How to Save Thousands through Online Shopping in China

How to Save Thousands through Online Shopping in China
Jun 13, 2011 By Niels Christian Flintholm, , eChinacities.com

Life in China often turns out not being as affordable as it seemed when you just arrived here. If you want to eat food that isn’t suspiciously cheap or just downright disgusting, you often end up paying the same price as back home, if not more. The same can be said about clothes, which in the case of imported foreign brands, tend to be much more expensive than in Europe, or in the case of non brand clothes often requires you to be in possession of impressive bargaining skills in order to get a good price. Fortunately however, the solution to this problem is already here in the form of the multitude of online shopping providers on the Chinese net.

The online shopping scene in China can be divided into two different categories: the actual web shops, and the flash-buy pages or tuangou (团购) as they are called in Chinese. To use these pages requires a working knowledge of Chinese since they are all in Chinese, and they will often send an SMS in Chinese confirming the order.

Web shops

You can basically buy anything your heart desires through any of the many shops online, and generally at a far lower price than you might get in your local supermarket. Sites like Taobao.com (Chinese eBay) function as a front for thousands of individual shops, and are a true heaven for the shopaholic Sinophile.

But the online Chinese shopping bonanza does not end here: larger online shops like vancl.com will be happy to supply you with anything you need to fit into this summer’s fashion, including t-shirts with print for 29 RMB and shoes for only 59 RMB. While vancl.com has clothes for both sexes and a distinctively young vibe, moonbasa.com another of the big online clothes shopping sites targets female shoppers with a broad selection of clothes and lingerie.

But of course it’s not just cheap clothes you can buy conveniently online. The page womai.com which is run by the huge state owned corporation COFCO (China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation), has a huge selection of mainly food related products, ranging from imported Maine lobsters to Xinjiang dates and Brazilian coffee, all at very reasonable prices.

The great thing about this kind of online shopping is that all you need to do is to collect all the products you want in your online basket, write your name, address and phone number, and off the order goes! When sending the order you can specify which date you want the order to be delivered, which is also when you will pay for the goods in cash. It is perfectly okay to try your new clothes on while the deliveryman is waiting, and if it is not exactly the perfect size they will take it back and return with another size. Both vancl.com and moonbasa.com offer free postage as long as the order is at least 59 RMB, as well as a 30-day money back guarantee if you are not satisfied.

Flash-buy / Tuangou

You may have heard about groupon.com, the American website devoted to providing customers with great deals based on the idea of offering a lower price when a big group of people buy the same product at the same time. Although this is an American invention it is by no means confined to that country; in fact China has embraced flash buy with a zeal that only the Chinese (always eager for a good deal) can muster. Flash-buy or Tuangou (团购) as it is known in Chinese is all the rage right now, and new web pages offering flash-buy deals to the Chinese market are popping up all the time, while the subway and buses of Beijing are plastered with commercials for the big flash-buy sites.

You can basically buy anything from these sites, ranging from cinema tickets to fancy seafood dinners and — believe it or not—even real estate! The Chinese love for flash-buy pages knows no boundaries.

When you go to a flash-buy site and click on one of the deals offered, you will usually be told whether the amount of people signed up for this deal is sufficient to make it available, as well as a timer displaying how long time is left before the offer ends. For example if you want to buy a dinner through a flash-buy site, then usually everything you get is determined by the restaurant and it will be shown in pictures on the webpage. This of course takes away some of the fun of ordering yourself, but there are so many deals out there that you should be able to find the one just right for you, and besides, the savings can be as much as 40 to 60%.

When you have decided which deal you want to buy, you register with the page using your email and mobile phone number. After the online payment has gone through you will receive an SMS which you can use to claim your dinner once in the restaurant. Please note that most restaurants who offer flash buy dinners have a specific set of dates inside which the offer must be used.

With so many pages to choose from it can be hard to know where to go, but the following are among the biggest and most reliable. These are all in Chinese, so a working knowledge of Chinese would be a big help in using them (or a patient Chinese friend!):

Major flash-buy sites in China:

  1. www.tuanbao.com
  2. www.meituan.com
  3. www.nuomi.com

To use these flash-buy pages you will need an online bank account from one of the Chinese banks, but since most expats have a Chinese bank account and opening up an online account is not very hard, this should not be a problem.
 

Related links
Getting the Goods – Shopping Online in China
Online and On Time – Buying Things Online for Delivery to China: English-language Books and More
Home Delivery: Top Five Online Grocery Stores in Shanghai

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Keywords: online shopping in China Chinese online shopping China flash-buy groupon in China

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