Friday, 16 November 2012

How To Order from Taobao

Hello all! ^_~ I have been quite bored this week; not much has gone on but to be honest, I've been stuck on what to blog about! Until a friend launches a discussion on a Facebook page about how the hell to buy anything on Taobao! I have bought several times from Taobao so I thought I'd write an article about how to find stores, translate/work your way around the site and eventually purchase items!
First of all, Taobao is a Chinese e-commerce site where you can set up a store and sell items. A lot of indie Lolita brands have their stores there, such as Kidsyoyo, HMHM, Infanta and Dear Celine - think of it as a Chinese eBay! Not only can you get indie Lolita brand clothing there, you can also find clothing for pretty much any fashion style as well as homewares, furniture, kitchenware, etc.! Unfortunately it's probably a lot harder to buy furniture from China and I don't know any stores for home and kitchen wares (and I can imagine you can find a lot of the stores/items on eBay too) so I'll just be focusing on clothing/accessories/jewellery/fashion item stores for now!

You cannot buy from Taobao unless you speak proficient Chinese and have a Chinese bank account. Most stores don't ship internationally either but if you speak Chinese, you can ask individual stores if they will ship abroad. You can't really get a Chinese bank account unless you have stayed in China for a medium or long time and I think you can get a card that you put pre-paid money on, like a store card but again, these are hard to obtain if you don't speak Chinese or live in China. Instead, shopping services are people/businesses that live in or near China (such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc.) and take it upon themselves to buy your items for you and ship them to you. It is by far the easiest way to buy items from Taobao.

Next, you need to know where to buy from! A lot of girls get put off or intimidated by Taobao because they start at the front page of the website; there are just so many stores to choose from, find and discover, you don't know what to enter into the search bar and combined with the scary looking Chinese characters, you can see why a lot of girls stay away. Personally I find it a lot easier to start with the starting page of an individual store as you can just browse through the items they sell and if you want to buy more than one item, shipping from the store to the shopping service is a lot cheaper as it's flat-rate based usually. You can also use translating tools/websites like Google Translate to translate English words/search terms to Chinese, then copy and paste the Chinese characters into the search bar but you will no doubt have a lot of search results, some stores may be dubious or dodgy and it will look very intimidating.

Therefore, I have created these Google documents with all the Taobao stores I know on them! You can find tons of store links online, simply by searching something like "Lolita taobao stores" or "Gyaru taobao stores" and someone will have provided some store links. I have collaborated years worth of searching and databases to create the Taobao store links of DOOM! They are organised by fashion style and some by item; for example, all the wig shops are together. Most of them have proper shop names but some are simply called "Shop blahblahblah" or use the seller's username as the shop name is in Chinese - if you could translate or know what any of the unnamed shop names are (even if it were the Chinese words in English letters, like Jie or something), I'd be eternally grateful!

Taobao Spreadsheet of Doom

I will add more over time as I find them but don't forget that shops open and close all the time, as well as choose to sell totally different things! So if you click on a shop and it's either closed down or sells different items than the description, feel free to let me know and keep it as updated as possible!

Okay, so now let's actually browse Taobao.

Method 1) Starting at the Taobao home page and searching for items, regardless of store. I choose not to translate any of the pages as Google Translate can be kind of screwy and you tend to remember things/characters/places anyway.

Here are some screenshots (click to make them bigger). This is what the front page of Taobao looks like. You can see where the search bar is and can search all the items on Taobao or by shop items (like Buy It Now on eBay or by auctions. I didn't even know Taobao had auctions but I guess you'd need a proxy bidder or a very patient shopping service to bid for you. The big orange button next to the search bar is obviously the "Search" button!

So, to find whatever you want to search for in Chinese, simply use a translating website like Google Translate. I used an easy term: blouse.

Copy and paste it into the search bar and click "Search" or press "Enter"! You will come to a page with lots of writing on, these are simply the searching preferences. You can see you can search by brand and whether the items are for men or women in the image below. Not much else is important.

Below is the same search page; simply scroll down and you will find the items that match your search term. Like shopping on any other website, the price is listed as well as the item title (not really important, you can see the photos) so just click on which item takes your fancy!

Okay, so the item page is pretty much the same for if you were to click items from a store page so let's get onto Method 2) Browsing a store's items - click or copy & paste a store URL into your browser and let's get going!

I picked Dear Celine to be easy - their store front is more professional looking than others but somewhere near the top of each store page, you will see a button to go to the store's home Taobao page and Dear Celine also has one for sizing tips. The others aren't important; one of them is shipping so you can check to see if the store ships internationally if you like. Also to the top right of the page there is another search bar; the orange button is to search all items on Taobao and the grey one is to search just from the store's items.

Along the left there is a navigation bar with product categories on it - some stores fill their store front up chockablock with advertising, new products, etc. so you may have to scroll down a little to find it.

To be honest, I just browse all the items a shop has to offer as it's easy and store categories can get lost in translation. The top writing in bold is always to browse all their items. For some reason Google Translate has mixed up the word "baby" for "search"! So if you translate it, the search bars will say "Baby" and the category menu will say "View all baby"! Simply browse all the items and click the ones you want again; so I don't have to keep pressing "Back", I open up each item in a new tab.

Now you've finally got to the last step on Taobao! This is what all product pages will look like. The top text to the right of the photo is the price (not sure why the price is always stroked though, it is definitely the price!), you can see the condition (most of the time it is new but I do have some links for secondhand brand Lolita and even vintage items!), size and colour choices. Most Lolita brands on Taobao will custom size and colour but this blouse is available in black and white but only the white colour is available so black must be out of stock. There is also how many of the item is left in stock underneath, super useful for ordering large amounts or if you're wondering why you can't buy something!

If you scroll down, you will see the product description and usually a lot more photos - I didn't screenshot this as all descriptions will be different and you will definitely have to use a translating tool to read any of it. There is always usually sizing and measurements for each size, usually in centimetres. After you've read everything you need to know and if you like the item, simply save the link in a document/wordpad/spreadsheet or copy and paste it into an ordering form from your chosen shopping service.

Speaking of which, you may not have chosen a shopping service yet. As mentioned above, a shopping service is the person who will actually buy the items for you, have them shipped to their address and then ship them on to your location. They always charge commission to make a profit and prices vary from shopping service to shopping service. There is a lot of choice out there and simply searching "Taobao shopping service" into Google brings up a good couple of pages worth.

The best ones I have found are Dolly Poddle, Kibbon Fashion HouseTaobao Focus, Celestial Delinquent, Taobaospree and TaobaoBuying. I have personally used Dolly Poddle twice, Taobaospree and am currently using Kibbon but have not received my items yet so cannot comment as of yet. Most are reliable and offer different commission rates; there are a lot of reviews of their services so it's a good idea to check them out before using!

After you've chosen a shopping service to use, you can send them a message/email telling them what you want to buy by sending the links to the items with what sizes, colour, etc. you need, where you are located, how you'd like to pay, etc. They also sometimes have ordering forms to fill out which can be easier if you're not sure how much information they need. Shopping services usually need two payments - one payment is the total cost of the items, shipping from the Taobao store to them and commission rates. The next payment you pay when the items have arrived and is shipping - they usually package up the items and weigh them first as shipping costs are based on weight. After that, simply wait for your items to be delivered! Every shopping service I have used have been very helpful and good at communication - they tell me when they have bought the items, estimated waiting times, when the items have arrived to them, when they have shipped the items and so on so you are usually very informed and know where you are in the ordering process.

Some people buy from Taobao to begin with because they are amazed at the low prices. Even though item prices may be low, two lots of shipping and commission soon adds up - it cost £40 to send two pairs of shoes to me - the shoes cost £18 but quickly turned into £35 each with all the other costs. Therefore it's best not to buy super cheap items or very heavy items as the costs will simply not work out - it's best to go for medium priced items as the costs will be spread more and they will no doubt be better quality. A blog I read once said "Yo're not paying ridiculously low prices for low quality items, you're paying a reasonable amount of money for good quality items" or something to that effect - so unfortunately Taobao may save you money sometimes but not always.

I think I have just about covered buying from Taobao now - sorry but there is a high chance you'll be hooked to browsing Taobao for hours on end, heh heh! If you have any other questions about Taobao, leave them in the commenting section and I will reply and maybe edit the article to include the topic if it's important or relevant to other people! Thanks a lot and I hope you enjoyed this article! ^_~


  1. Hey :) Thanks again for this sweety! It's strange how I literally just yesterday tried to find a guide for this haha :D
    my payday isn't until next month but I will use this when I am ready to order.

    1. Aww, you're very welcome again! ^^ Sounds awesome, I'd love to see what you order! There's such amazing stuff to choose from! :) <3

    2. Wow, this is awesome, thanks so much for writing this - I've been tempted to try to order from there, but never quite figured out how to start. This was really useful! (Now I just have to find some money XD.)

    3. Hi Vita, I'm so glad it's helpful to you! I agree, it is best to save money and splurge of Taobao, especially to make the rather pricy shipping and commission costs spread more evenly! Thanks so much for your comment! ^^ xx

  2. Awesome! I really like it. Very detailed instructions~

    I would vouch for and they don't charge a service fee if you're in Australia.

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