How to Become a Master Táobǎo 淘宝 Shopper!

How to use Taobao 淘宝 – The Complete Guide

If you live in China, or know someone who has, you’ve probably heard of the omnipotent Táobǎo (淘宝), or 万能的淘宝 (Wànnéng de táobǎo). So on that note, we want to teach you all how to use Taobao.

Food, clothing, customized dog bowl, books, and basically anything you can think of can be found here and delivered straight to your door usually within a few days, and usually with free delivery (Think Amazon Prime on steroids!) 

How to use Taobao
One of the many treasures on Taobao: Broom shoes!

You can download the app on your phone or access the site from your computer or phone browser.

For a beginner Chinese learner, or just someone who is using it for the first time, Taobao can seem completely overwhelming.

Have no fear, LTL is here… (to help your feed your new online shopping addiction) 😉

Here are our top Taobao tips. 

How to use Taobao Step 1 – Start out small

As soon as you open Taobao, you’ll see a bunch of products offered.

It can be overwhelming.

Scrolling through the seemingly unending collection of products isn’t for anyone. Use the search bar to search what you need.

How to use Taobao - Search
The search bar in Táobǎo’s Phone App

How to use Taobao Step 2 – Use the reverse picture search feature

If your vocabulary is limited or there is something you like but you don’t know the Chinese word for it, try Taobao’s reverse image search located next to the search bar.

It’s not perfect, but 9 times out of 10 it can help you at least find the word in Chinese for what you are looking for. 

How to use Taobao Step 3 – More info about the product (详情, xiángqíng)

After you’ve found those matching couple’s metallic neon jackets or that leaf-shaped spoon strainer you’ve been looking for, you’ll find all the information you need as you scroll to the bottom.

For clothing, this is where you usually can find measurements (remember Chinese sizes don’t necessarily match up with Western ones)! 

How to use Taobao Step 4 – Take advantage of responsive customer service

Let’s say you have a party in a few days, and you’ve found beautiful Star Wars themed coasters, you’d like to purchase.

Not sure if they’ll make it in time for the party?

Message the seller (客服, kèfú)and ask how long it will take.

The seller can also give you details on any questions about the product you are buying. 

How to use Taobao - Product Page
Bottom of a Táobǎo product’s page, click the second icon to contact the seller (客服, kèfú).

How to use Taobao Step 5 – Read the reviews (宝贝评价, bǎobèipíngjià)

Unfortunately, not every product on Táobǎo is guaranteed to be what you think, although these issues have improved over recent years.

Do your best to read some of the reviews of the product.

If you can’t read them, you can at least see the number of reviews, how many good reviews versus bad reviews there are, etc.

You can also check the number of people who have purchased the product and the seller’s ratings lower down on the product page. 

Note: There have been cases in the past where customers are paid to leave good reviews. Try to find products that have at least some written reviews rather than just ratings. 

How to use Taobao Step 6 – Consider buying shipping insurance

If you’re ready to buy, on the checkout page, you might notice a section for 运费险 (yùnfèixiǎn), or shipping fee insurance.

This is useful if you plan on returning the product.

For a small fee (depends on the price of the product), you can return the product and will be reimbursed a certain amount of money, usually enough to cover return shipping.

Often the fee is quite minimal and makes sense to purchase if you may return the product. 

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How to use Taobao Step 7 – Not every product can be returned

Return policies depend on the seller.

Some may have an unconditional 7-day return policy (7天无理由退货, qītiān wúlǐyóu tuìhuò).

Others may have conditions. Generally, the delivery fee (if there is one) will not be returned.

This will generally be indicated on the 服务 (fúwù, services section) of the product page. 

How to use Taobao Step 8 – Pay attention at the origin city of the product

This may also help you get an idea of how long a product might take to get to you.

Products from your city or a city nearby where may take as little as a day to arrive.

Packages from across the country will actually take longer. 

Pro-tip: You can also contact the seller before you purchase the product to ask about arrival dates.

How to use Taobao Step 9 – Learn on Táobǎo

You can even use Táobǎo as a language tool to improve your Chinese.

Mandarin homework and online shipping is the perfect combination!

Pick up all sorts of new vocabulary, anything from asparagus peeler (芦笋削皮器, lúsǔn xiāopíqì) to crop top (露脐上衣, lòuqì shàngyī)!

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How to use Taobao Step 10 – Enjoy it

Once you get the hang of Táobǎo, you’ll discover more and more products. Don’t forget to enjoy the once-a-year shopping holidays like Single’s Day.

Here’s some more useful vocabulary for your Táobǎo adventures:

Chinese HanziPinyinEnglish
快递kuàidìdelivery; this section on the product page
usually tells you the delivery fee 
宝贝 bǎobèia product on Táobǎo
店铺diànpǔa shop on Táobǎo, clicking this button
a product page will show you the other
items sold by the shop.
收藏shōucángsave for later; these can be found
later in 我的淘宝 (wǒ de táobǎo,
my Táobǎo)
加入购物车 Add to cartjiārù gòuwùchēadd to cart
立即购买 lìjí gòumǎibuy now (immediately)
尺码chímǎsize (for clothing)
月销yùexiāohow much of the product sold
in a month 
订单备注 dìngdān bèizhùThis is where you can include any notes
for the seller, including any customization
you require if your purchase is customizable
提交订单 tíjiāo dìngdānSubmit order  (congratulations!)

祝你购物愉快!Zhùnǐ gòuwù yùkuài! Happy Shopping!

Fancy five ways to learn Chinese for free?

Taobao – FAQ’s

What is Taobao?

Taobao is a Chinese online shopping website. It’s HQ is in Hangzhou, and it is owned by Alibaba.

How do you spell Taobao in Chinese?

淘宝 or in traditional Chinese it’s 淘寶.

Can I download Taobao abroad?

When was Taobao founded?

Taobao was founded by Alibaba Group in 2003.

Who founded Taobao?

Jack Ma is the founder of Alibaba Group and Taobao.

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  • LTL Avatar Alexander Krasnov
    Alexander Krasnov , Vice CEO

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