Everybody has either bought something or at least heard of Amazon, well almost everybody! If you have been to China then you will understand that this land of tea and martial arts knows no Amazon but only Alibaba!
While a lot is known about Amazon, Alibaba is relatively unknown outside of China. Alibaba is the Chinese E-commerce giant that provides B2B, B2C and C2C services on its various web portals. Following its stupendous success, in 2003, the Alibaba group founded the Taobao marketplace to provide an online platform to small businesses and online entrepreneurs in China.
The main idea of this site is to cater to all Chinese speaking regions of Asia. Thus, in the Chinese speaking regions of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Mainland China, Taobao is an immensely popular online shopping website just like Amazon. Taobao in Chinese means, “searching for treasure;” it is a very apt name for a shopping website with over 7 million sellers trading in a variety of products.
Today, there are 400 million active users of Taobao; around 320 million use the Taobao mobile app. It is no wonder that Taobao is one of the top 10 most visited online shopping sites in the world and is the name on every shopaholic’s lips.
While on Taobao you can find mostly unbranded goods, Alibaba has another retail site called Tmall where you can shop for branded stuff.
Taobao is the Amazon of China
Different Methods of Shipping from Taobao to Malaysia
One of the fastest growing customer base for Taobao is Malaysia. There are around 210,000 Taobao users in Malaysia.
To those new to Taobao and its presence in Malaysia, you must be wondering on how goods from china are transported to Malaysia. There are several modes of transport to ship your goods from the remote provinces of china to your living room in Malaysia. What is important is that your goods should reach you undamaged and in pristine condition. This is entirely dependent on the shipping method and the freight forwarders you use.
The two most important factors that determine the best method are:
The most common methods of shipping are:
It is the cheapest method of shipping ideal for small parcels and light weight items; most often the weight limit is 2 Kilograms. It is most often the China Post or Hong Kong Post and takes 2-5 weeks to arrive. It is easy to track the shipment as long as the information is updated on time. Though it is cheap, the safety of your goods is not assured. There have been several instances of lost packages and it should be considered while you think of getting the goods using postal services.
One of the most preferred and relatively safer methods of shipping is using couriers like DHL, FedEx and UPS. Here your consignment reaches you within a few days and almost all these courier companies have local offices in all parts of the globe. DHL is the preferred courier to Malaysia and other Southeast countries.
In case you have purchased something that is really heavy, then it makes no sense to spend on courier; the best option would be to air ship it. This is cheaper than using couriers. Nowadays due to security reasons all air freight is subject to tighter security controls. The transit time is not too bad; invariably you will receive your goods between 2- 10 days.
When you opt for air shipment it is your responsibility to handle all the customs clearance at your end. Unlike the courier service, the freight forwarders most often do not indulge in clearance. Ideally any parcel over 250 kg is best air shipped.
If you have a wide variety of goods and in large number, the best method will be by sea. Remember certain items are not allowed as air freight. It is the cheapest mode of transport and is widely used by businesses which deal in large volumes.
Of course, the delivery time by sea is really long and can take up to 60 days in some cases. Similar to air freight you will have to handle the customs, the necessary documentation and transport of the goods to your destination. It is ideal for bulky shipments.
Another way of classifying the methods of International shipping to Malaysia from Taobao is:
• Taobao Global Direct Shipping
• Taobao Global Consolidation and shipping.
Taobao Global Direct Shipping:
Taobao Global Direct Shipping is a Taobao official forwarding service in Singapore and Malaysia areas. In this method, you have to check out all the items in your shopping cart at once and select the option “Taobao Direct Shipping.” Make payment in the preferred method and wait for the package to arrive at your destination.
Advantages of this method:
Taobao Global Consolidation and Shipping:
Taobao Global Consolidation and Shipping which is more commonly known as Taobao Cargo is mainly for international buyers. It is available for buyers from Singapore, Malaysia, USA and Canada.
Best Shipping Method?
You should always keep in mind three factors before deciding the best shipping method for you.
1. Time taken: Ideally you would like your goods to reach you at the earliest possible, but this is dependent on the method of shipping used. Normally goods take 5 days to several weeks to reach you.
2. Price: It is a given fact that at higher price things get done faster and more efficiently, but is it worth the money? If the goods which you need are not urgent you can opt for a method which is slower and cheaper.
3. Customs: Certain countries tax the buyer when expensive shipping methods like couriers are used.
Therefore, choosing an ideal shipping method is very subjective and dependent on what your needs are and what items you want shipped.
The shipping method which meets the criteria is EMS or express mail service. This service is an intergovernmental organization between the various governments and postal sectors across the world for the transport of merchandise and documents.
Here are the reasons why this is the best shipping method:
Choosing Your Freight Forwarder
It is no doubt fun to browse the Taobao website and select items of your choice, but the same can’t be said about using a freight forwarder. It is often confusing and frustrating.
Freight forwarder is the intermediary between your goods and their final destination. They normally handle all the necessary legalities involved with collection of your goods from the seller to international shipping. They are the link between trucks to the air freight or ocean freight. Therefore, it is important that you choose your freight forwarder with great care.
Two of the more preferred freight forwarders that are constantly monitored by Taobao itself are 4PX and PRouter. Taobao constantly keeps a check on the performance of these two freight forwarders. In case they fall below the accepted rating they are replaced.
How to Choose a Freight Forwarder?
Here are a few tips on choosing the right freight forwarder
• Experience counts: International shipping is one of the toughest businesses around; it is crucial that your freight forwarder knows exactly how the system works. An experienced freight forwarder is adept at handling various situations like ports shutdown, rerouting of consignments, customs clearance, and warehouse problems and so on. An experienced company states its policies clearly with regard to customs and warehousing; it will ensure that your consignment reaches you at the earliest avoiding unnecessary customs and delays.
• Network of agents and business partners: In the world of international shipping, all freight forwarders have their own set of agents in whichever country they ship to. It is important for you to know who the forwarders’ partners are in your region. The business partners and networking agents at your end should be equally reliable and efficient. Remember all freight forwarders do not ship to all parts of the world. You must find out who the networking agents are for your region, what is the customer feedback to the agent in your country before you finalize.
• What services do the freight forwarders offer?: As you already know freight forwarders are responsible for the shipping and delivery of your goods from the seller to your address. But again, not all freight forwarders include trucking options or other transport options like rail; they are comfortable doing air and ocean shipping. Most often all freight forwarders of repute have a strong network that handles all the door trucking options. At this point we must mention that your forwarder must offer cargo insurance and shipment tracking services for your goods.
• Check out customer feedback: The true picture of a business can be derived from its customers’ feedback. Check out the customer feedback and testimonials page on the website of the forwarder. You can learn from other customer’s good or bad experiences and decide if you want to stick to a particular freight forwarder.
• Customer service: An important aspect of every business is the quality of customer service they provide to the customers. Tick mark the below in favor of a good customer response:
• Freight charges: Last but not least, the freight charges are the determining factor in any international shipping. But keep all the above factors in mind before considering price because remember quality and experience can cost more than normal.
To Consolidate Or Not?
To consolidate your purchase means to put all your purchases in into one big packet. As a result, you will have to deal with just one package containing several items instead of several packets of single items.
Often while shopping you might select goods which belong to different categories and by different sellers.
These individual sellers send their goods separately. You need to consolidate because:
Advantages of Consolidation
When you combine all orders into one common package you will have to deal with only one tracking number.
Why Shop at Taobao?
Be it Google or any blog on online shopping sites, the only site making maximum news is Taobao. With each passing year it is gaining in prominence and has a steadily increasing clientele.
The reasons why you should look at Taobao for your latest shopping are:
Is it Safe to Shop at Taobao?
All sites with https are safe because they use SSL a secure socket layer that encrypts all the details that you key in while you shop online. In the case of Taobao, the website is safe but the same can’t be said about all the sellers there.
Therefore, as long as you choose a good seller you are in safe hands, but with a fraudulent one not only will you lose money but also a good deal of time will be spent on trying to retrieve it.
Do You Really need a Taobao Agent?
Yes if you are a foreigner. A Taobao agent is a middleman between the buyer and seller; an agent’s main job is to procure the goods and help you with payment and shipping. An agent renders this service for a nominal fee.
First and foremost you must know that the Taobao site is in Chinese. So unless you are well versed in reading Chinese you will be lost. You need the help of someone who can understand your needs and identify goods that you are looking for in the ocean of Taobao.
A reliable agent can identify fraudulent seller and warn you. In case of disputes the agent can put your case forward and interact with the seller.
An agent will also help an international buyer overcome:
Convenient and hassle free shopping: Most often the online vendors have little or no knowledge of English; as a result, it is a herculean task to make them understand your exact requirements. But a Taobao agent can help you on this front. This agent can buy goods according to your request and some of them offer additional services like a reliable customer service.
Shipping: When you bypass an agent then you also have to think of means of shipping your goods to your place of residence because most of the sellers on Taobao do not deliver goods outside China. Those who can ship charge phenomenal shipping rates. But when you go through an agent you are eligible to discounts and also you are not under pressure to identify a reliable freight forwarder. You need not constantly track your shipment. And in case of any customs clearance you need not go in person to resolve it; your agent will handle it.
Payment: The best method of payment especially for international buyers is PayPal; it is one of the safest and most reliable means of payment. But several Chinese vendors do not accept PayPal, Western union, moneygram or any kind of bank transfer; they only trust Alipay. But with an agent you can overcome this hurdle as they accept all the above stated methods of payment.
As is common knowledge there are no great customer protection laws in China, as a result when you deal directly you are at the mercy of the vendor and the system. But with a reliable and efficient agent to help you can overcome the major barriers.
Do You Really need a Taobao Agent?
For those who want to take the safe path and use the services of a Taobao Agent, here are a few tips to choose a reliable and safe agent.
Questions to Ask Your Agent?
Before engaging the services of an agent here are a list of questions that your agent needs to answer.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Taobao Agent - Precautions
It always pays to be cautious when you deal with unknown agencies. Yes, the agent you picked up might have stellar testimonials and good customer feedback; all the same it is advisable that you recheck the agent’s terms and conditions.
Look out for hidden charges and fees especially with agents who claim to provide services at suspiciously low rates.
A List of Fees that Agents Normally Charge
Compare the handling fees, shipping fees and service charge between various agents before choosing the most suited agent.
How to Pay in Taobao?
Like already stated probably the best way to shop in Taobao would be through an agent. Most of the agents accept PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and other credit and debit cards.
In case you have bought the stuff directly from Taobao and want to do the payment, you will need to open a local account in any Chinese bank. Another option is to open Alipay account; it can be easily recharged online.
Alipay and its Advantages:
Alipay is a third party online payment platform that is widely used for all transactions; it is similar to PayPal. Why it is so popular is because of the escrow service where you can release funds only if you are satisfied by the product.
The one thing to keep in mind while operating the Alipay account is that there are two passwords for Alipay:
If you key in wrong you will get locked out of your Alipay account.
Using Visa /Master/JCB card
You can use your individual Visa or master card to pay for your purchase but a processing fee of 3% will be charged. No business credit cards are accepted.
PayPal and its Advantages
Most foreigners prefer PayPal for all online transactions because it is one of the most trusted and safe payment platforms online. In addition to that PayPal has a Buyer Protection Policy where in case of a dispute you can request for refund of your funds within 180 days from the date of purchase. Other payment platforms have this policy but none as effective as PayPal. In a country like China where the customer rights are not the top priority it pays to be covered and protected by such policies.
Well, there are no free lunches and that is the reason the transaction fee levied on PayPal is by far the highest in the market. But you can be at peace that all your details are safe and secure.
The best method of payment would be to first identify a safe and reliable agent and then change to other modes likes Western Union or bank transfer. In this way, you can be safe also and save money.
Know How to Choose Good Sellers
Taobao is replete with small first timers and newbies and fraudulent sellers. It is a herculean task to sift through the massive database and identify the few reliable, trusted and good sellers. There are solo entrepreneurs, wholesalers and others who sell direct from factory. There are a few risks involved when shopping on Taobao and therefore the need to identify a reputable seller.
The risks of Shopping on Taobao
Taobao’s rating system
To help customers identify good sellers Taobao has in place a rating system to evaluate the performance of each seller. People rate based on the following criteria:
A positive rating gives the seller one point and a neutral one doesn’t give any points. The negative rating takes away the points. Once these points consolidate they are transformed into icons like crowns, diamonds and red hearts; the repute of a seller is marked by these icons. The Crown icon means the highest reputation and the red heart is the least. A golden crown is the ultimate proof of one’s credibility. You can see these icons on the seller’s homepage. A seller’s good reputation is a result of several successful transactions.
Other Points to note in a good seller are:
Sometimes people post negative remarks more eagerly than positive feedback. Therefore, try to read through all the customer feedback before reaching any conclusion about the seller. There will be reviews which are unbiased and neutral too. Remember, the majority of sellers are hardworking people with little or no sales skills. Hence, always try to resolve an issue amicably before posting a review on the site which will damage their future prospects.
Once you identify the seller ensure that the item you desire is in stock. There is very little scope for bargain here. A prudent way to purchase would be to compare the price offered by two sellers and buy the best one.
Avoid Overpayment by Checking Daily
By checking your Alipay control account on a daily basis you can ensure that you never over pay which otherwise is so easy. This is also a good practice to prevent any misappropriation of your account and its funds by hackers.
In Alipay control you can get all the information about all your latest transactions with details about the seller, the product, and the date of purchase. You can also see the status of your present order.
Google Translate is Your Best Friend
Taobao site is in Chinese, so those who can’t read a word of the language will be confounded, frustrated and dejected. You need a tool that can translate the Chinese to English; this will save time and also making shopping enjoyable.
Always use Google Chrome web browsers for viewing Taobao. The Google chrome has an automatic translation function called Google translate which can translate content in any language to English. It is a true friend in deed because it is by your side when you are in need trying to make sense of the Taobao website which uses only Mandarin.
Use the Live Chat Function
Sometimes you might want to interact with the seller directly and ask a few questions. It is a good idea to ask questions and clarify doubts always. There is a live chat function called the Ali Wangwang Chat where you can ask your seller all the queries that you have.
To use this program you will have to download the application from Taobao either by scanning the QR code or by clicking on the link. You need to select the platform whether Mac or windows to which you want the app downloaded. Next, login with your Taobao username and password. You can identify the chat box with the water drop man icon. If the icon is blue and bouncing it means the seller is online.
Now, you are all set to chat with the seller of your choice. During the chat ask the seller the following questions?
Make sure that you use plain simple English and keep to short sentences because most of the sellers have no knowledge of English and those who do it is rudimentary.
Use Taobao's Image Search Option
You don’t need to know the name of the product you are searching for, you can just click the picture of the product and upload the image on the Taobao search bar. Taobao will line up all the same and similar objects for you to choose from. You can either upload the actual photo or the URL of the photo. You can indicate the category under which the product has to be searched.
Using Taobao’s search image option simplifies online shopping tremendously. Make a note that this feature works only on the original site and not on the international site. Also note that this feature works only for clothing, women’s handbags and shoes.
A few reminders while shopping on Taobao
With these few reminders you are all set to venture into the Taobao land of endless shopping!
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