Taobao is a Chinese online shopping site that originated from China and is a one-stop marketplace that sells a variety of items from clothes to furniture at extremely affordable prices. It was launched back in May 2003 and has since become one of the world’s most visited websites and largest e-commerce sites.
Often times, interested buyers face many issues that may deter them from purchasing items from Taobao. One of the factors being its reputation for selling poor quality products that do not look anything like the photos provided by the sellers, making potential customers apprehensive of making purchases. Another huge deterring factor, and probably the main reason why most people do not shop on Taobao, is that the whole website is in Chinese, making it hard for users to navigate.
In this guide, we will be providing you with 7 detailed steps with useful tips and hacks to use Taobao effectively to purchase furniture, including some keywords that you may use to search for your desired product. Keep your eyes peeled as bonus tips will be dropped throughout the post! With this ultimate guide to Taobao, furniture will never cost you a bomb anymore!
Step 1: Create an account on Taobao
The first step to shopping at Taobao is to create an account. This account may be used to view your shopping cart, order status as well as to store personal information such as billing and shipping details.
When you access the Taobao website, this is the homepage that you will see:
Click on “免费注冊” (mian fei zhu ce; free registration) on the top right corner of the screen. You will then be directed to the registration page to fill in your information.
If you would like to complete the registration in English, you may click on the “English” option at the top right corner.
Once you have created your account, you can proceed to search for your desired furniture using the search bar.
Step 2: Use furniture keyword cheat sheet to search
The search bar is the white rectangular box that can be found on the homepage. Just look out for the magnifying glass icon as seen here:
When searching for an item, it may get a little tricky since searching in Chinese or Hanyu Pinyin can garner you more accurate search results. But fret not because we got you covered with our handy furniture keyword cheat sheet! Simply use the common keywords below to aid your search process. These keywords include overall design themes as well as specific furniture.
Chinese translation (Hanyu Pinyin)
美式 (mei shi)
奥美 (ao mei)
工业别致 (gong ye bie zhi)
日式 (ri shi)
简约现 (jian yue xian)
现代 (xian dai)
北欧 (bei ou)
夏古 (fu gu)
Chinese translation (Hanyu Pinyin)
吸顶灯 (xi ding deng)
躺椅 (tang yi)
壁橱 (bi chu)
咖啡桌/茶几 (ka fei zhuo/cha ji)
餐桌 (can zhuo)
Floor standing light
落地灯 (luo di deng)
扶手椅 (fu shou yi)
餐边柜 (can bian gui)
沙发 (sha fa)
条纹地毯 (tiao wen di tan)
书桌 (shu zhuo)
轨道灯 (gui dao deng)
电视柜 (dian shi gui)
衣柜 (yi gui)
Chinese translation (Hanyu Pinyin)
光滑 (guang hua)
家居装饰 (jia ju zhuang shi)
Additionally, you can try to mix and match these keywords to obtain your ideal search. For example, vintage study table = 夏古书桌 (fu gu shu zhuo).
Another useful tip would be to use the following functions highlighted in the screenshot above to filter and narrow your search results further:
人气 = Popularity
销量 = Sales volume
信用 = Creditability of seller
价格 = Price range
A handy function that not many users are aware of is this photo function just beside the search bar. Simply click on the camera icon as shown and upload an image of the item you are looking for from your computer or phone (if you are using the app). The system will then search for the closest possible results from the Taobao website, making your search so much faster and more convenient.
Here are some of the furniture shops on Taobao that we recommend:
Now that you are comfortable with searching in Chinese, let’s move on to how you can conduct your own quality checks before making your purchase.
Step 3: Quality check
When shopping on a huge e-commerce site such as Taobao, it is crucial that you conduct your own seller reputation checks to ensure that the seller you are purchasing your item from is reliable and trustworthy. This not only ensures that your product is exactly as described by the seller, but also means that your parcel will be shipped on time for you to receive it by the estimated arrival date. Therefore, to ensure that you are indeed getting a bang for your buck, here are 3 main ways that you can do a quality check.
1. Seller reputation check
The first thing that you can check is the reputation of the seller. This can be done by looking at the sidebar as indicated above and focusing on two indicators.
Firstly, to check the seller’s Taobao rating, simply refer to the 信誉 (xin yu; trust) rating where the shapes are. Here, the trustworthiness of the seller is ranked with shapes, with the highest level being a diamond, followed by a heart, blue crown and lastly, a gold crown. For instance, in the screenshot above, the seller has 5 diamonds which signifies that they are extremely reliable.
Secondly, you can take a look at the average ratings the seller has obtained from their customers. There are 3 ratings in total and these scales represent the accuracy of product description (描述相符; miao shu xiang fu), customer service (服务态度; fu wu tai du) and logistics (物流服务; wu liu fu wu). The rating scale is from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest.
A top-rated seller should have 5 diamonds and average ratings of 5 across the 3 aforementioned scales.
2. Check reviews of past purchases
Next, scrolling further down the product page will allow you to read the comments and feedback given by previous customers (累计评论; lei ji ping lun). Feedback is essential in gauging the reliability and quality of the product that you are about to purchase. Hence, it is a good idea to let this section paint a picture of what to expect. (P.S. Google Translate the reviews if you can’t read Chinese characters!)
You can filter out reviews with pictures by clicking on “图片” (tu pian) to verify if the actual product is true to the illustrations that the seller has provided. Seller-generated photos are usually edited to make the product look more flattering while buyer-generated photos will portray the true image.
3. Communicating with Taobao sellers
Taobao has its very own chat phone app called 阿里旺旺 (a li wang wang), which you can use to communicate with the sellers. You may request for the seller to send real life pictures of your preferred product and to advise on the product dimensions. Furthermore, it is important to note that damages on parcels are common occurrences when there is a lack of package protection. Thus, you should kindly remind the seller to be extra careful with your parcel, especially if your item is fragile.
The following are some packaging tips that you may choose to highlight to the seller during your purchase:
Use wooden boxes for shipping heavier or fragile items
Use cushioning materials such as bubble wraps to prevent loose contents
Sticking “Fragile” and “Handle with Care” stickers is insufficient
Always add “加强包装” (jia qiang bao zhuang) in the comments section to request for sellers to strengthen your shipping package.
After you have verified that your item is up to your expectations, it’s time to add it into your shopping cart.
Step 4: Add the item to your shopping cart and check out
Like other e-commerce websites, the shopping cart is where you can view all your carted items, change the quantity of each individual item, tally the total price and check out once you are ready.
Once you have completed the quality check, click on the orange button that says “加入购物车” (jia ru gou wu che) to add the item into your shopping cart.
Next, head to your shopping cart by clicking on the “购物车” (gou wu che) button at the top of the page and proceed to select the items that you wish to check out. Once that is done, click “结算” (jie suan) at the bottom to check out.
Step 5: Ship your parcel
The next step is to key in your shipping details. This includes your shipping address and shipping (or forwarding) agent which is the company that will be delivering your parcel to you.
In this window, you are required to key in your shipping address. This address should be the location that you wish to receive your parcel. Don’t worry if you think you might want to ship to a different address for future parcels because you will still be able to add other addresses after this purchase.
For the drop-down menu of the “所在地区” (suo zai di qu; current location) field, the Chinese characters refer to China (中国大陆; zhong guo da lu), Taiwan (台湾; tai wan), Hong Kong (港澳; gang ao), Malaysia (马来西亚; ma lai xi ya) and others (海外其他; hai wai qi ta). If you reside in Singapore, select “others” and choose the first option (新加坡; xin jia po) in the next drop-down menu. Complete the form by filling in the other fields according to the English translations in the screenshot above.
After keying in your local delivery address, select “国际转运服务” (guo ji zhuan yun fu wu) to opt forinternational forwarding service.
At this point, you must be thinking – why should I opt for international forwarding service?
Appointed forwarders on Taobao (e.g. 4PX, PRouter) have placed a package size and weight limit of 1m x 1m x 1m and 30kg respectively. This means that you will not be able to purchase huge items such as furniture directly from the Taobao site. Therefore, the only option to make this delivery possible is to engage your preferred international forwarder to do the job. This will be further elaborated later on.
Step 6: Make payment
Once you have keyed in your shipping details, you have to make payment for your purchase for the order to be confirmed.
After filling in your credit card details, click on “确认付款” (que ren fu kuan) to confirm your payment. It usually takes approximately 24 hours for the system to verify your credit card details if you are an international buyer.
When the payment has been verified, your order will then be processed, and you will be able to track your order status.
Step 7: Track your order
Once your order has been placed, you will be able to access the following tabs.
Here are some useful tabs to take note of:
待付款 (dai fu quan): Waiting for payment
Items in this tab have not been paid for and the order has hence not been confirmed. If you wish to remove items from your shopping cart, you can still do so through this tab.
待发货 (dai fa huo): Waiting for seller to ship out your parcel
待收货 (dai shou huo): Waiting for buyer to receive the item
Once your parcel has reached this status, it means that your seller has shipped your parcel out.
待评价 (dai ping jia): Awaiting review from buyer
With that, you have completed your first furniture purchase on Taobao!
Read on for more information on engaging an external freight forwarder to ship your Taobao parcels.
Direct shipping from Taobao VS shipping with an external freight forwarder
When shopping on Taobao, it is crucial to choose a suitable and efficient freight forwarder to pick up and deliver your parcel on time. However, there are different agents that you may opt to engage to carry out this shipping process. The first option that most Taobao customers will use is direct shipping from the site, which means that you are essentially using the delivery services of existing forwarders in Taobao, e.g. 4PX, PRouter. Another alternative would be to hire an external freight forwarder to do the job for you.
To aid you in making this decision, below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of engaging an existing Taobao forwarder.
When you ship your parcel with Taobao’s appointed forwarders, the cost will be lower since you are saving on any exchange rate conversions as well as agent fees.
Taobao closely monitors the efficiency of each forwarder based on customer ratings and those that underperform will be replaced with newer and more efficient ones. This ensures that your parcel will be in good hands.
Lower sense of security
Since you do not have a dedicated shipper to follow up with closely, the Taobao shippers may take days to get back to you or not get back to you at all. Engaging an external forwarder gives you a better sense of security since there will be constant communication throughout the shipping process.
Even if you manage to get hold of the Taobao shipper, most of these agents speak Chinese and this may pose a language barrier for buyers who are not confident in communicating in Chinese.
Lack of insurance
Buyers often think twice about getting insurance for their shipments as it is not compulsory – it depends on the value of the shipment and your risk tolerance as a buyer. However, when purchasing big ticket items, most people will choose to get insurance as it would mean that in the case when your parcel is lost, damaged or stolen, you may file a claim to get a reimbursement. While the claiming process may take some time, having a reimbursement is a more favourable outcome as compared to losing your money and the item altogether.
Shipping insurance is something that Taobao forwarders do not provide. Hence, if you are getting a product of a high value, it is advisable that you engage an external freight forwarder and purchase insurance for your package.
All in all, when choosing your freight forwarder, be sure to take these pros and cons into consideration and pick the right company that is suitable to deliver your package. With a more appropriate forwarder, you will get a more satisfactory shipping experience.
The following section discusses the steps to engage an external freight forwarder as a Taobao buyer.
How to engage an external freight forwarder as a Taobao buyer?
This process is still new and foreign to many Taobao buyers, but fret not as we will be explaining the whole shipping process to you in a series of easy-to-follow steps below.
Start off by purchasing big ticket items such as furniture from your preferred supplier in Taobao.
Contact an external freight forwarder
After the order has been confirmed, proceed to contact your chosen freight forwarder and provide them with a packing list of the items that you have purchased, together with the contact details of the Taobao supplier.
Pick up items from suppliers
Next, you can take a step back while the freight forwarder that you have engaged steps in to contact all the suppliers and makes arrangements to pick up the items you have ordered.
Photos of your items will be taken upon pick up and sent to you for verification purposes. Upon confirmation, your goods will be shipped.
Shipping (via two options)
LCL – Less than Container Load shipping
In the case when your shipment is less than the container load, you would have to opt for LCL shipping. This simply means that your shipment will be combined with other shipments to fill up a container before it is shipped.
FCL – Full Container Load shipping
On the other hand, if there is sufficient cargo to fill a container fully, shipping via FCL shipping would better as you would have more cost savings. For FCL shipping, freight forwarders will collect the cargo from suppliers and bring them back to their warehouses to load into the container.
Once the cargo is loaded onboard, customs clearance for the export shipment will be arranged and the shipping documents will be prepared by the forwarder. An extra copy of documents will be provided to you for reference as well.
As mentioned previously, purchasing insurance is important, especially for big ticket items. Often times, the purchase of insurance can be done by the external freight forwarder on behalf of clients.
Custom clearance and delivery of shipment
Once your shipment arrives in Singapore, the last step is for the freight forwarder to clear the shipment at customs and deliver the cargo to your doorstep.
Just like that, you would have enjoyed reliable shipping services while getting good deals on Taobao!
Choosing the right freight forwarder
Now that you are aware of how simple it is to engage an external freight forwarder to ship your Taobao loots, here are some factors that you may want to consider when choosing the right forwarder.
Country of origin
Be sure to check if the freight forwarder you are considering is located in the same country where you are residing in. This is crucial in order to liaise with the company conveniently.
Cost is another factor to consider as ideally, you would want to save on shipping costs. It is always wise to request for a few quotations from different companies and compare them before deciding on the forwarder you wish to engage.
Reviews and ratings
Another thing to look out for is the reviews and feedback that the forwarder has gotten from past customers. This serves as an indication to the quality of service that the company is able to provide you with. Some platforms where you can get these reviews would be Google, Facebook and forums. If a company has recent reviews with detailed descriptions of the customers’ experiences, it is more likely that they are trustworthy and worth your consideration.
Established in 2006, M&P International Freights has had vast experience in providing freight forwarding services. With the ultimate aim of achieving customer satisfaction by exceeding expectations, their top-notch service ensures that a dedicated sales person is allocated to each individual customer. This ensures that close follow-ups are possible during the entire shipment process.
Having an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars on both Google and Facebook reviews, M&P International Freights has consistently obtained high ratings from their customers. Engaging this dedicated team would guarantee that your items will be shipped smoothly and efficiently, given their trustworthiness and reliability over the years.
Dimension Movers Network is motivated by three main pillars – excellence, assurance and reliance. With clear objectives in mind, they seek to provide customised services to cater to your shipping needs.
Being one of the pioneers in the freight forwarding industry, ARTLAS provides a myriad of shipping services and recognises that your cargo is important. Therefore, with ARTLAS services, you can be rest assured as your items are in good hands.
Mercury Freight’s forwarding services come with many benefits. Not only do they provide regular updates on your shipping status, they also respond quickly to customers’ queries and believe that it is essential to maintain good relationships with customers.
Rentalorry provides a wide variety of logistics services. One of their strength is the 5 star reviews on their facebook and google platforms. From the reviews, we could tell that not only are their rates affordable, they provide top notched service as well.
It is vital to do some research on the forwarding company before making your final choice. While this may seem tedious, once you have found a reliable forwarder to suit your needs, you will not only be able to reap the benefits of your unbelievably affordable Taobao buys, you will also get to enjoy efficient shipping experiences.