How Non-Chinese Buyers Can Use Taobao

Taobao is a famous online marketplace in China bustling with millions of buyers and sellers. It's a vast digital bazaar where you can find nearly anything you need.

But there's a catch—Taobao primarily uses Chinese. This isn't an issue for local shoppers, but it poses a language challenge for international sellers. If you're a seller looking to step into this market, the language barrier can feel like a tricky puzzle.

In this blog, we'll be your guide on how to use Taobao as a foreigner buyer.

What Is Taobao?

Taobao directly translates to “seeking treasure.” It is an online marketplace based in China, where millions of people come to buy and sell a wide range of products. Think of it as the Chinese equivalent of eBay on a much larger scale.

This expansive online marketplace founded by Jack Ma serves as the go-to for Chinese consumers and buyers worldwide. It encompasses a wide array of products, where customers can explore and purchase everything from clothing and gadgets to home décor and fresh produce, all from the comfort of their devices.

What sets Taobao apart is its seller community. The platform hosts a vast network of sellers, ranging from individuals to businesses, offering a diverse range of goods. This contributes to the platform's wealth of product choices, so that shoppers have access to a broad selection of items.

Check out the classification section to narrow down your searches.

Despite the language barrier, Taobao has a global reach. It is immensely popular not only in China but also among people from various parts of the world. Many international consumers turn to Taobao to access affordable products. To overcome the language barrier, some users use translation tools like Google Translate to navigate the platform.

So, How Does Taobao Work?

Here’s how you can navigate your way around Taobao:

Step 1: Create an Account

To start using Taobao, you need to create an account either on their website or mobile app. You can sign up using your email or mobile number, which is a straightforward process.

You can click the Google Translate option beside the URL or click the ‘English’ button on the website.

Step 2: Search for Products

Once you're logged in, you can search for products by using keywords, browsing categories, or exploring featured items. Taobao offers a vast array of products, so you're likely to find what you're looking for.

You can filter your searches by checking the boxes, and directly message the seller using the blue icon per listing.

Step 3: Product Selection

When you find a product of interest, click on it to view detailed information, including descriptions, prices, and the seller's information. Read product reviews and check seller ratings to ensure the quality of the item.

Aside from checking the reviews, look at the seller details at the right side of the listing.

Step 4: Add to Cart

If you decide to purchase a product, simply click the “Add to Cart” button, and the item will be stored in your shopping cart.

You can view the products that you added to your cart by clicking the “Shopping Cart” option at the top of the website.

Step 5: Payment Details

Go to your Taobao shopping cart to review the items you've added. Once you're ready to make a purchase, proceed to checkout, where you'll select your preferred payment method and shipping details.

For foreign buyers, make use of translation apps to ensure you’re filling out the correct details.

Step 6: Tracking and Delivery

You can monitor the progress of your order by tracking it through your Taobao account. Taobao provides order status updates and delivery tracking information. You'll receive notifications as your order moves through the shipping process.

You can closely monitor your item via the Taobao website or app.

Taobao Features

Let’s take a quick glimpse at what makes Taobao a top choice for buyers:

Vendor Ratings & Shopper Feedback

On Taobao, you'll find helpful reviews and seller ratings so that you can make smarter choices based on their experiences.

You can see the reviews from other buyers below the listing.

Chat Support

Taobao has real-time customer support through live chat. Whether you have inquiries about products or need assistance, helpful agents are just a message away.

Click Consumer Customer Service to talk with an agent about your inquiry or concern.

Taobao Live

Taobao Live elevates your shopping journey with live-streaming events. Tune in to watch product demonstrations, engage with sellers in real time, and experience a more interactive way to shop.

Marketing Opportunities

Taobao opens doors to rich marketing possibilities for sellers. Whether it's through promotional campaigns or creative product listings, there are ample ways to attract customers.

You can set up a store on Taobao only if you have a Chinese business license.

Taobao Agents

For foreign buyers, some representatives can help you with your Taobao purchase. They are called Taobao agents, which find, purchase, check, and ship the goods from China. Usually, they are Chinese individuals who understand English and have a better understanding of the local prices.

You can pick a Taobao agent through Google, but make sure you do your research first.

There are many types of Taobao agents catering to both foreign buyers and sellers. Some agents help buyers find, compare, and purchase products. Meanwhile, there are also Taobao representatives who do dropshipping, helping to source for manufacturers and pack and ship to their foreign clients.

Related Reading: How to Start a Dropshipping Business From Scratch

Specifically with international sellers who want to order items from Taobao, it is an advantage to consult and get the help of a Taobao consolidation agent. These people can help you with your multiple orders and save on shipping costs.

The Downsides of Taobao

Despite its huge success, this online shopping website also comes with disadvantages:

Language Barrier

If you don't speak Chinese, using Taobao can be tough. Most of the info on the site is in Chinese. It makes it hard for non-Chinese speakers to shop easily.

You would need to install or click the Google Translate option on your browser to translate the content to English.

Challenges for Foreign Sellers

If you're not from China and want to sell on Taobao, it can get tricky. You usually have to set up a company in China, which can be costly and complex. That makes it hard for international sellers.

Quality Control

Some may sell products that are subpar or do not meet the expectations set by their descriptions. This is why it’s important to exercise caution when making purchases. Always check seller ratings, read reviews, and compare products to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.

The higher the reputation rating, the more reputable the shop is on the website.

International Hindrances

Some Taobao sellers may not have any experience when it comes to international shipping and may not accept international payment methods. Also, there are foreign buyers who have encountered issues wherein they can only use their cards via the app.

Countries and Regions That Taobao Ships To
JapanHong Kong
New ZealandTaiwan
ThailandSouth Korea

Updated list as of February 2023

Shipping and Delivery Times

If you're buying from another country, be ready for longer shipping times. Tracking your order might not always be easy. Plus, shipping costs can add up, making things more expensive.

Related Reading: How to Import From China to Sell Profitably in 2023


Is Taobao available in languages other than Chinese?

While Taobao primarily operates in Chinese, there are browser extensions and mobile apps that can help translate the interface.

How can I contact a seller on Taobao?

You can send messages directly to sellers through Taobao's messaging system.

Are there any hidden fees when using Taobao?

Taobao is generally transparent about fees, but it's essential to review the shipping and transaction costs before making a purchase.

What should I do if I receive a damaged item from Taobao?

Contact the seller immediately and open a dispute on Taobao to resolve the issue.

Can I return items on Taobao?

Yes, you can return items if they are eligible for return according to Taobao's return policy. Be sure to check the product listing for return information before purchase.


Taobao is an online marketplace with a primarily Chinese interface, however, international users can navigate it by using translation tools. The platform offers advantages like low-cost items, however, foreign buyers may face language barriers and potential shipping challenges. Despite these hurdles, Taobao remains a popular platform for shopping for local and foreign buyers.

Khristal Asoque

Khristal is a Communications graduate with an immeasurable passion for writing. She can create copies with niches surrounding digital marketing, design, finance, and technology. In her spare time, she hangs out with her labrador retriever.

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