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TaoBao.Com is part of Alibaba, the company that recently had the largest global IPO in 2014 at $25 Billion US dollars. The truth it, despite it making headlines all over the world, consumers around the world are still not aware of how this internet globalization of Chinese products will change our lives all over the world. I personally have used TaoBao.com for more than a year already to buy household items, clothes, shoes, toys and much more. Some of the materials we use to make our products come from TaoBao.com. We get it from Taobao because some of the materials are quite rare in Singapore and it’s way cheaper to order from there.
A story and a survey
In the past year, I’ve done a bit of retail arbitrage on Carousell, the popular marketplace App in Singapore. I created an account, accepted “pre-orders”, and shipped items to buyers in Singapore after they had made payment. The shipping time was normally 1-2 weeks, and this meant that I simply had to buy from TaoBao.com, and mail the items to them once it arrived, to earn a profit of up to 80% sometimes.
I was curious as to why people would buy from me at a few hundred percent mark-up instead of shipping from TaoBao.com directly so they could get it for much cheaper, so I started asking my colleagues and friends to find out. This was how the typical conversation went…
“Hey, do you know about TaoBao.com?”
“Er, the Alibaba one?”
“Yeah, you know that you can buy stuff very cheap from them?”
“Don’t know la…I usually buy from Qoo10 or other online store in Sg”
“Oh ok, I use Taobao”
I must have asked about 50 people, and this is what I found…
Obviously, very few people know of and use Taobao…
TaoBao is really, really cheap.
Yes, that’s $1.77 SGD.
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How to buy from TaoBao.com
However, there’re some barriers to buying from TaoBao.com
- Chinese Language
These TaoBao sellers use Chinese only. So if you want to order from their website and your Chinese isn’t that good, you have to use Google Translate. Unfortunately, it is sometimes quite hard to understand what they’re saying. Fortunately, a little detective work can go a long way to helping you figure out what the product is about. You can read the comments by the buyers and also try to see other similar products to try to understand what they’re saying. My Chinese is really really bad, but so far, I haven’t ordered a wrong product yet.
Sometimes, when I face this problem, I translate it to Chinese, take a picture and ask my Chinese friends to translate it for me. Sometimes, if you don’t understand what the product is about, look for the next seller.
2. International Shipping Barriers
As TaoBao is in Chinese, it’s quite difficult for people to ship from them. It was only recently that China opened up their markets to the world, so many of the international shipping services we take for granted in Singapore are not available in China.
Shipping from TaoBao in the past used to be impossible. However, they’ve recently integrated a shipping forwarder called 4PX which makes things a lot easier. They ship straight to your doorstep.
First, find your product in the search bar. You can use English or Chinese. As I know a little bit of Chinese, I will sometimes translate from English to Chinese and mix and match the words to try to get better results.
Once you’ve selected your item, click on Add to cart. At this point, it will be good for you to take note of how many reviews and sales the particular seller has accumulated. You can also scroll down to see more of the product description, and see the reviews and comments from other buyers before you. To be safe, I never buy from sellers with less than 50 sales.
For first time users, they will ask you to input your address.
Select 4PX (It’s a forwarder), and click confirm. This is the most reputable forwarder on TaoBao, and it’s the only one I’ve used before. If you want to try the others, you can.
Submit your order again.
Pay using your credit/debit card.
And you’re done! You can track your order on Taobao.com, under the “Order Management” Tab. They’ll ship it to your doorstep.
Alternative Forwarder (I Recommend using this option instead of the TaoBao one)
One of the more popular alternative forwarders to order from Taobao is 65 Daigou. 65 Daigou is a freight forwarder that charges the following rates. The reason people use 65 Daigou is that 65 Daigou will ensure that you get your product undamaged and that it’s the right product. They’ll check through the product in their warehouse in China, and repackage them as well. If the China supplier doesn’t send over the product to 65 Daigou, 65 Daigou will help you to liaise with the supplier, and refund you if necessary.
As you can see, it’s quite cheap…These rates mean that for a $1 item (Maybe a shirt), you only need to pay $1 + $1.50 shipping fee + 12 cents agent fee, that means you get your item for $2.62 total. It might seem like a lot, but take in mind that this is overseas shipping, so it’s really quite cheap.
It’s quite worth it to buy clothes and other items through Daigou as if you buy many clothes, and they don’t exceed 500g, you only need to pay $1.50.
You can also wait for a few orders in China to arrive at the Daigou warehouse before shipping to Singapore.
Step 1: Topping Up
65Daigou is in English, so it’s quite easy for most of us to do it. You create an account at the website: 65daigou.com
Top up your account. It can be any amount.
You can use any of the 4 options to transfer your money. However, credit/debit card has a 3% processing fee.
Step 2: Making the order
There are 2 steps you have to complete before your item arrives to you in Singapore. The first step is to wait for the items you ordered to be shipped from the China seller to 65 Daigou’s warehouse in China. This is the tab you click to check if they’ve arrived.
Once the item has arrived, you tell them to ship. Then now you have to wait for the parcel to arrive. As you can see, I’m currently waiting for one of my parcels to arrive in the Singapore warehouse.
After it arrives, you can click on arrange delivery, and select any delivery option you wish.
And that’s it!
Here’s a quick guide on their delivery process;
You can choose to deliver them to your doorstep, which will incur some additional charges. Usually, I’ll collect at the warehouse or neighbourhood MRT as it’s FOC.
Some Final Tips
Protecting your purchase
Buying from 65 Daigou guarantees that your product will come undamaged and that it’s the right one. 65 Daigou verifies the items you order in their warehouse in China, so any damaged items are returned. If your product you ordered through them does not arrive, they will automatically refund you the money, and cancel your order. They will also help you to contact the seller if the item does not arrive in a timely fashion. If you are looking for safety, 65 Daigou is the better option.
When buying from TaoBao, always look out for the reviews and comments on the products themselves. Try to find those sellers that are proven and verified, with at least 50 sales, and a good rating from reviewers. You can find these on the product page.
Look out for counterfeit items
Counterfeit products are also very common on TaoBao, so when you see these items on TaoBao, you must know that they are not the real deal. However, I personally suspect that many of these counterfeit items are exactly the same as the genuine items. This is because most of the branded clothes and shoes are produced in China factories, so some of these factories also engage in some illegal selling on TaoBao. If you manage to find a genuine, branded item supplier on TaoBao, good for you! You’ll be able to get branded goods for 10% of their actual price. To be honest, many people go on TaoBao to purchase counterfeit items, so it’s ok.