Taobao, one of the biggest consumer-to-consumer (C2C) platform based in China are gaining high popularity amongst the younger crowd in Singapore. From cheap bargains to wide selection of goods, it is an open secret that many homeowners are purchasing their home furnishing and decorative items from Taobao.
Whether you are a Taobao skeptic or die-hard fan, we weigh in the yay and nay factors through interviews with different homeowners on their shopping experience with Taobao.
1. Prices Are Cheap and Competitive
You have heard this a million times before, the goods on Taobao are known for being notoriously cheap. So how much cheaper would it be compared to purchasing home furnising items in Singapore? Here’s a quick price comparison on two similar white oak (from North America) dining tables.
In Taobao, the 1.7 metre long table excluding chairs costs S$968* with shipping.
Here, the 1.8 metre long table excluding chairs costs S$1,199 with GST.
These sellers aren’t necessary trading in so-called inferior good. Our guess could be the sellers are unloading goods at a tiny margin over wholesale prices.
One of our shoppers, Lucas tried out Taobao and he wasn’t disappointed. “I bought my sofa, dining set and a lot of my kitchen cutleries as it was quite value for money. The delivery was quite smooth and everything was in place.” he continued.
2. Everything Is Under One Roof
Instead of walking into various stores, you can get an extensive range of products on Taobao as the platform hosts thousands of independent retailers. Unlike iKEA, a one-size-fits-all retailer (but still awesome), you could almost find any style of furnishing from Scandinavian to industrial and to other ahem ‘undefined’ style. Our homeowner, Eve, was unable to find the perfect coffee table for their home in local stores here until she shopped at Taobao.
Plus, there is no added pressure from store sales staffs. This means you can mull over your purchases, go to different various sellers and compare prices at your own convenience.
3. Nightmare Happens When Your Package Gets Lost / Damaged
Missing shipments and damaged furnishings are common bugbears that deter online purchases. Imagine the hassle of refunding or demanding for a (partial) refund on your items, and trying to convince the seller to admit or even acknowledge some of the blame in the failed delivery or defects.
Homeowner Lincoln shared how his friend bought pendant lightings from Taobao, only to have them arrive in pieces.
4. What You See Is Not What You Get
Experienced online shoppers may have realised this earlier too; goods may appear to be perfect or ideal, but fall below your expectations when it arrives.
A skeptic towards shopping at Taobao, Ann recounts how her friends had problems with their track lightings from Taobao. “They initially thought it was due to the wiring, however, the contractor advised that the issues were due to the quality of the lightbulbs,” she continued. “They then changed the brand of light bulb to a more well-known brands like Philips”, said Ann. “Try to avoid Taobao”—was Ann’s parting advice.
5. Confusion Sets In After A While
As if looking for an interior designer wasn’t tedious enough, you now have to replicate the same process on reading reviews of different sellers and the items, in Mandarin! With a plethora of items, and merchants selling very similiar items at different prices, you are more likely to get confused sifting through them in this sea of ‘treasures’.
While we were searching for Tom Dixon Beat pendant lamps, we were amazed by the range in prices from various sellers as they can range from ¥195 to ¥5000 (excluding shipping) for a set of 3 lamps! So how would you know which is a better deal? We can only say, you got to spend time to research on the sellers' credibility, product manufactured sources, seller’s credibility and the list goes on.
So Should You Purchase From Taobao?
For the value shoppers who wouldn’t mind trying Taobao, we recommend that you read up online guides on navigating Taobao or through third party agents before plunging into the sea. Do up a lot of research on the sellers' credibility and products quality.
For adverse risk takers who very much prefer to eliminate any doubts or risks with product quality and deliveries for that peace of mind, heading to physical stores may be your best bet.