Why is it so hard for foreign people to order from taobao?
Basically there are three burdens that foreign people need to master if they want to buy from taoabo.com:
The taobao website as well as Tmall website are targeting the Chinese customers – so naturally they are in Chinese language. To be more concrete: These websites are written in Mandarin Chinese using simplified Hanzi (Chinese Characters) as they are used in mainland China (in Hongkong and Taiwan the traditional Characters are being used).
While accessing the website using automtic translation methods is possible (I recommend using Google Chrome web browser with built in automatic translation from any possible language), the communication with the taobao sellers themselves is not always that easy. Some do speak English well, some speak it poor, but most taobao sellers do not speak English at all.
Some products simply require you to ask the taobao seller questions (to make sure it is exactly what you want) … sometimes the taobao seller needs to make sure he got all the details to sell you the right product.
Using automatic translation systems just like “Google translate” simply do not work very well, when performing real conversations. While they do an “OK” job for written product descriptions, they often fail to translate real communiction well enough to avoid misunderstandings.
So if you can read and speak/write in Mandarin Chinese – the first barrier lies behind you.
Taobao and Tmall are focussing on the Chinese market. While some payment methods like Paypal have gained international acception throughout most of the (known) world – it is not the case with China.
China has developed a completely independend system of payment methods. Online Banking is far more complicated than in Europe (believe me – I have tried it once with an online banking account at the biggest bank in China “Bank of China”) and Paypal, Western Union or Webmoney are mostly not known – and not accepted.
There are Credit Cards in China such as “Visa”, but it is a Chinese version of this Credit Card – meaning they are not 100% compatible with the VISA that is popular in Europe. Chinese stores usually only accept the Chinese version of Visa credit card.
The most commom payment method for online shopping in China is called “< a href=”/what-is-alipay.html” title=”What is Alipay”>Alipay”, which is an online payment method similar to the Paypal we know.
But it is possible for foreigner to register on Alipay.
If you get past this step, you will have one barrier less to master.
I have to mention it again: Taobao is a Chinese only business platform. Millions of sellers and individuals are offering goods on the taobao-connected websites (such as tmall). These sellers are only experienced with selling goods to other Chinese people in China. So they are only familiar with sending their goods within China.
If a customer asks a taobao seller to ship to any other country in the world – they will refuse to do so.
So you will have to provide a shipping address in China.
If you can do so (maybe you live in China or you have friends living in China) you have mastered the final barrier that holds you back from being a foreign customer on taobao.com.