Taobao.com can be most easily be referred to as the “Chinese Ebay”. When Taobao was founded the target was to provide private people a chance to sell the stuff they didn’t need any more. The classical C2C portal was born – very similar to “our” Ebay.
In 2010 Taobao opened a market place for professional sellers, for brands and authorized traders. They called this “Taobao Mall”, which was later renamed into “tmall”. At this time Tmall was transferred to an own Domain.
Taobao is the most important online portal where Chinese people buy their stuff on the internet. The difference about Ebay is, that we do not find auctions, but fix prices for all these items.
Yes and no. The first barrier foreign people face when trying to shop on Taobao is the Chinese language. Of course you can always use automtic online translation system such as Google translate (wich is btw built into the Google Chrome webbrowser by default). But the Chinese language is way different from English (or from other western languages as for example Russian or Spanish), which often leads to mistakes in automatic translation.
If you do speak Chinese the next step would be to register on taobao. Registering on Taobao needs you to leave a Chinese mobile phone number. This usually is no problem for Expats or other foreigners living in China. But it can be a barrier for people living overseas.
If could successfully register on taobao.com you will need Chinese payment methods to actually purchase from taobao. The most popluar online payment method in China and on taobao is “Alipay” (which can be compared with the paypal we know).
To get around these barriers you can always try using an Taobao Agent Service. They usually help you with questions to the products you intend to buy (just ask them everything that you need to know before purchasing and they will ask the taobao seller for you). They usually offer a large variety of international payment methods that you can use to transfer money to them and they proceed the ourchase for you – including to arrange international shipping to your destination address (which many taobao sellers will not offer even if you managed to get over the other barriers).
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