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7 Useful Tips You Need to Know Before Shopping on Taobao

By Jenny Leung 24 September 2018

When it comes to online shopping, there’s really no place like Taobao. From the latest fashion pieces to vintage S Club 7 CDs, we guarantee you will always find what you’re looking for - well, that’s if you can read Chinese. Despite being Hong Kong and China’s biggest online shopping platform, Taobao is simply not English-friendly. Lucky for you, Localiiz's very own Editor (and self-proclaimed Taobao expert) is ready and willing to share her tips on how to navigate Taobao with ease. Happy shopping!

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1. Lost in translation

First and foremost, let's get all the Chinese text out of the way – find yourself a translation extension you can add to your browser. For Google Chrome users, we highly recommend using the Google Translate extension. Simply click "Add to Chrome", let it install, and you will be able to translate entire webpages with just the click of a button! Do bear in mind that the translation extension can only do so much and it isn't always accurate, but it will definitely be able to give you a rough idea of what you're looking at and where to go. If that's too much hassle, bribing a Chinese-speaking friend to help you with things like registering for an account will also do the trick.


2. Search it right

Now, it's time to start shopping. Depending on the item you are searching for, you can find a sizeable number of results just by using English keywords and phrases, but these items tend to be on the more expensive side. To help you out, here are some keywords and quick links that you can use:

  • Fashion: "冷淡风连衣裙" (simple one-piece dress) / "超仙头饰" (goddess-like headpieces) /  "bf风外套" (boyfriend-style jacket) / "外贸女/男装" (exported women/men clothing) / "童装" (children's wear)
  • Home: Ji You Jia - this is a sub-site of Taobao that is solely focused on homeware, furniture, and decorations. It works the same way as Taobao, so you do not need to set up another account.
  • Sports/Outdoors: Cool City - in the sports and outdoors section of Taobao, you will be able to browse through a huge catalogue of everything from yoga mats to treadmills.
  • General keywords: "2018新款" (2018 brand new) / "夏季" (summer) / "秋冬" (autumn&winter) / "北欧风" (northern-European style) / "简约" (simple style) / "欧美风" (European and American style)

3. Finding the one

While you're browsing, keep in mind that each shop and item is rated. If you hover your cursor over a shop's name, you will see a different number of hearts, diamonds, or crowns that each shop has. Hearts mean they are more amateur, while diamonds indicate they have a slow but steady stream of customers. Shops with crowns have higher rankings, with gold crowns being the highest. Obviously, it goes without saying that the higher the ranking, the more assurance you are likely to get with a purchase. You can also sort your results by "Sales Volume", which will rearrange your results to show bestselling items at the top.

taobao shopping fails

4. Stay for the comments

Once you have found something you like, be sure to read any comments and reviews left by other buyers. Images that are included in the review are especially helpful as it gives you a rough idea as to what the item looks like in real life. The comment section is also a great place to find some hilarious photos of how bad the quality of a product actually is. We love a good #fail.


5. Signed, sealed, delivered

Whether you’re buying just one or 20 things, Taobao will take care of the delivery for you. Simply click on the items you wish to purchase in your shopping cart, click "Settlement" at the bottom, then make sure your address is highlighted, and tick the "After consignment" delivery option. This means that your goods will be delivered to a consignment warehouse. From there you can choose which items you would like to be packaged and delivered together, so that you will only have to pay for an overall delivery cost just once. If you only have one item, choosing to send your item to the warehouse means you don't have to speak to a seller about any delivery complications. Be careful though, as you can leave your purchases at the warehouse for no more than 20 days.

6. Taobao to-go

Download the app. Although you can't use a translation extension on the app (unless you bribe a friend, like we suggested earlier), you can still navigate through the app with relative ease. There are more images and photos of products on the app, and basic icons like the shopping cart, categories, and profile settings are easy to identify. Also, if there is a need to speak to the seller, it is easier to do this through the app. Again, we can't stress enough the importance of having a Chinese-speaking buddy.


7. Take a picture why don’t you

This is another reason you should download the app. Instead of going back and forth with keywords using copy and paste, all you have to do is upload a picture either by taking a new photo or selecting one from your photo library. Taobao's search engine will work its magic and come up with results that match your image. Although it is not 100 percent accurate all the time (hey, no one's perfect), it is still a super handy feature to have.

Read More! Check out 7 Weird Things You Can Buy on Taobao, and explore the rest of our Style section.

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Jenny Leung

Senior editor

Born in Hong Kong and raised in the UK, Jenny grew up with the best of both worlds. She loves just about anything to do with music and doesn’t shy away from belting out a tune or two when it comes to karaoke. If she’s not out and about exploring the city and practising her photography skills, she’s probably tucked up in bed with a book or glued to her laptop doing her online shopping.