When it comes to online shopping, you must have heard of Taobao, right?
If you’ve never heard of Taobao, it’s a mega marketplace that literally sells everything you can think of.
In fact, I have friends who bought good quality sofas, mirrors, TV consoles and wardrobes for their new homes while they are waiting for the completion of house renovation! How amazing is that?
Unfortunately, there is no Taobao English catered to locals, honestly, as someone who watches Chinese dramas and listens to Jay Chou, JJ Lin and May Day, I didn’t have difficulty navigating the website, but the number of Chinese words displayed can still be overwhelming.
But no worries, I’ve got you covered on the basics and even if you are jiak kantang (Hokkien: English-speaking), you will be fine.
TL;DR: A Step-By-Step Taobao Shopping & Shipping Guide
Click here to jump to sections
- How to Buy From Taobao: A Step-by-Step Shopping Guide
- How to Ship From Taobao: A Step-by-Step Shipping Guide
- How To Search For Taobao Product Keywords Guide
- Commonly Asked Questions Regarding How To Buy From Taobao in Singapore
- How To Save On Taobao
How to Buy From Taobao: A Step-by-Step Shopping Guide
First and foremost, you’ll want to use Google’s Chrome browser before navigating to Taobao as it allows you to perform a page translation.
It may look a little off since the translation is ad verbatim, but it is not too bad.
At the very least you can kind of figure out what is on the page.
You will see “亲, 请登录 / 免费注册” which means “Dear, Please Login / Register for Free”, on the top left corner.
1. Register Your Taobao Account
Select “免费注册” if you do not have an account.
Next, click on “English” to create your account in English.
Just follow the instructions in English. Ensure that the country and phone number you are using to register is Singapore and a registered local number.
You’ll need to key in a verification code sent to your mobile number, provide your email address, as well as set-up your username and password.
Once you’ve set up your account, you can start shopping!
2. Choose Your Product (Type in Chinese for Effective Searches)
Here’s the part where you’ll catch yourself endlessly scrolling through the millions of products on Taobao.
If you already know what you’re searching for, enter your product keywords in Chinese into the white search bar located at the top of the Taobao home page.
It will always be more effective to type in Chinese as the list of products displayed does differ based on keyword searches. Don’t fret, just use Google Translate on your Windows Search Bar to help you with this.
You can filter your search results based on the various categories like brand, size, type, price range, etc.
The currencies reflected next to your search results are in Chinese RenMinBi (RMB), but once you’ve clicked in, most of the time it will automatically be converted to Singapore Dollar (SGD).
Once you’ve selected your desired product on Taobao, you’ll be brought to the product page.
Here you have a couple of things to look out for:
- “宝贝详情” (Product details) for more information about the product. You will be able to see the ratings.
- “评论” (Reviews) where buyers leave ratings, comments, and upload images of their purchases
- “立即购买” (Buy now) to buy immediately after making your selection
- “加入购物车” (Add to cart) to add to cart and continue shopping
Lo and Behold, don’t check out immediately!
Always, always, always read the reviews under “评论”. If you’ve been using the site in Chinese, you can switch on your Translator and the reviews will be reflected in English.
3. Checkout on Taobao
Once you’re ready to checkout, you can either click “立即购买” (Buy now) to pay for your purchase immediately.
Or you can click on “购物车” (Shopping cart) on the Taobao home page instead.
Select the items you want to check out and click on “结算” (Payment).
You’ll be prompted to add your shipping address, postal code, name, and mobile number.
Once done, click on “设置为默认收货地址” (Make Default) if you want to make it your default shipping address.
And click on “保存“(Save) to complete the form.
Once you’ve selected your “跨境配送方式” (Shipping Method), click on “提交订单” (Confirm order).
4. Taobao Payment
After confirming your order, you will be redirected to an Alipay account page.
If it’s your first purchase using Alipay, you will need to create an Alipay payment password (6 numerical digits).
Once done, click “确定” (Confirm).
Key in your credit card details and click “下一步“(Continue).
All that’s left is to verify your payment details and await the delivery of your “宝贝” (Precious item) or purchase!
How to Ship From Taobao: A Step-by-Step Shipping Guide
Since we’re in Singapore, the only way we can get our Taobao purchase is via international shipping.
For international shipping, Taobao’s preferred delivery partner is Cainiao.
You would have noticed that there are six delivery options:
- 官方集运-标准空运 – Consolidated shipping via air freight
- 官方直邮-空运 – Direct shipping via air freight
- 官方直邮 – 海运 – Direct shipping via sea freight
- 官方集运-快捷空运 – Consolidated express shipping via air freight
- 官方集运-经济海运 – Consolidated shipping via sea freight
- 自行联系卖家发货 – Contact seller personally to arrange for shipping
So… which one should you choose?
Well, it depends on what you are shipping.
Shipping by air is the easiest and fastest way to get most items shipped to you, but if you’re buying bulky items like furniture, you can opt for consolidated shipping by sea.
Choose the fifth option if you are using a Taobao agent. The agent will handle negotiations with the seller on your behalf.
Pro-tip: Some products are not allowed on air freights, hence “官方集运 – 海运” (Consolidated Sea Freight) will be selected by default.
When you try to select “官方集运 – 空运” (Consolidated Air Freight) instead, you’ll notice that your cart value will drop – that’s because those prohibited items will not go through payment. When that happens, you can pay in two separate batches: (1) Pay for those items that qualify for Consolidated Air Freight first and (2) come back again to pay for items that require Consolidated Sea Freight.
|Shipping Methods||Shipping payment||Weight, Dimensions, Volume||Estimated Days To Arrive||Suitable For||Cost|
|官方直邮-空运 - Direct shipping via air freight||All your items will be sent to Taobao’s warehouse in China to be registered, and then immediately sent to you directly as individual packages. You’ll pay for the shipping fee together with the item.||Weight: ≤30kg|
Length & Height: <160cm
|8 to 12 business days||Single purchases which are small or light, or if you need something immediately||First 0.5kg: 20RMB
Subsequent 0.5kg: 17RMB
|官方集运-空运 - Consolidated shipping via air freight||All your items will be sent to Taobao’s warehouse in China to be registered, consolidated and repacked for optimal shipping, and then sent to you via air freight. You’ll only know the shipping fee after the items arrive at the Taobao warehouse.||Weight: ≤30kg|
Length & Height: <160cm
|5 to 7 business days||Multiple purchases which you need as soon as possible||First 0.5kg: 20RMB
Subsequent 0.5kg: 20RMB
|官方集运-快捷空运 - Consolidated express shipping via air freight||5 to 7 business days||No available information; may vary based on items purchased|
|官方集运-经济海运 - Consolidated shipping via sea freight (Small package)|
*Measured by Cubic Metre (CBM)
|All your items will be sent to Taobao’s warehouse in China to be registered, consolidated and repacked for optimal shipping, and then sent to you via sea freight. You’ll only know the shipping fee after the items arrive at the Taobao warehouse.||Weight: ≤30kg|
|15 to 30 business days||Medium to Heavy-duty purchases (lights, mirrors etc.); multiple purchases which you can afford to wait for||≤1kg: 22 RMB per order
>1-≤10kg: 12 RMB/kg
>10-≤30kg: 10 RMB/kg
|官方集运-经济海运 - Consolidated shipping via sea freight (Large package)|
*Measured by Cubic Metre (CBM)
|Weight: 30kg and 500kg|
Dimensions: 180cm and 500cm
|15 to 30 business days||Heavy-duty purchases (furniture, TV console, tables etc.); multiple purchases which you can afford to wait for||≤0.5CBM: 280 RMB per order
>0.5CBM: 560 RMB/CBM
If the volume exceeds 0.5CBM and is less than 0.01CBM, cost will be calculated from 0.01CBM.
|自行联系卖家发货 -Contact seller personally to arrange for shipping||You have to negotiate with the seller directly for them to ship directly to Singapore. This option is troublesome and you need to converse fluently in Mandarin. There are some sellers who will refuse to personally ship overseas.||Vary||Vary||Sensitive or personalised items which require constant communication with the shop representative or seller||Vary|
Focus on Consolidated Shipping if you can
Both “官方集运 – 空运” (Consolidated Shipping – Air Freight) and “官方集运 – 海运” (Consolidated Shipping – Sea Freight) are the best methods because it’s more convenient to consolidate everything into one package for optimal shipping. Consolidated shipping is also slightly cheaper than direct shipping.
How To Search For Taobao Product Keywords Guide
Do you remember what I mentioned earlier? You can actually use Google Translate first, then key into the search bars.
But we all know when technology fails us…
Refer to the table below for a list of commonly-sourced items and their terms.
Shirt / Blouse
|Coat / Jacket|
Format Coat / Jacket
Heeled Shoes ((Low/ Medium/ High)
跟鞋 (低/ 中/ 高)
Bowl and plate
Suit or Formal Pants
Suit or Formal Jacket
Commonly Asked Questions Regarding How To Buy From Taobao in Singapore
Besides the how-to guides, here are some commonly asked questions about Taobao.
Can Singaporeans Buy From Taobao?
Yes, you can!
You can either buy from Taobao direct, which gives you the complete range of products and sellers to choose from.
Or go through a third party like Ezbuy.
If you choose Ezbuy, you will be able to skip the whole translation situation as their interface is in English. You can use Ezbuy as a freight service, which helps you liaise directly with the seller and arrange to ship for you, or you shop on the Ezbuy app or website, which lists items from Taobao sellers, but at a higher price.
You can also try Lazada’s Taobao collection, but your choices will be limited to whatever is curated. You might also end up paying higher prices due to the lack of competition.
Taobao Refund Policy
Returning an item is pretty much out of the question because of the delivery time, distance, and expensive shipping fees.
However, if you received a defective product or aren’t satisfied for whatever reason.
You can choose to submit a refund request to Taobao directly, along with your reason and photographs for evidence.
Once you submit your Taobao refund request, the seller will have 48 hours to respond to you.
If they reject the request, you may re-submit your refund request or communicate with the seller directly via AliWangWang.
If the seller does not respond after 48 hours, Taobao will refund the amount to you on a case-by-case basis.
Shipping is still a problem for some Taobao customers, depending on what you choose to purchase.
Even though Cainiao delivers almost everywhere internationally, you might still need to use freight forwarders if you’re taking delivery for certain items.
This adds a layer of complexity as it includes Goods and Services Tax (GST) charges, shipping and handling fees.
As a result, delivery times aren’t the most accurate either.
Taobao also has an extensive list of prohibited items, which they cannot ship internationally.
Some examples include
- Batteries and items with in-built batteries
- Electronic devices
- Food (e.g., bamboo products, instant noodles)
- Items exceeding the size or weight restrictions
- Liquid, paste, and powdered items (like cosmetics)
So take note before buying!
Will GST increment make shipping more expensive?
With the Budget 2022 announcement on GST increment and inflation, the shipping fee will increase over time.
We have noticed that the shipping fee for sea freight has increased slightly from 7.5RMB per subsequent kg to 12RMB.
Is It Safe To Buy From Taobao?
Considering that most things we use in our daily life are ‘Made in China’.
Yes. It is safe to buy from Taobao.
However, the marketplace is so huge that there could be unscrupulous sellers hawking counterfeit products and fake goods.
This is despite Taobao’s best efforts to weed out counterfeiters.
Here are a couple of tips that you can follow to protect yourself:
- Only purchase from shops or sellers with a high number of reviews
- The reviews should have a mix of good and bad reviews, and reviewers should upload pictures of the actual item (watch out for fake reviews though)
- Reach out to the seller to find out more about product availability or more pictures before committing to the purchase
- If the deal looks too good to be true, then it most likely is…
How To Save On Taobao?
If you have not owned a credit card for paying bills, consider getting one.
The best cashback credit cards in 2022 are available to help you save some money from your shopping spree.
If you’re into air miles, cash rebates or other rewards, there are also some that are designed for big-ticket items.