The Ultimate Newbie’s Guide for Furniture Shopping on Taobao

December 5, 2019

To Taobao or not to Taobao?

It’s no secret that we all love a good bargain, and where better to dig up dirt-cheap deals than Taobao? Touted as China’s answer to Amazon, the e-commerce giant is an all-in-one marketplace where you can get your hands on an endless variety of quality products – from furnishings to homeware and even electronics, all at competitive prices.

Ka Tin Court by hoom studio

Interior Firm: hoom studio

The only catch is that the Chinese e-retailer doesn’t exactly make it easy for first-time buyers to navigate the labyrinth of listings. Here are some beginner tips to keep in mind during your Taobao furniture haul!

1. Know your options

There are various ways to start your Taobao journey, but we recommend buying straight from Taobao if you want to get the best bang for your buck.

Sea Crest Villa by Dream Interior Design Decoration

Going direct gives you access to the complete range of sellers and products, so you can hunt down the cheapest deals sans the agent fees. Bear in mind that everything is in Chinese so it might be confusing for some people – Chinese translation sites like fanyi.baidu.com and fanyi.youdao.com might be able to help, but you can always count on Google Translate if all else fails!

must read taobao shopping guide

Of course, you have the option of relying on a third-party agent, which can be especially helpful for those who aren’t proficient in Chinese. Not only do they help to communicate with the merchants, but they also take charge of payment, shipping and tracking so you won’t have to worry about messing up your orders.
However, you may want need to foot a small agent fee.

2. Keywords are key

Not sure how to search for a specific product in Chinese? We’ve got a cheat sheet of commonly searched terms to help you sieve it out.

Industrial Chic工业别致
Home decor家居用品
Double bed双人床
Bedroom dresser卧室梳妆台
Coffee table咖啡桌/茶几
TV console电视柜
Open-arm chair扶手椅

3. Check the ratings

Despite Taobao’s efforts on weeding out counterfeits, it’s best to still take measures to safeguard yourself from unscrupulous merchants. Before making any purchase, ensure that you’re buying from a reliable Taobao seller. One straightforward way is to check on their ratings, which are based on customers’ feedback and logistics. Ratings span across three levels: Star, Diamond and Crown (from low to high, Crown being the most reliable).

Island Harbourview by Aims Design

Interior Firm: Aims Design

However, ratings aren’t everything. Some newer Taobao players might only be starting to build up their reputation and have yet to chalk up enough points to garner a Crown rating. On the other hand, established names who have been in the scene for some time should boast a good amount of successful transactions and rank at least in the diamond tier. Thus, it’s important to take into consideration when the business is set up, so you can better gauge their authenticity.

Savannah by Space Design

Interior Firm: Space Design

To help you get started, here’s a list of trustworthy brands where you can find affordable yet high-quality furniture:

1. 林氏木业 / Lin Shi Mu Ye
2. 木邻 / Mulin Home
3. 吱音 / Ziinlife!
4. 源氏木语家居旗舰店品牌直销 / Genji’s Wooden Home Shop
5. 十八纸 / Eighteen Papers

4. Feedback is important

Reviews matter! Apart from the rating system, always check out reviews to see what past buyers have to say about the seller. Some reviews also come with pictures of the actual item, so you can get a better idea of how it would look like in real life. Some points to look out for:

  • How satisfactory is their service?
  • Does the product description match the actual item?
  • How many of their customers actually submitted reviews?
  • What is the percentage of positive reviews versus negative ones?

When reading through the feedback, be sure to watch out for bogus reviews. Some retailers use fake accounts to post good reviews – which makes them more visible on the trending page and in turn, boosts sales for their products.

must read taobao shopping guide

Look out for sellers with a good mix of balanced reviews, with the pros and cons properly laid out. If you’re still doubtful, you can also seek out a second opinion by searching up reviews on other websites and forums. Better to be safe than sorry!

5. Shipping

Shipping fees are based on the actual weight or the volumetric weight of the item, depending on whichever is higher. Therefore, it’s a good idea to seek out a service that offers the lowest per cubic meter rate – we break down the rates below based on a 5kg package, complete with a comparison to see which is the most cost-effective!

The Orchards by Interium Design & Contracting Limited

Shipping via professional freight companies like Nippon Express, AGI, and Hellmann Worldwide Logistics is another alternative. In fact, it might be better if you’ve bought bulkier and fragile items (e.g. sofas, dining tables and lights) and you want them to arrive in tip-top condition.

And if you’re shipping by volumetric weight, you’d want to make your purchase as value for money as possible. Rather than carting out items from different sellers, consolidate your orders into one bundle so you’ll make full use of the container space – this saves you a ton of money as you won't have to ship separate parcels. Now all you have to do is to wait for your brand-new furniture to arrive at your doorstep!

Ultima by Magis Design Studio

Interior Firm: Magis Design Studio

Pro-tip from experienced homeowners who have shopped on Taobao: More is more! Home decor items such as tableware and ornaments can be fragile and prone to breakage, so consider purchasing them in bulk instead.

6. Storage

Or perhaps, your home just isn’t quite ready to be furnished yet. A delay in shipment can lead to extra storage fees if your items are held for more than 21 days in the China warehouse. If you’re not able to take possession of the products immediately, deposit your loot at a safe space or rent out a storage unit for the time being.

Tian Yu Hai by am PLUS

Interior Firm: am PLUS

7. Currency conversions & payment methods

Look out for Taobao buying agents - they may inflate prices over the actual exchange rate. When making the payment with credit cards, keep in mind that there might be an additional transaction fee for foreign currencies as well.

Ching Chun Court by X Ka Design

Interior Firm: X Ka Design

8. Returns/refunds

Returning an item to Taobao isn’t as straightforward as simply taking it back to the store. Although warranties are included for most of the bulkier goods, the returns and exchange process can be rather tedious as you’re required to communicate with the seller directly and pay for the hefty shipping fees in order to send it back. But what happens when you encounter nasty, problematic sellers?

Harbour Heights by Shine Interior Design

Interior Firm: Shine Interior Design

Upon submitting a return and/or refund request, Taobao gives the seller 48 hours to accept or reject the request, and if there’s no response after the stipulated timeframe, the e-retailer will automatically refund the item for you. There are cases in which disputes may arise, but you can get Taobao to intervene through a refund mediation process – where they will review your case and take action after coming to an objective conclusion.

Alternatively, you can also ring them up via the Taobao helpline or speak to someone via the help chat function.

Disclaimer: Prices and information are accurate at the time of writing.

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