We sat down (virtually) with Victoria Pang, a new homeowner, to find out how we could get our dream home — even on a tight budget. The answer? Taobao. Here are the tips and tricks we gleaned to help make your furniture shopping and set-up as seamless as possible.
It isn’t difficult to see why people adore shopping on Taobao: you can get basically anything you want at a fraction of the usual retail price. From self-care must-haves to customisable handmade furniture, and even some pretty weird knick-knacks — Taobao has it all. But that’s easy to say when you’re (a) fluent in Chinese or (b) already a seasoned Taobao shopper. What about the rest of us? You’ve got to admit that while there are many perks to shopping on Taobao, it can get quite frustrating or overwhelming. Thus, we sought out a formidable Taobao expert to walk us through the fundamentals of turning an apartment into a stylish abode decked out in Taobao. If you’ve been experiencing inertia when it comes to dipping your toes into the world of Taobao, keep reading for Victoria‘s best tips and tricks to getting Taobao furniture for HDB flats!
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Tip #1: Starting With The Taobao App
Victoria’s Bathroom. Image Credits: Omar Shiddiq
Before Taobao opened a local office and became more popular with the Singaporean crowd, I was using a third-party website called ezbuy. While I had to pay a service fee, it was a comparatively small price to pay for the conversing, handling and shipping that they got done for me. Unfortunately, ezbuy soon fell out with Taobao and were no longer able to help me shop on the site. That was when I started shopping on Taobao directly and to my surprise, it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined it to be!
In fact, using the Taobao app to shop is easy because they do it all for you — from consolidating your items to the whole shipping process, even if you’ve shopped at multiple stores. You’ve just got to take the first step and get the app!
Check Out: How to Buy From Taobao: 2021 Step-by-Step Taobao Shopping Guide
Login to Taobao to buy mirror here and Aesop-inspired bottles here.
Tip #2: No Mandarin, No Problem — Use The Image-Search Function
Victoria’s Kitchen. Image Credits: Omar Shiddiq
My Mandarin is admittedly quite terrible, but having even the slightest bit of basic Mandarin knowledge can go a long way when shopping on Taobao. The bare minimum would be to attempt to recognise some of the basic Chinese characters by taking note of keywords. This is vital when trying to avoid unpleasant surprises from showing up at your doorstep!
However, for those of you who aren’t at all familiar with the language, the image-search function is a lifesaver. Simply upload the image of whatever you’re looking for (whether you were out window shopping and saw something you liked, or from google) and Taobao will list out all the similar items — all without you typing a word into the search bar!
Now all you need to do is find a similar item with the best reviews, and/or the cheapest one, and you’re good to go!
Check Out: How to Navigate Taobao: 2021 Keywords Search Guide, How to Image Search on Taobao and Find Products
Login to Taobao to buy Japanese knives here.
Tip #3: 极有家 Is Where It’s At
Victoria’s Bedroom. Image Credits: Omar Shiddiq
Unlike most, I actually have no loyalty to the sellers of Taobao! But that’s only because, a specific seller might sell bed frames for cheap but their chairs are expensive. On the other hand, another store might have cheap chairs but expensive bed frames. So it’s hard to find a go-to seller for all your purchases. Instead, what I look out for is the price and real-life reviews of each item. I spent most of my time on Taobao looking for kitchenware — this includes Tupperware, utensils, chopping boards, organisers, pots and pans, microwaves, kettles and even blenders!
Pro-tip #1: Just remember that their electronics are only equipped with Chinese plugs so you’ll have to either buy adaptors or install international sockets as we did.
If you’re looking for home-and-living ware, I would suggest sourcing it from the subsidiary site of Taobao 极有家. This is a platform where sellers specialising in anything one might need for a home are gathered and organised into categories for ease of shopping. And you can find everything here — and I mean everything. From tiles to fluted panels, even flooring and carpentry services!
Tip #4: The Need For Refunds Are Rare, But It’s Best To Know How
Victoria’s Dining Room. Image Credits: Omar Shiddiq
I didn’t go into Taobao blind — I looked through Castlery, Forty-Two, Hipvan, and Ikea to compare prices before making my decision. I found certain items from Ikea comparable in price to Taobao, but the downside for all of the other stores were their limitations in design. This is something that Taobao has in abundance.
Many people think that furniture from Taobao is not long-lasting but assume that quality is assured for items sourced locally. However, a majority of the local stores actually get their goods from China suppliers — many of whom have listings on Taobao. This is why I believe that China-made items aren’t always of inferior quality. That being said, there are definite perks to buying locally: i.e. customer service and easy returns.
Shopping on Taobao, there will always be a risk when it comes to shipping. Things could get damaged on the way over. And it did happen to me once — my dining table arrived with a crack at its base. Because the store was based overseas, I couldn’t return the table. And the seller refused to send over another one because it was just a small crack.
That being said, out of all the items I bought, 97% came in excellent condition and only 3% arrived with some issues — but I would still say it is worth it because of the total cost savings. It is just a little more troublesome in the unlikely event that something goes wrong. Quality is really not an issue in these situations, it’s just the frustrating experience of having to communicate with the sellers when things go wrong.
Check Out: How to Refund on Taobao: 2021 Step-by-Step Taobao Refund Guide
Login to Taobao to buy dining table here and rug here.
Tip #5: Be Organised & Shop In Waves
Victoria’s Kitchen Counter. Image Credits: Omar Shiddiq
I shop in waves, but in general — if you take one month for shopping, expect one month for shipping. I would recommend readers be organised and systematic when shopping for your new home because it’s super easy to get distracted especially on Taobao.
Pro-tip: I kept a checklist of everything I needed and started off with the big-ticket bulky items. After I settled that, I moved on to smaller items. However, all this wasn’t purely done before I moved in. Even after, I kept shopping for items I missed out on!
Assembly was straightforward for us because we had really great contractors who sorted everything out for us — carpentry and installation of sinks included, and it was free! However, for those who don’t have the good fortune of meeting helpful contractors, don’t worry! The sellers on Taobao will send you video demonstrations together with the items so you’ll know how to fix the stuff — some even attached manuals for us that had pictures for easy reading! We were able to set up and unpack our things in one weekend! But this was only because all of our major carpentry was already built-in.
Tip #6: Global Freight Crisis, Cainiao Shipping, & DJ CARGO
Victoria’s Bedroom. Image Credits: Omar Shiddiq
Personally, I prefer to use Cainiao when it comes to shipping because it’s very convenient. They help you do everything, including the consolidation of the various items. Yet, one major drawback would be the strictness of their warehouse — if they feel that an item is fragile (mirrors included), they will return the item to the seller. And this happens 10% of the time!
So when I have to bring in items that Cainiao doesn’t ship, I use a third-party forwarder called DJ CARGO. While they are a little pricey, they ship almost everything — even knives! Plus, the contact person from DJ CARGO is able to communicate in English. This made it much easier to coordinate. However, you need to submit your own packing list (what items you bought, and the cost of each item for custom declaration) which can be quite tedious if you’re buying a lot of things! On the other hand, Cainiao doesn’t require this because prices are all already there.
PSA: You might see shipping rates rising up to 10% at the moment because of the global freight crisis. Plus you can expect delays due to the pandemic. As a rule-of-thumb, when I bought each item I estimated a 15-20% markup on top of the item for shipping. So if you can find an item that has a 15-20% markup in Singapore, and you don’t have to pay for shipping, I would recommend getting the item here just purely to save time during this period!
Get Your Taobao Furniture For HDB Flats With YouTrip!
Victoria’s Living Room. Image Credits: Omar Shiddiq
Now that you’re a bonafide Taobao expert, why not share this with some of your friends who might need some help with furniture shopping on Taobao for HDB flats too? If there’s anything else you’d like to see us test out or add to this list, let us know in the comments below!
When you start shopping for your Taobao home with YouTrip, be sure to use your YouTrip card to skip out on those pesky bank fees and make full use of our great wholesale exchange rates!
If you still haven’t gotten your YouTrip card yet, don’t miss out. Use promo code <TAOBAO5> to sign up and get up to S$5 off your next Taobao purchase with YouTrip!
Top banner image credits: Omar Shiddiq