Taobao, one of the biggest consumer-to-consumer (C2C) platforms based in China, is gaining popularity amongst the younger crowd in Singapore. From cheap bargains to its wide selection of goods, it is an open secret that many homeowners are starting to purchase their home furnishings and decorative items from the site.
Whether you are a Taobao skeptic or die-hard fan, we weigh in on the yay and nay factors of shopping on Taobao, as revealed through interviews with different homeowners on their experience.
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 furnishing items in Singapore? Here’s a quick price comparison on two similar white oak (from North America) dining tables.
On 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 necessarily trading inferior goods. Our guess would be that they 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 cutlery as it was quite value for money. The delivery was quite smooth and everything was in place,” he explained.
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 can find almost any style of furnishing, from Scandinavian, to industrial, and even other ‘undefined’ styles. Our homeowner, Eve, was unable to find the perfect coffee table for her home in local stores here, until she shopped on Taobao.
Plus, there is no added pressure from store sales staff. This means you can mull over your purchases, go to various sellers and compare prices at your own convenience.
1. Nightmares Happen When Your Packages Get 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.
2. What You See Is Not What You Get
Experienced online shoppers may have realised this: goods sometimes appear perfect or ideal online, but fall way below your expectations when they arrive.
A skeptic towards shopping on 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.
3. Confusion Sets In After A While
As if looking for an interior designer wasn’t tedious enough, you now have to replicate the process of 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 — they ranged from ¥195 to ¥5000 (excluding shipping) for a set of 3 lamps! So how would you know which is a better deal? There’s no two ways about it: you have to spend time finding out more about the sellers’ credibility, product manufacturing sources and various other factors.
So Should You Purchase From Taobao?
For the value-seeking shoppers who don’t mind trying Taobao out, we recommend that you read up on online guides regarding how best to navigate Taobao before plunging head first into the site. Do a lot of research before making your purchases.
For those more averse to risk taking, and for those who very much prefer to eliminate any doubts or risks relating to product quality, heading to physical stores may be your best bet.