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Thread: Beginners guide to Taobao

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    Grr! Argh! meijlinder's Avatar
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    Apr 2015
    Gothenburg, Sweden

    Beginners guide to Taobao

    Was asked about shopping for watches on Taobao so thought I would do a small guide now that I have done a couple of successful orders. This also posted on the Made In China sub forum (

    This guide is from a Western perspective and from someone without knowledge or understanding of the Chinese language (and yes I know there are many different languages in China with Mandarin being the most common, but I use Chinese going forward, hope this is OK)

    For those that don't know, Taobao is one of the top 5 largest online shopping site in the world. It has over 350 million visitors in a month. It's owned by Alibaba and actually is made up of two sites. for C2C business and for b2c. All major businesses has their tmall sites and for Western brands it's one of the best ways to the Chinese market. Searching on will also give you tmall results.

    What makes Taobao difficult for Western shoppers is that it is entirely in Chinese (some translations into other south east Asian languages) and the shops only ship to China. But of course we can't let that stop us... That is where the agents come in.

    The agents
    A Taobao agent is a middleman. They are located in an area to which the Taobao merchants ship and they speak Chinese and English. You find the item you wish to purchase. Then you place an order with the agent, who will check for the availability and proceed to place the order on Taobao. The goods will be shipped to the agent. They will check it and then proceed and send it to you. This they do for a fee. Normally 8-12% of item price.

    Typical scenario:
    Me: search for watch and find one on tmall site. Copy link, paste into search engine on agent site. Press add to cart. Continue until satisfied with cart. Submit order.
    Agent: will check availability and approve order. If irregularities will update and seek confirmation. When Ok sends payment info
    Me: Pay
    Agent: Places the orders
    Agent: items arrive to agent one by one. Gets checked. Photos sent to me if wanted. Once all items arrived a shipping fee is calculated.
    Me : choose shipping method and pay
    Agent: posts package and sends tracking number
    Me: checks status of package in transit daily...
    And finally
    Me: rejoice at the sight of new watches.

    I'm not gonna advocate for one agent over the other since I haven't used all of them. There are plenty of reviews online for various services. I've only used and Both have worked well for me. But here you will have to do your own research.

    The agent system is fairly straightforward and easy. They communicate in English and I've always had good service. The difficult part can be the actual searching.

    Searching Taobao
    As I've said before all pages are in Chinese. I don't speak or read Chinese. Because of this it is good that the translation services has improved. I use Chrome for browsing Taobao. The automatic translation works surprisingly well. At least when you have gotten used to some of the stranger translations. (item becomes baby, style/collection becomes table) but you pick those up after a while.

    You can search using English words but you will get fewer results. It is recommended to try and used simplified Chinese characters. For watch related terms there is a wonderful resource put together by Ron Good (AlbertaTime on wus).
    I use this all the time copy pasting different terms together. Then when finding something interesting I browse the store where that item was located.

    Some links:
    Beijing watch factory official tmall:

    Seagull official:
    Guangzhou official:

    I've bought watches both from the big official stores and also from smaller taobao stores with VCMs. If you have an interest in Chinese watches and want to find some unique watches not available elsewhere I highly recommend trying your wings on Taobao. It can be a bit daunting at first but once you've browsed around on the site some time you start to feel more comfortable. Do your homework regarding agents and all will be fine.

    Happy hunting!
    Last edited by tribe125; Sep 10, 2015 at 03:37 PM.

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