The Taobao Shopping Experience: An Insider’s Guide

Taobao, often considered the Chinese equivalent of Amazon, is a vast online shopping platform known for its extensive range of products and competitive pricing.

If you’ve found a product on Amazon, there’s a good chance it’s also available on Taobao – provided you know the right keywords to search for it.

In this post, I’d like to share some insights into Taobao, from a buyer’s perspective.

Taobao homepage

Endless Array of Products

Right off the bat, once you’ve signed up and logged into Taobao, you’re presented with a plethora of products on the homepage.

It showcases a wide variety of items you can purchase, along with suggestions that the site thinks you might like based on your previous searches and shopping habits.

As someone who has been an avid online shopper for years, frequenting platforms like eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and Red Ribbon, I can attest that the volume and variety of goods available on Taobao are quite unparalleled.

Endless scrolling of products

Things are Cheap!

It’s well-known that many products we use are manufactured in China, so it’s not surprising that items found on Amazon can often be found on Taobao at significantly lower prices.

For instance, a quick search for an iPhone screen protector on Amazon reveals prices ranging from $5 for the cheapest option to $18 for the most expensive, with an average cost of about $11.

Amazon screen protector prices

On Taobao, however, prices for a similar item start as low as 9.90 yuan (approximately USD 1.37) to 69 yuan (around USD 9.5), with an average price of about 40 yuan (USD 5).

Taobao screen protector prices

However, price isn’t the only factor to consider when making a purchase. Product quality, shipping fees, and delivery times are also important considerations.

My point isn’t to convince you that Taobao is always the cheaper option, but rather to highlight its potential for offering similar, if not identical, products at more attractive prices.

It’s worth checking Taobao when looking to get the best bang for your buck.

But there’s an exception

However, it’s important to note that not everything on Taobao is cheaper compared to Amazon and other e-commerce platforms. The price often depends on the item’s source and shipping location.

For example, the Cricut Explorer 3 machine, which is probably not manufactured in China, costs around 3500 yuan on Taobao, equivalent to about $480 USD.

Cricut Explorer 3 on Amazon
Price of Cricut Explorer 3 on
Cricut Explorer 3 on Taobao
Price of Cricut Explorer 3 on Taobao

This is significantly higher than Amazon’s price of around $249, not including shipping.

Detailed Logistics Information

One critical aspect of online shopping is tracking your order: knowing when it’s dispatched and when it will arrive at your doorstep.

While most established e-commerce stores provide this information, Taobao takes logistics tracking to another level of detail.

The following screenshot gives you the of the kind of comprehensive logistic information provided for every product ordered from Taobao. They are in Chinese, but I’ll explain.

Taobao logistic information

But first, let’s first understand the delivery options Taobao offers, as they may vary by country and region.

Essentially, there are two shipping modes: by sea and by air. Additionally, you have two methods for how your items are shipped: directly or collectively.

If you purchase just one item, you can opt to have it shipped directly to you, either by sea or by air.

However, if you’ve ordered multiple items from different sellers on Taobao, you can choose the collective shipping option, again, either by air or by sea.

In collective shipping, each seller sends your product to a dedicated warehouse. Once all your items have arrived at the warehouse (which can take about 3-7 days), Taobao can then package them together and ship them to you or your designated address.

No matter which shipping mode you choose, Taobao provides comprehensive updates about your order’s journey. These updates include:

  • The status of the product on the seller’s side (acceptance, processing, and dispatching)
  • The status of the product in transit (location and intermittent stops en route to the warehouse)
  • The status of the product in the warehouse (arrival, processing, and packaging for shipment)
  • The status of the product during shipping (departure from the port, arrival at the destination port, and arrival at the destination warehouse)
  • The status of last-mile delivery to your address

Deals at Lower Prices

If you’re a savvy online shopper, you’re probably familiar with various strategies to purchase items at reduced prices.

For example, on Amazon, waiting for sales events like Black Friday or Cyber Monday can lead to significant savings. Similarly, hunting for coupons or discount codes on other sites can also lower the cost of your purchases.

Similarly, Taobao offers numerous ways to shop smarter and save money. To start, you might come across shop vouchers. Additionally, Taobao has a system of coins that can directly be converted into discount cash.

There are several ways to earn these coins, including:

  • Reviewing a purchased product
  • Claiming coins after making a purchase
  • Participating in in-house Taobao games

Beyond that, some shops on Taobao also offer discounts to returning customers, encouraging shoppers to come back for more deals.

Final Thoughts

Taobao is like a huge online shopping place, almost like Amazon but in China, with tons of different things you can buy for really good prices.

You can find almost anything you want there, often cheaper than other places. But it’s not always the cheapest for everything, especially items not made in China. Taobao also makes it easy to keep track of your orders with detailed shipping info, and there are lots of ways to save money like with shop vouchers or coins you can earn.

Whether you’re used to shopping online or new to it, Taobao is worth checking out for deals and a wide selection of products.