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What’s Taobao Agent and How to Choose the Right One
Tabao is the biggest online marketplace in Asia and it’s the giant ecommerce leader in China. In every minute, more than 50,000 pieces of merchandises are sold through this giant marketplace. It changes the shopping habit of younger generation even brings a hit of ecommerce in China. For more information you can read my hub: Shopping Skill in Taobao-The Biggest Online Marketplace in Asia.
People in China love to shop in Taobao and recently many shoppers outside China also found shopping in Taobao is very interesting. But for most of them, they can’t directly buy from Taobao, because it require you to have a Chinese bank account for the payment and also most sellers in Taobao don’t know much English and are unwilling to ship their products oversea. At this moment Taobao Agents are providing services to foreigner outside China, assisting them to shop from Taobao.
The business model for Taobao Agents is like this. Foreign shoppers select products in Taobao then entrust Taobao Agents to shop for them. Taobao Agents will buy the items from Taobao to their own warehouse and then ship them out to foreign shoppers. They usually charge 10% of (item price + domestic shipping fee) as their service fee.
If you search the key word Taotao Agent in Google, tons of websites are provide this kind of service. As how to select a good agent, I think most people are very confused. If you’re one of them and you’re really interested in buying from Taobao, I strongly suggest you do some research on what’s Taobao or you’ll be easily fooled by some Taobao Agents. I sorted out some standards to judge whether a Taobao Agent is reliable.
- Product Price Between Taobao and Agent’s Website
Taobao open API to all of its products data, including price, size, stock amount, color and etc. Since Taobao doesn’t have a English version, most agents collect this API data and use Google translation to translate them into English. Agents are charging you service fee basing original the price in Taobao, they should showing the proper USD price to you. If they increase the price without reasonable reason, think twice before using their service.
For some situation, price not matching with Taobao is acceptable. Such as items in Taobao are on sales, therefore the prices on Taobao are much cheaper than before. This often happens in Taobao and a good Taobao should explain this to their clients allow them to modify the price according to the discounted price. But as I observed many agents don’t mention this and charge their client for the price before discount while shop the item at discount price.
- International Shipping Fee
International shipping fee is very expensive and you should check your shipping fee before purchase everything in Taobao. The most prevalent shipping method for Agents is EMS, because it can ship items that are not allowed by others and cover wide range of area. The followings are DHL, Fedex, UPS and TNT. For small parcel no heavier than 1kg, they usually use China Post Air Mail. You can check all the prices in their official website:
China Post Air Mail: http://english.chinapost.com.cn/
Very important: It’s way too expensive to use these international express delivery without discount! In fact Agents in China can get discount from logistic companies and the usually it’s 40% off, which is the standard within in this industry. You can totally disregard those who don’t offer you any discount. (P.S. China post Air Mail doesn’t offer discount, it’s very cheap but takes very long time compared to others.)
Make sure you can find their international shipping fee information in their website. Those who hide this shipping fee or unwilling to make it clear to clients are not considered to be honest. A good Agent should tell their clients how much it cost in shipping before they make a decision in purchasing.
- Service Fee and Minimum Charge
I don’t who make this fixed but service fee for Agent are set to be 10% of (product price + domestic shipping fee). It sounds reasonable considering all the service agents provide to you. Some agents will charge will 5% of (product price + domestic shipping fee + international shipping fee). In most cases, international shipping fee is not less than product price, so personally I prefer this first one.
Minimum charge in service fee is around 5 to 8USD, that’s to say if you purchase less than 50USD, you still have to pay them 5USD service fee. This police encourage people to shop multiple items and in most cases people will do so. Because price in Taobao are very low and buying big quantity will lower the average shipping cost for each items. But if Agents require more than 8USD, you’d better give yourself a convincing reason to use their service.
- Exchange Rate and Payment Transfer Fee
Exchange rate fluctuates all the time and most agent usually set it to a fixed rate. If you think their fixed exchange rate is not acceptable to you, you’d better switch to another agent.
Most agent use Paypal, Credit Card, Western Union, T/T, Webmoney as the payment method. For each type of payment method, there’s transaction fee charging the receiver and agents will charge you on this. You can check the transaction fee for your payment method and see the agent is charging you reasonable or not. The below is Paypal transactional fee for your reference:
- Professionalism in Website Design and Function
Entrusting Agents to shop for can be very risky. Do you know exactly who you’re entrusting to? I highly don’t recommend you to ask an individual to do the job for you, unless you know him/her personally. It requires revolving fund, time and energy for Agents to run their business. If the agent is just doing part time, you will probably get slow response, poor quality control or even lost contact forever.
But how can you tell this website is run by a reliable company or part-time individual? We can judge this by Professionalism in website design and function. There’re many website templates out there for free. Just a few dollars everyone can build up a website in a minute. But the design and functions are not up to expectation. Especially the functions, it would be very simple and of poor user experience. A professional Agents website would cost 5000USD to be customized-made. Agents who are willing to spend this money are very likely to treat this business seriously and in most of the cases, they’re an organized team or company. It provides a very good judging standard in choosing an Agent.
- Check the Reviews and Comments of Their Existing Clients
Any Agents would boast their service to be the best and it’s really hard to tell the true. The best solution is to check the reviews and comment of the existing clients. But reviews and comments are not always available in their website. You can check this by search engine. I really appreciate Agent websites that with their own section for their client to freely discuss anything. Because as I observed, only would reliable agents with serious business mind do this open discussion. It’s a tough test on their service. And in return, if this open discussion can be done under publicity and impartiality, it will create loyalty in their clients. After all, the very foundation of internet is to share. Sooner or later people will get to know whether you’re a piece of gold or regular stone.
- Finally the Shopping Guide Service
We’re shopping far distance away from a strange country. We have no idea of the product information and have difficulty in communicating with sellers on Taobao. Our Agents seems to be the only way that we experience shopping from Taobao. If they don’t do a good job in giving us shopping guideline, how can we find a good deal in it? Most Agent websites has online contact but due to time difference, you can also contact them by email. Ask detailed questions and see their response. You will feel much curtained when you’re buy from professional Taobao Agents.
The above judging skill cannot guarantee you to find a 100% reliable Taobao Agent. It’s just for your reference only. The best practice is to have a trial. You will become an expert on this too!