Taobao Furniture Guide: How to Furnish Your New Home for Cheap

taobao

Ever buy something from China via this amazingly cheap site with endless variety called Taobao? My friends who are serial Taobao-ers spend hours and hours doing their online shopping on the e-commerce giant — once they start, they can’t stop.

In fact, the word Taobao has become so commonplace, that we’re now using it as a verb: “Hey, where’d you get that sofa?” “Oh, that? I Taobao-ed it!”; or “Is the 11.11 sale coming? I want to Taobao some stuff!”

And don’t give yourself excuses like, “Oh my Chinese is so poor, how to shop on Taobao?” One dude transformed his HDB flat into a “little Japan”, complete with an onsen and a tatami room — and his mother tongue isn’t even Mandarin! The kicker? He only spent $15,000. Because, Taobao.

Ah yes, if you want to start going down the rabbit hole of shopping on “the website that has everything at very cheap prices”, this is your perfect starter guide. Trust me, even after you settle your home furnishings (sofa, queen-sized bed, shoe cabinet, light fixtures, toilet bowls, cutlery etc), you’ll be using it to buy random stuff, from clothes and shoes, to electronics and baking equipment.

Related article: 11 HDB Flats That Were Renovated To Look Like Condos Inside

 

How to buy Taobao furniture online

For starters, there are other ways to buy Taobao stuff if you only want to shop in English. You can buy through an agent like ezbuy but there are agent fees to pay (about 8%); or through Lazada, which offers a limited selection and you might not get the cheapest deal.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll be going straight to the source, which is Taobao itself.

1. Get yourself on the Taobao app and sign up for an account

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See that orange button I’ve highlighted with a cyan box? Click that to login or register for an account with your mobile number (with a 65 in front). Notice that my Taobao app has recognised that I’m in Singapore, and prices are now listed in SGD. Enter your 6-digit OTP and you now have a Taobao account!

2. Browse for furniture or search for specific items/sellers

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Within the categories, the images for each furniture type are pretty helpful. Click on the item type and you will be taken to a listing of the products and their prices. Sometimes you may be required to make a selection, and even input specifications in the comments to the seller.

You can also input the item name or seller in the search bar. See something you like in a store? Chances are, Taobao has it too. On the top left-hand corner of the Taobao app’s home page, there is a squarish symbol — click on it to “scan” the item and it will find similar listings.

If you’re familiar with e-commerce apps like Lazada, the interface is similar and intuitive — after all, Lazada and Taobao share the same parent company, which is Alibaba.

3. Some trendy Taobao furniture shops to check out

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Shop name: 欧格贝思旗舰店 / Ou Ge Bei Si / Our Best
What it sells: Elegant European-style furniture, from beds to dining tables and sofas

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Shop name: 卫诗理旗舰店 / Wei Si Li
What it sells: Grand, Victorian-era statement pieces to give your (palatial) home a touch of royal finesse and romanticism

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Shop name: 铁梵 / T-Fun 
What it sells: Industrial-style furniture, from bookshelves, to shoe racks, side tables and chairs

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Shop name: 吱音旗舰店 / ziinlife!
What it sells: Unique pieces that are both functional, multi-purpose and designer. Featured on Elle Decoration China too.

4. So how much would I save on Taobao furniture?

Let’s say I’m looking to furnish my home. Here’s roughly what I would pay, if I’m buying from a certain shop in Singapore that sells Swedish meatballs, versus Taobao:

Storage queen-sized bedframe

$589

From S$261

Sofa (3-seater)

$365

From S$123

TV console

$179

From S$43

Dining table with 6 chairs

$629

From S$343

Shoe cabinet (holds about 12-16 pairs of shoes)

$119

From S$44

*Disclaimer: I’m not a Taobao queen (yet), so I bet you can find even better deals!

Related article: 6 Go-To Furniture Stores In Singapore

 

Taobao to Singapore: Direct shipping costs, delivery time, etc

There are a few ways to get the goods delivered to your home, but let’s go with the more popular options.

1. Cainiao: Taobao’s preferred shipping partner

When you check out, you’ll be prompted to fill in your shipping address if you haven’t already. Then you’ll need to select if you want to ship by sea or by air (Taobao’s preferred shipping partner is Cainiao), and input your payment details.

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These are the charges for air freight, which is better for smaller parcels like home accessories.

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But for the Taobao heavyweights, sea shipping is your best bet.

Cainiao consolidated delivery (sea) — small packages (0-30kg, max total dimensions = 500cm)

  • RMB21 for the first kg (about S$4.24)
  • RMB7.40 for each subsequent kg (or part of, about S$1.49)
  • Maximum total volume = 0.5CBM
  • Each single item cannot exceed 25kg and total dimensions of 180cm

Cainiao consolidated delivery (sea) — bulky package

  • 0-0.5CBM = RMB225
  • 0.5-1CBM = RMB450/CBM
  • 1CBM and above = RMB450/CBM
  • Total weight = more than 30kg but less than 500kg
  • Total volume = more than 0.5CBM
  • Max total dimensions = 500cm
  • Each single item cannot exceed 25kg and total dimensions of 180cm

Note: For sea shipping, there will be 7% GST imposed; not all Taobao sellers ship internationally or by your chosen shipping method (sea or air); information correct as at time of publication

2. Oops, ezBuy, etc: shipping via an agent 

Since ezbuy ended its Taobao buy-for-me service in 2017, you can only use its ezShip option right now. There’s still Oops and other agents that can help you Taobao your dreams to Singapore though!

Assisted purchase service

Yes — add product URL and fill in other details. Make payment and check out.

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Freight forwarding

Yes — sign up for your free warehouse address, ship your packages to the warehouse, submit and pay for your shipping order, customise your delivery if needed.

Yes — get your own China ezShip address, then do your shopping at Taobao and send purchases to this ezShip address. Declare and make payment, and before delivery you can choose your timeslot.

Charges (assisted purchase service; if you use this service, you’ll also need to pay the freight forwarding fee)

Air:
Service fee = $1/kg (min.), 100kg max
Storage fee = $0

Sea:
Service fee = $5/0.1CBM (min.), 100kg max
Storage fee = $0

N/A

Charges (freight forwarding)

Air (below 11kg):
RMB37 (~S$7.47) for first 0.5kg, RMB14 (~S$2.83) for each subsequent 0.5kg

Air (11kg and above):
RMB28 (S$5.65) per kg

Sea (LCL):
0.5CBM and below = RMB350 (~S$70.66)
0.51-0.75CBM = RMB400 (~S$80.76)
0.76-1CBM = RMB450 (~S$90.85)
1CBM and above = RMB45 (~S$9.09) per 0.1CBM

Sea (courier):
RMB29 (~S$5.86) for first 2kg; RMB7.50 (~S$1.51) for each subsequent kg

Air:
Economy Air = $1.69/500g
Sensitive Air = $4.99/500g

Sea:
0-30 kg = $0.70/500g
30.01-80kg (0.5CBM) = from $30
80.01-160kg (1CBM) = from $60
160.01kg and above = from $30/0.5CBM

Delivery time

Air: 5-7 working days

Sea (LCL): 10-14 days after stuffing container

Sea (courier): 15-18 days after stuffing container 

Economy Air = 4-8 working days

Sensitive Air = 6-9 working days

Sea = 8-15 working days

Additional remarks

N/A

If you’re an ezbuy Prime member, shipping is a flat $2.99 per check out, regardless of package size or weight (5-day trial available).

Note: For sea shipping, there will be 7% GST imposed; information correct as at time of publication

Related article: How to Read a Property Floor Plan: Top Tips for New Home Buyers

 

Tips for buying Taobao furniture for your new home

Once you get into the swing of things, buying from Taobao should be more manageable. Even for those of us who can read Chinese characters (albeit poorly, in my case), how they word certain products can be different from what we’re used to. Another (happy?) problem is that there’s just so many products on Taobao, you’ll literally spend hours and hours glued to the app and shopping.

Make sure you go into each item and choose the exact specifications you want, because there are usually multiple options available. Double-check all your purchases before checking out!

Here are some quick tips to make your Taobao life simpler:

1. Use Google Translate

If you can’t copy & paste, sometimes I use the handwriting function on my WhatsApp Chinese keyboard to identify the word. Google Translate is not 100% accurate and some translations can be confusing or misleading. It’ll be good to also grab a friend whose Chinese is good, or someone who is an experienced Taobao shopper. 

2. Check the seller’s rating

As there are billions and trillions of shops and products, make sure you check the seller’s rating, look at user reviews, scrutinise all the pics/measurements and so on.

3. Double-check if your items ship to Singapore

Some items cannot be shipped overseas due to regulations. Some of these include medical stuff, sharp objects or even certain food. Do always check in with Singapore Customs else your shopping might be for naught.

4. Don’t forget to add in hidden costs when budgeting

When you calculate the absolute cost of an item, do always take into account shipping fees, agent fees (if any), GST (if any) and so on. Who knows, it might be cheaper buying it in Singapore from your neighbourhood provision shop?

5. Stretch that dollar by using suitable credit cards 

You can also use a multi-currency card, credit cards to earn rebates/air miles and so on.

6. You can also try out the free trials

If you’re planning to just make a quick one-time purchase, consider signing up for the ezbuy Prime 5-day trial.

Happy Taobao-ing!

 

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This article was written by Mary Wu, who hopes to share what she's learnt from her home-buying and renovation journey with PropertyGuru readers. When she's not writing, she's usually baking up a storm or checking out a new cafe in town.

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