Once you are done setting up your account, you are one step closer to place your order and ship it to your door. While adding items to your cart is only one click of a button, there are a few things you need to be aware of before submitting your order. I concluded 7 tips to buy directly from Taobao internationally, based on my previous Taobao experience. It would help to enhance your shopping experience and prevent you from paying overpriced shipping fees.
Please note that this guide is based on my experience, as well as information found on the Taobao website. Feel free to comment below if you have any additional questions.
Tip #1: Know Chinese
I have mentioned this previously in my previous post, Complete Guide to Buy Directly from Taobao Internationally. Taobao is all in Chinese. Though other websites may suggest using Google Translate to translate the website, that would only work if you are simply navigating the website. However, most of the time, buying on Taobao requires you to communicate with sellers in Chinese, whether it’s for order inquiries or complaints on defective items. Therefore, if you don’t know how to read and communicate in Chinese fluently, I would not recommend shopping on Taobao.
★ FIND A CLOSE FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER THAT KNOWS CHINESE FLUENTLY
If you still want to shop on Taobao regardless of the language barrier, I recommend finding a close friend or family member that knows how to read and write Chinese fluently. There is a 90% chance you would need their help on communicating with the sellers before/after purchasing the item.
Tip #2: Choose the Right Credit Card
It is important to choose the right credit card when making an international purchase. I recommend going for a credit card that earns you the most cash back when purchasing in USD. When making the payment, Alipay will automatically convert the order value from Chinese Yuan (CNY) to USD. Another great option is credit cards with UnionPay, which can exempt you from paying the currency conversion fee.
Tip #3: Just Add to the Cart First
Shopping on Taobao is not a one-day process. Unlike other online shops out there, once you log in, Taobao retains all products (even they are sold out) in the shopping cart. The items in the cart would never disappear, so there is no harm to just add the items even with a slight interest. It also helps to allow similar products to show up on your page. In other words, you may end up finding similar products, with better pricing or rating in the end.
Tip #4: Plan Ahead and Wait for the Big Sale
As I mentioned in Tip #3, shopping on Taobao is not a one-day thing. I usually plan ahead and wait for the Big Sale. Taobao always promotes the big deals weeks ahead, so you would have plenty of time to shop and maximize the deals. Some of the special occasions are Chinese New Year, National Day (Oct 1), and Singles Day (Nov 11). You can most likely stack multiple discounts.
★ Another Reason to buy on days with big sale
Your parcel will dispatch faster than normal, as more people are also doing overseas purchases. In addition, Taobao usually has a guaranteed dispatch and delivery time for these special days. For example, on my last purchase on Nov 11 (Singles Day), the guaranteed dispatch time is 24 hours and 18 business days for delivery. If the parcel didn’t come on time, you can then ask for compensation.
Tip #5: Choose the Right Product
I have previously mentioned this briefly in my previous blog post, Complete Guide to Buy Directly from Taobao Internationally. And it is a good reminder here to always check seller ratings and buyer reviews.
★ Always check Seller Ratings and buyer RevieWS
Before you decide to buy a product, don’t forget to always check the seller rating and buyer reviews. You can directly click on “Rating 评价” to read the reviews. It is just like buying products from Amazon, except with no returns. Therefore, I recommend being more cautious and read both good and bad reviews, as many of the short “good” reviews are fake.
I always look for the button “Review with Photos and/or Videos 有图/视频”, so you can view the product quality more closely.
★ Never buy products or from a seller with zero or few ratings
If you saw a product with only a few ratings, I would not recommend buying it. You can screenshot the page and search it using the product image feature to look for identical ones with better reviews.
Tip #6: Monitor the Shipping Cost
Taobao does not estimate the international shipping fee until the products arrive at the warehouse. Therefore, it is important to be aware of what to buy. Here are two rules that I follow at all time when reviewing my order:
★ DOUBLE THE PRICE OF THE PRODUCT
I usually estimate the shipping fee to the the product price itself. So I simply double the price of the product and determine if that doubled price is still acceptable to me. If yes, add it to the cart. If not, don’t buy it.
★ Avoid big and/or fragile products
I recommend avoiding big and heavy products at all costs. For example, storage boxes, chairs, coffee tables, carpet, etc. It is hard to estimate the shipping fee for these items. Though you may know the weight of the item itself, you never know how heavy the packaging is. Sellers often overwrapped these items to prevent scratching or damages.
Fragile products are another category to avoid, such as ceramics and glasses. If you are only purchasing one or two in a big order, I think it is okay. But if you are planning to buy them in bulk, they might end up getting them in shattered pieces.
Tip #7: Ask Seller to Minimize Packaging
The international shipping fee is calculated based on the parcel’s initial weight when it arrives at the warehouse. And they will then be repackaged when consolidating the order into one. So I usually would ask the seller to minimize the packaging after placing the order. Please do not ask for fragile items if you want them to arrive safely. You can use simple phrases such as, “你好，因为我是海淘客，请问可不可以尽量减少包装呢？谢谢！”. Please be polite to your seller at all times, as they are more willing to fulfill your request.