We are exactly 3 days away from The 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. In case you’re clueless about what I am on about, The 11.11 Global Shopping Festival , previously known Singles Day, is the yearly 24 hour holiday in China that offer massive discounts on major platforms like TaoBao, Tmall, AliExpress and AliBaba. Read more here.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: These sites don’t only sell products at a low-cost, but also independent designer items by the Chinese designers that are, quite frankly, of quality and style. How you may ask? Below are some tips and tricks to work your way around these platforms.
Why do they sell it at dirt cheap prices?
China has a huge wholesale market and admittedly, they are the world’s factory. Cheap labor plus high competition makes for cheap products because they are competing for sales and attracting businesses on their site. Ultimately, their main targets are the thrifty consumers.
It’s all in Chinese, how do I search for products?
Sites like AliExpress and AliBaba are already translated in English, albeit abstruse. However, for TaoBao and Tmall, your browser will offer you the option of translating the site from Chinese to your preferred language. These sites understand that there are customers outside of China. Thus, Google Translate will be your helping hand.
Their search engine works like any other with available filters. This means that you type the product you seek and sort your results based on Best Match, Orders, Seller Ratings, or Price. Further filter your search with “Related Categories” and/or “Material” found usually on the left of those sites.
Within an item’s listing, you will have the option of choosing the Colour, Shipping Method, and Quantity. The amount of available stock is stated right by the Quantity should you wish to order in bulk. All of the sites will inform you of the estimated delivery time which will allow you to gauge your expected arrival for your order(s). Do take note of Return Policy, Seller Guarantee, Payment, and most importantly, Buyer Protection.
The importance of Product Details.
There is no greater satisfaction than in looking at the product details because a handful of the merchant will actually include actual photos of the products (zoomed in), and additional information.
A lot of the merchants upload pictures that are not theirs and that can be found online. So it is a given that you will see different merchants with identical pictures. This brings me to my next point –
How credible are they?
As with any other online shopping sites, you might be contemplating on the authenticity of the site and the safety of your payment. I cannot attest for all the sites however one must acquire a basic set of knowledge whilst shopping on these platforms. The rule of thumb is to always delve into the “Feedback” section which can be found when you scroll to the bottom of the page. There, you are able to find the average rating and actual photos/ additional comments from customers who they have successfully made transaction with and delivered to.
But if the feedback is blank, here’s a tip: Don’t.
Diamonds are your best friend.
Those diamonds on the side are not to make the page more appealing, besides the obvious bargain. They are the ranks that experienced customers have given to the merchant. A seller has to earn 5 of each rank to ascend to the ultimate Yellow Crown.
(On your right) The lowest rank: Hearts
Followed by Diamonds,
then Blue Crowns,
and ultimately, Yellow Crowns.
Again, if no customer has ranked the merchant, don’t risk it. Tip: You can save the item into your favourites and click on the “Find Similar” button. There, you will most likely find a credible merchant.
How do I choose between the most suitable paying method?
Okay, so you’re all set and ready to complete your order – here’s what you need to know – AliExpress allows you to checkout securely with either Credit Card, Western Union, Moneybookers, and Bank Transfers. Your payment will be held securely by Escrow, and is only released to the merchant after you confirm satisfactory receipt of your order.
As for TaoBao, China’s version of Paypal, Alipay, can be used to complete your transaction.
You are also allowed to pay through online banking and/or a money recharge slip for your TaoBao account from post offices in China. Additional charges can also be incurred to you for things such as for insurance, shipping of sensitive items, commissions, and so forth. Always check before confirming.
Is the middleman aka agent necessary?
Once your order is confirmed, it is time for you to receive it. AliExpress mostly offers free shipping to Singapore and certain parts of the world, however, you will have to check on the item’s listing page to confirm before placing your order.
It is not necessary for an agent if you create an Alipay account and order directly from TaoBao however it is highly encouraged. Agent is used for orders outside China. The agent allows for one to shop on these platforms hassle-free. Be aware that there are additional costs for the use of agent, on top of the delivery fee TaoBao charges. Yes, double delivery charges, although not as much. However, some of the items can only be shipped within China and this is where the agent is handy. They will ship the items to their warehouse in China before finally shipping them to you. The agent will help in liaising with all your Chinese speaking merchants and ensures that your order reaches directly to you together. For your orders to be worth all the shipping/agent charges, order in bulk. However, if you only have a few orders, share them with your friends. That way none of you have to incur much of the shipping charges as they are split among you and your friends.
One of the commonly used agent in Singapore is 65daigou.
You can also request for the agent to check for the quality of your goods, offering you a sense of security.
Well, hakuna your tatas and wait for your delivery. Duh?
The waiting game can range from 7 to 40 days, including clearing your local custom. Although, if your order does not arrive within that expected delivery time, or the wrong order was sent to you, you will need to contact the merchant directly and immediately. You should also have been aware of the refund and return policies, as advised in earlier point.