Editor's note: Due to its convenience, affordable prices and quick delivery, online shopping is increasingly making life easier for expats in China. As we count down to Singles Day, the world's largest shopping festival, our foreign readers share their online shopping stories with us.
Ari James (US)
One of the first things I remember being told about China is Taobao. I was told that China had amazing online shopping options and impossibly quick delivery times. Upon my arrival in Nanjing in February, it did not take me long to start ordering things from Taobao. I slowly became versed in the language of the platform, and soon, I was getting addressed as 亲 (dear) by a variety of different stores I had purchased things from. I was finagling for extra gifts in my purchases, and becoming a more well-versed Taobao user by the day. I bought affordable bags, shoes, and my crowing joy – a humidifier that puts the most expensive ones on Amazon to shame. The most amusing thing I have ordered has to be the collection of 15 large doughnut pillows to give to my teachers after my semester at NJU. The doughnut pillows arrived the very next day in a giant bag that I lugged to campus like Santa Claus. I have had my own issues with online shopping though, one of which is when I purchased an iPhone case, only to spot a glaring typo when it came in the mail. Instead of 'guaranteed to make them weep' emblazoned on my phone case, it was instead, 'CUARATEED.' I kept the phone case. It's all part of the fun of online shopping after all. I personally can't wait for all the sales this coming 11/11!
A 22-year-old online buyer in Moscow checks a dress in November that was purchased on a Chinese e-commerce platform. Photo: Xinhua/Bai Xueqi
Taobao is a pain to use but I am an American in China. In America I bought almost everything by computer. Of course the manufacturer has higher prices than the seller, else the retail store would not have an advantage and the manufacture does not want to have the hassle of selling products, just marketing them to retail stores. Typically the manufacturer sells the product to a retail store at a fraction (less than 50% often at only 10-20%) of what the retail price is. The retail store can determine how much of a markup they want to put on it. Back to Taobao being a pain. Fist I have to go to something like Google Translate, type in an item I am looking for...ice cream maker...have it translate to Chinese. Copy the Chinese (Mandarin) and paste it into the Chinese version of Taobao. Find an item I might want, copy the URL, open up English Tabao (the English version) paste the URL into it and the item then come up. I then order it and pay for it but it goes to a warehouse and then I pay for the shipping to me from the warehouse several days later. However it is quicker than trying to find items I want by going to stores!
Customer service employees of an online store work to answer potential buyers' questions in Nantong, Jiangsu province. Photo: China Daily/Xu Peiqin
I've been shopping online for almost three years. Now I'm totally in love with Taobao. You can almost find anything you want on it. It took me a while to bring myself to the online shopping sites because most of the online shopping sites are more likely to serve Chinese customers. But once I got the knack, it became quite easy and I discovered the joys of online shopping....Good luck with your shopping spree day and enjoy!
Two college students in Moscow browse and order products on the global platform of a Chinese e-commerce firm. Photo: Xinhua
Barbara Gordon (US)
I honestly have only used Taobao a few times. Compared to websites like Amazon, I find Taobao more annoying. You have to be super careful about what you buy and where from so as to avoid scams. Be that as it may the few times I have used Taobao I was satisfied with my purchases and the service. I think if Taobao can work to better guard against online scams it will be an even more successful business venture.
China's largest e-commerce marketplace, Taobao, is showing the way in a legal minefield. Provided to China Daily
M. Hansen (US)
Since I only plan on staying in China for a short time, I've been able to use Taobao for quick cheap purchases that I won't feel particularly sad about leaving behind when I move back home. While I can't speak for the more expensive items on the site, my experience so far with what I have purchased in terms of quality have all been positive.... though China's mail system is a whole different story.
Staff members of Tmall, a business-to-consumer marketplace of China's biggest e-commerce platform Alibaba, cheer for rising order volumes in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang province, Nov 11, 2013. Photo: Xinhua
I once ordered a dress from an online shop while living in China. In just less than a day, I received the package. The order process is pretty easy and I am amazed at how quickly they send out the orders. Plus the delivery doesn't cost any money. The parcel can be fully tracked and I can check the progress through to delivery. The dress is amazing and I look forward to wearing it to prom! It is probably the most amazing online shopping experience I have ever had.
A courier en route to deliver packages in Beiing, Oct 11, 2014. Photo: IC
It's super addictive to shop on Taobao! I can just slump in front of my lap and browse through Taobao for the whole day! I'm so into traditional Chinese gifts. I would like to purchase some cute traditional Chinese paper cuts, handicraft bookmarks and Beijing Opera masks for myself. I'm not going to miss this year's shopping spree!
Photo provided to China Daily