If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to source your products from Taobao, one of the biggest supplier directories in the world, here are some things you need to know.
Taobao, also known as “the everything store”, is the biggest C2C (consumer-to-consumer) e-commerce platform that is based in China. With millions of sellers offering a wide array of quality products and goods with competitive price points, it is the best haven online for affordable stuff!
Buying and selling in Taobao are free of charge which is why it easily became popular among Chinese people. Because of the number of sellers in the platform, most of them put the lowest possible price on their products to stay competitive.
What is Taobao?
You can find almost anything in Taobao for dirt cheap prices. From clothes, bags, decors, gadgets, to even computer hardware! If you know the Chinese name of an item, they probably have it.
However, one major downside of navigating through the site is that the item listings and the overall user interface is in Chinese. You can use Google Translate to be able to make sense of it all but it doesn’t accept searches in the English Language.
Therefore, you need to know first what your desired item is called in Chinese and that can be a bit of a challenge. While there are a few disadvantages to sourcing products overseas, there are also many great perks of buying from Taobao.
Let’s go through each of them.
Advantages & Disadvantages Of Taobao Shopping
Manufacturing costs in Asia can be significantly lower than in other parts of the world. This is the most popular reason why several entrepreneurs are looking into Asia, particularly China, to source their products.
Thanks to overseas manufacturing, making more profit for your business is possible. More than the cheaper product costs, here are more additional benefits when you source from Taobao and some of its not-so-great downsides.
Super Cheap Prices
As already mentioned, there are countless sellers on Taobao which makes comparing prices for similar items easier. Compared to North America or most countries, the cost of labor, materials, and doing online business is comparably cheaper which is why most goods are made affordable.
Several Product Choices
Taobao isn’t called “the everything store” for nothing. This shopping platform offers almost everything that you need. There are a wide array of products listed by millions of different suppliers.
Lots of Unique and Quirky Items to Score
Chinese people are very creative and you can see that once you scour through Taobao. You’ll find lots of unique, crazy, and quirky stuff from cute pet items, pillows that look like food, character socks to even a rent-a-date service! You’ll be surprised to find almost everything on Taobao!
Super Deals, Sales and Events.
Taobao is already known for having mega cheap items but in case you’re in for more savings, the site conducts sales and events where numerous shops offer big discounts and vouchers. Some examples are the Double 11 sale event every November 11, Double 12 held every December 12, Taobao Daily Sale, and Clearance sales.
While there’s much to love about buying in Taobao, there are also some downsides that you have to be wary about.
- The Language barrier can be a bit of a challenge, especially that virtually the whole website is in Chinese. While you can use Google Translate to be able to read the website, communicating with the sellers can be hard as most of them don’t speak English. It can be daunting, especially if you want to haggle or negotiate prices.
- Some Chinese vendors take advantage of foreign buyers as they think that they can pay more.
- Many Taobao sellers are unfamiliar with international shipping and do not accept international payment methods.
- There are several reports of scam within the platform. You have to be extra wary with your every transaction and make sure that the seller is trustworthy and reliable before making an order. Always check for a shop’s reputation, customer feedback, and the number of successful transactions as reference.
Finding Your Desired Product
When searching for a specific item that you’d like to buy, you can use Google Translate and paste that into the Taobao search field. However, there are instances that the translated word may not be specific enough and the site will give you the wrong context for that word.
You can try to be more specific with your search and add specific details, for example the voltage, amperage, etc. and you might be a lot closer to finding your desired product.
When you find something close to what you’re looking for, you can hover your mouse over the product image. Once an orange bar comes up, the word “找相似” will show up which means “Find Similar”.
When you click on this, it will bring similar items up. There is also an option to search for a product through a camera button. If you have the image of your desired product, you just simply click on the tiny camera icon on the right side of the search bar and use that to search.
Getting Better Results
Just like most search engines, you can apply filters while searching for your desired products to get better results. You can sort results based on sales, seller’s reputation, newest additions, popularity, and price. This makes shopping at Taobao very convenient.
If your concern is more seller-related, you can also sort your results to find merchants that offer a 7-day return policy, consumer protection, cash on delivery, accepts credit card, overseas product, genuine product or has a Wangwang Live Chat feature.
Choosing A Trustworthy Seller
It is always advisable to choose a seller who is experienced and reliable. To find a trustworthy seller, check out how many transactions they were able to process successfully. You can also check the ranking of the seller’s online shop.
The ranking starts at hearts, then diamonds, and lastly yellow crowns. Once a seller earns 5 of each, they ascend to the next rank. The buyers’ ratings also indicate the date when they gave that rating so you’ll know when the seller started their shop and see how much positive feedback have they received since.
This will give you a grand idea whether your seller is trustworthy enough before you proceed with your purchase.
Checking Customer Feedback and Reviews
Previous customers rate the quality of the product of a certain seller using a star-rating system from 1 to 5 (5 being the highest). If the product is rated with mostly 5 stars, you can assume that it is of top quality.
In case there are not enough reviews for a certain product, you can always refer to the overall feedback on a seller’s page by clicking on its ratings (heart, diamond, or crown). When you scroll down, you’ll be able to view more customer feedback for any of the seller’s items.
Making Your Order
When you click on the “Buy” button on Taobao, you will be invited to chat with the seller or store owner. It can be a bit of a hassle if you do not speak Chinese as there is a little amount of conversation required.
As already mentioned, many sellers don’t speak English and some will not even fulfill your order for fear of miscommunication that might lead to a bad review. Because Taobao doesn’t have that typical and straightforward “shopping-cart-and-buy-it” process, most international buyers may find it difficult to make Taobao purchases.
The currency used in every Taobao transaction is in Chinese Yuan (RMB). They also accept Alipay which works like Paypal for payment and online banking. You can opt to buy a money recharge slip from a post office in China for your Taobao account.
There are additional fees on top of items that you may need to pay for. This usually includes shipping fee, insurance, shipping of fragile items, commissions, and other payment fees. Because you are paying overseas, take into account the exchange rate.
Although most sellers do not speak English, you will occasionally find some that can speak and accept international or online payment. However, chances are you’ll end up paying more for those extra services.
When communicating with the seller, always be clear about how your items will be shipped internationally before finalizing your order and payment. Most sellers are inexperienced when it comes to international shipping and the language barrier may cause a problem.
Be mindful of some shipping restrictions in your country such as taxable items or prohibited products. Once you’ve made your payment, waiting for the items to arrive will take between 7-40 working days.
3-5 weeks is a safe estimate when buying items from Taobao as the items might take 3 weeks to enter the country, 1 week to clear in your local customs, and a few more days to deliver to your doorstep. The duration of the shipping may also depend on your chosen delivery option. If you wish for speedier delivery, you might need to shell out more cash.
Getting A Taobao Agent
It is highly encouraged that buyers outside of China make use of agents when shopping on Taobao. Think of the agent as a middleman who will help you with your transactions with a Taobao seller.
They will communicate, pay and handle the shipping of your items on your behalf. If there are complexities on the items that you are looking for, they can also help you search for it and discuss the details of your desired product.
If you want to shop in Taobao with no hassle, paying an agent may be worth considering. They will be able to help you avoid potential pitfalls that some overseas buyers experience.
You can also expect Taobao agents to be experienced in international shipping and offer you with discounted shipping rates.
You may contact Lazpanda as your Taobao sourcing agent to help you save cost and make your shopping a hassle-free experience.
Start Your Selling Journey With Taobao
Overall, sourcing your products from Taobao can be a game-changing opportunity for your business. With the array of products available in “the everything store”, you’ll be able to expand your product offerings and even scale into larger categories.
However, due diligence is a must. Sourcing from overseas can be smooth-sailing if you’ve done your homework and research. Take your selling journey to the next level with Taobao and watch your business soar!
Import from China actually is not a simple task. If you are working with a sourcing agent like me, then you’re already way ahead of the game. But what if you’re one of the 99% of small business owners or Amazon sellers who are not familiar with importing from China. I want to share my sourcing expertise with you to help you grow business.