from 20 sellers (which means 20 parcels) per order
4) should the item have multiple colours per item that you want to buy, it can be carted as 5 items (if it's 5 colours) or you can cart 1 item in your desired quantity and ALWW the seller to have them pack the 5 various colours for you
So if you have like 60 items, you'd need to check out your cart twice.
If you have like items from 25 sellers, you'd need to check out your cart twice too.
Which brings me to the next point, every PACKAGE by the forwarders will only take 20 parcels from sellers (from 20 sellers). If you have stuff from 25 sellers, you'd likely have 25 parcels. That way, you'd need to consolidate your parcels into 2 PACKAGES as each PACKAGE can only have 20 parcels. There is also a weight restriction of 30kg (if I didn't remember wrongly) and does not exceed length/breadth of 120cm.
When checking out, click on the items you wish to pay for.
There are a few types of shipping.. The first one being direct (from seller) straight to your place. This bypasses the consolidation stage. Items are sent from seller to the appointed forwarder and straight to your place. The shipping is calculated (not sure what it's based on.. item weight perhaps) and you can pay for it..
The second one being the use of one of Taobao's appointed forwarders. My favourite will have to be 4px. Even though they're the costliest, it's definitely money worth spending. This is the forwarder I often use to bring my goods into Singapore.
The third option requires you to discuss a price with the seller (or something).. something I haven't explored... I'm just comfy and happy with Option 2 (:
You can either download the ALWW app for chatting with the sellers or use the browser version.
After you've chosen your preferred shipping company/method, you're good to pay!
The item's domestic shipping will be calculated and showed here. Many sellers do 包邮, meaning that domestic shipping is free. Some have it with any purchase, some with specific purchase while some are given free when a certain amount is spent in the shop. You'd also be able to see your final amount and likely be prompted to verify your payment with one of those 'spot the characters in the box' thing.
During your very first payment, you'd be prompted to set up your Alipay account. This is like your wallet. The password has to be different from that of your taobao account (for security reasons). DO NOT EVER EVER EVER forget this password. Like NEVER EVER. You'd have hell trying to verify your account.. Seriously, too many people just 'forget' their passwords here.
Choose a good password and commit it to memory. Or just jot it down somewhere.
As of September 2016, eNets is no longer supported by Taobao. BOOOOO HOOOO! However, fret not. You can still make your payment via your credit cards. Some may lament that the lower rates and 3% credit card charges are costly.. but think about it.. if the item is STILL CHEAPER than what you'd pay in Singapore, that itself is SAVINGS earned. It's very convenient anyway!
The other way round it is to purchase Alipay cards with stored value at a LIVE rate available at the point of purchase. I have heard of it being unavailable of late due to high demand.. I still shop, and for me, credit cards are my way to go.
If you install ALWW on your desktop, you'd get an interface like this...
Once you're done with your order, you'd just have to wait for the seller to ship the items (anything from immediately [for real, they have mad efficiency] to 5 days)... once your items reach your forwarder's warehouse, you can consolidate your PACKAGE and ship it out to Singapore.
Earlier this week, I tried out the direct shipping that bypasses the consolidation stage..
It's the very first option.. I paid about 38 bucks for the shipping alone...
There was no domestic shipping for the noodle machine I got..
The rate was 4.51 then.. (I miss the days when it was 4.9!) After paying for the item, you'd be able to view the details in your account.
You'd also be able to see how much you paid for that particular order..
If you use the mobile app, you'd be able to track the items. I usually track my items via the mobile app. Here, I'm told that my parcel has been shipped out.
I can even track the exact (well, almost) location of the parcel.
Everything is easily accessible...
You can also make payment via your mobile app.. however, it is only applicable to the use of credit cards.. (and alipay balance if you have any)
For example, I checked out a new backpack.. I'm also able to leave a message/note for the seller.
I had some accumulated discount so I used it! As such, I'm left with a bill of rmb 30.32.
I had money left in my Alipay (e-wallet) from a refund from a previous transaction. As such, I had to log in using my Alipay password (The SUPER IMPORTANT that should not be forgotten) to authorise the deduction.
If sellers make refunds to you for whatever reasons, they can do so by depositing it to your Alipay. Your credits are then held for you till you use it.
If you're using credit cards for payment, the funds go back to your cards. That's pretty hassle-free!
And my order was placed!
The order details such as order number is easily found..
It is easy to shop on the taobao app.. you can view the sizes and options easily..
It is easy to view item details too..
You may do so via the edit button next to the shop's name.
Otherwise, the app is awesome. Usually, when I buy items, I'd ask the seller to pack it well.. So I'd leave notes for the seller or ALWW them..
For fragile items, 亲你好，这货国际运送，请你帮我包好。谢谢你!
For packages with multiple items, I'd request for them to pack it all together... lest the seller dispatches several packages.. 亲你好，请你帮我把货都包进一个包。谢谢你!
Of course, my Mandarin is only half past 6.. If you can phrase it better, do it!
You can also consolidate payment using your mobile app (paying via cc)... (There was a shipping promo at the point of payment for this order of mine!)
To pay by credit card via your mobile app, you'd be promoted to to log in with your Alipay password (The one NEVER to forget!)
Once you're in, key in your 16 digit card number. They WILL NOT remember it for you.. which is good.
Enter the details for your cc...
In the last row, you'd be prompted to key in your address too. Do so in this format..
Once you've done so, you're good to go!
You'd be charged an additional 3% service charge..
And as your payment is completed, you'd just have to wait for the items to reach you at your doorstep!
You can track your items on your mobile app as well as desktop.. Here's what you will see on an order when the item has reaches the warehouse..
Click on the blue option to consolidate your parcels..
You'd also see a countdown timer. Taobao gives us 10 days to for items to reach us and after 10 days, the $ will automatically be credited to the seller. This can be extended by a day or two but I don't bother with it.. If my items do reach me before the 10 days is up, I will click to release the payment to the seller (using Alipay password). But even if I don't, the system will auto-release the money when the timer is up.
The number of days that your order takes to be completed depends on many factors..
1) how soon the seller ships your items
2) how long the transit from seller to warehouse is
3) how soon the warehouse ships out your PACKAGE
4) if there are custom delays
It is possible for an item to reach me in under 10 days.. (: At times, I'd check if the seller can ship out the items the day I order.. and consolidate as soon as all my items are in the warehouse.. The warehouses store items for a free 20 day period. Should you pass that duration, each item per day will cost you a small fee.
When you click on the blue button to consolidate your parcels, you'd be taken to this screen.. Click on the orange button to add to PACKAGE. You'd see the number of days of 'free' storage you have left for each package.
You'd be able to see the total price and weight of your consolidate PACKAGE. Fees are charged per 500g so do pack them as close as you can.. but even if not, it's still decently priced (: If you have a package of like 10.1kg, it's not like you're gonna buy 0.3+kg of stuff and wait all over again just to get it close to the 500g mark (:
The local courier for 4px is Singpost.. they will drop you an SMS at your registered number on the day delivery is due. You'd also be able to estimate the arrival based on the tracking system..
Add on: For direct shipping, there are pretty strict restrictions on it for size.. if your item is too huge, you may want to use one of the other forwarders.. Generally, I'd only use direct if my estimated shipping via weight is gonna cost more than what direct shipping quotes me. For example, I've shipping in baking tins of about 2.7kg for 40+rmb as compared to 100+rmb via 4px. DO DISCERN upon checkout to determine if you're getting a better deal via direct shipping.
In addition, there's a new ruling for 4px that should the volume of a parcel exceeds 3x the weight, the volume would be billed instead of the weight. It happened to me when I tried shipping in a really really light but bulky box of magic sponge. I then re-routed it to peeka to have it shipped via their ship4u service.
As a general rule of thumb, Air shipment (like 4px mentioned in this blog post) is good for the following things:
1) light things
2) bulky but light things
3) things you need soon
I prefer air over sea as I do not fancy the wait even though sea shipping is usually cheaper. One can go through agents like Peeka for sea shipping.. This will be great for those who are looking to buying bigger ticket items such as furniture or electronic items. Air shipment has limitations following those adviced by the local customs on imported items. Also, air shipment isn't exactly costly in my opinion. For a consolidate PACKAGE of 10kg, each kg is about $6... A light top will only be about 200g.. $1.20 shipping for a top is pretty acceptable to me! (: Of course, if you're only going to ship a small package of about 1kg, the base charge will make the 1kg cost $10 or so.. So the more you consolidate/pack, the cheaper the PACKAGE gets.
Those who have a greater appetite for risks can use independent China forwarders to ship in items via sea.. Such forwarders usually charge by volume, 1 cubic metre for merely 550rmb.. However, I have my reservations about using them..
I like being able to track my items via the system (like in 4px) and should anything happen, at least I know someone will resolve it.. Taobao will intercede issues pertaining to items purchased and shipping while agents like Peeka can step in too. For those independent companies based in China, IF they choose to abscond with my goods and money, there's little I can do about it. Though yes, many people have successfully done so.. but I'm just skeptical about it.. (:
So here we have it! A almost comprehensive Taobao Tutorial.. I hope you'll enjoy it! If you have any questions, do drop them here.. Or drop me a pm at www.facebook.com/limcynthia for a speedier reply. Have fun shopping on taobao! (:
For a good list of items and sellers taobao has to offer, check out the Taobao Directory in the tabs above (: