How to Buy and Ship Furniture on Taobao: Your FAQs, Answered
This is how the pros do it.
Taobao is known as a platform that offers affordable yet stylish furniture. But what do you do if you aren’t proficient in Mandarin? When should you use a Third Party Forwarder? How do you tell if a product is legitimate?
In collaboration with the Taobao experts from @hownow.taobao, we asked you to send us any questions you have about shopping on Taobao — and here’s what they had to say:
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How to use Taobao - must I be able to read Chinese?
It helps if you can read Chinese, but if you can’t, the easiest way to use Taobao is via Google Translate on your desktop to get a translation of the entire page you’re on. That said, it’s not the most accurate, to be honest. You can watch our step-by-step video guide below for more details!
When should I use Taobao image search vs. word search?
Image search runs on Taobao’s photo-recognition software. It’s useful when you’re not sure how to describe the item you’re looking for, but have a photo or screenshot of it. The downside is that accuracy varies — the less common the item, the less accurate the search results.
Word search is more commonly used because it’s more accurate if you know exactly what you’re looking for and non-Mandarin-speaking users can do so with Google Translate.
Qanvast’s note: To make things even easier for you, here is a cheat sheet of keywords that will come in handy when furniture shopping on Taobao:
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How to ship furniture from Taobao to Singapore, and is it expensive?
If you’re shipping heavy and/or bulky items like furniture, the most direct option would be sea shipment by Cainiao (Taobao's logistics arm). This is cheaper than their air shipment — but even this can be quite expensive!
What’s the cheapest way to ship furniture from Taobao?
Using a Third Party Forwarder (3PF)! These are essentially freight forwarding companies that charge by cubic metre — so you pay by volume rather than weight, which will significantly reduce your shipping cost.
The process can be rather confusing at the beginning, but it’s definitely worth it! We did a review and step-by-step tutorial of two 3PF companies we’ve used before (Guangzhou Hongyu and EKLINK); you can watch them here.
How do I calculate the weightage price for heavy and/or large items?
For Cainiao, you’ll be able to get an estimate when you check out, but you’ll only know the actual shipping cost once it reaches the warehouse.
For 3PFs, you can ask the seller for the package’s dimensions and use a cbm calculator to find out the total volume in cubic meters, which then translates to an estimated shipping cost. However, the final cost will still vary since 3PFs will repack your items upon shipping.
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Should I ship from Taobao, ezbuy or use 3PFs (Third Party Forwarders)?
It really depends on what you’re shipping.
Shipping directly from Taobao (via Cainiao) is good for items that are small and light (e.g. clothes and household accessories), but not cost-efficient for large and/or heavy items.
ezbuy is a great alternative for its ease of navigation in English. Plus, if you have a Prime account and are able to find your items on ezbuy, you can save quite a bit on shipping. However, item variety and reviews are limited and prices are generally marked up as compared to buying directly from Taobao.
3PFs are only worth it if you’re buying large, heavy or bulky items like furniture, as mentioned earlier.
For reference, I used a 3PF back in August 2020 to ship a TV console, sofa, bed frame, dining table, electric dryer, bathroom mirrors, toilet accessories, taps and a shoe rack. At a total of 2.91cbm and a rate of RMB379 per cbm, it cost me SGD230 - but this was before shipping prices went up. The same 3PF now charges RMB420 per cbm!
Can I ship bulky items using Cainiao, without using a 3PF?
Yes, it’s possible via Cainiao’s sea shipment! But it’s a little tricky: if your (single/consolidated) parcel is under 30kg, it will be considered a ‘small parcel delivery’ charged by weight. If your parcel is over 30kg, it will be considered a ‘heavy parcel delivery’ charged by cubic meters, which is generally more cost-effective.
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How do I know if something on Taobao is legitimate and of good quality?
There are 4 main factors we usually take note of:
1) Number of people who have purchased the item:
- Look out for “__ 人付款”. This refers to how many people have paid for the item.
- Tip: When comparing sellers for a similar product, opt for a store where more people have purchased the item.
Number of users who have purchased the item
2) Is the seller a regular Taobao store, or a Tmall store?
- Tmall (天猫) refers to official, verified stores. These sellers are deemed to be more reliable.
- Tip: For electronics or items that you want to be of higher quality, you may wish to look for Tmall stores. For smaller items like home decor, or items where quality isn’t a concern, regular Taobao stores work fine.
Tmall stores vs. regular sellers on Taobao
3) Number of reviews
- Look out for “评价”. This refers to the number of reviews.
4) Photo reviews
- Look at reviews with photos under “视频 / 图片” for a better gauge on what the real product looks like vs product photos.
Number of reviews (left) and photo reviews (right)
For a step-by-step video guide, check out our video here.
What should I do if something I ordered on Taobao doesn’t arrive in good condition?
Firstly, check if the seller is able to give you a full/partial refund. Most reputable sellers will do so and/or offer a one-for-one replacement of your item.
If the seller is being unreasonable, approach Taobao Customer Service of your 3PF agent (or ezbuy) to sort it out with the seller.
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And there you have it — tips on how to shop on Taobao like a pro. If you’re still not sure where to begin, check out our Taobao store recommendations:
- 8 Trendy Taobao Buys to Make Your Home Look the Way You Want
- 10 Chic Taobao Furniture Picks for Design-Savvy Homeowners
- Where to Shop on Taobao for Smart, Space-Saving Furniture
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