Making sense of Taobao shipping options

To a newbie, i think Taobao shipping options is too hard to comprehend. To simplify things, Taobao has come up with Taobao Global Direct Shipping, which probably works well for newbies. In this posting, i discuss the pros and cons of each method of shipping based on what i’ve learned through experience.

Taobao Global Direct Shipping

This is the default choice and the one Taobao tries to recommend you take up. No further action is required to arrange for the delivery of goods beyond the point of sale.

Pros – payment for shipping is made at the same time when doing check out, which relieves customers from having to monitor and consolidate the shipment.

Cons – the local courier company handling the delivery in Singapore is DPEX, with which i have had a bad experience. Sensitive items such as battery, cosmetics and food are not allowed. This option is most probably more expensive than the rest.

When to choose Taobao Global Direct Shipping – for newbies.

Global Consolidate And Shipping

This means the goods will be delivered to a warehouse in China, and you will have to monitor the arrival of your goods at the warehouse (which is very easy anyway) and initiate the delivery to Singapore.

Pros – Shipping is calculated based on actual weight (there may be exceptions though, and nobody knows for sure). There are 4 choices of courier companies, including POPstation which allows one to self-collect from lockers. Gives you the flexibility to group and send your parcels in more than one shipment, which may be necessary sometimes to avoid paying GST (import duty).

Cons – the measured actual weight could end up being a lot higher than the estimated weight (factoring in the packaging material), and you get a shock when you’re quoted the shipping cost. Sensitive items such as battery, cosmetics and food are not allowed.

When to choose Global Consolidate And Shipping – when you’re confident that you can save money on shipping, which is the case for light but bulky items. If your preference is for home delivery, or collection at POPstation.

Third party shipping

This is similar to Gloabal Consolidate and Shipping, whereby you ship your goods to a China warehouse, and thereafter, initiate the shipping to Singapore. The difference is, you are using a third party forwarder company instead of one of the four designated partners on Taobao. Example of a third party forwarder: ezbuy.

Pros – shipping via sea freight can be a lot cheaper. Sensitive items, such those containing a battery, can be shipped (at higher shipping rate). Shipping rate could be based on a flat rate, which is good for shipping light non-bulky items.

Cons – shipping cost is calculated based on volumetric weight, which will incur a much higher cost (vs actual weight) for light but bulky items.

When to choose third party shipping – to ship heavy/bulky items via sea freight, or to ship just one or a few light non-bulky items, or to ship high density items where the actual weight is the same or more than the volumetric weight, or to ship sensitive items. Home delivery is possible with third party shipping also, but opting for home delivery may result in the overall cost being more than Taobao’s Global Consolidate and Shipping.

If you need to ship bulky items, i highly recommend 86OF.com, sea freight parcel forwarder.

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I have never used Taobao Global Direct Shipping before, but in my most recent Taobao order, i made it a point to take note of whether it is actually more worthwhile. I was postulating that it would be more expensive, since the shipping cost is purely based on estimation, and in order not to lose out, i presumed they will have to quote higher. Turns out that i was wrong. The shipping cost quoted for Taobao Global Direct Shipping was 105 Yuan, whereas the final cost quoted for Global Consolidate And Shipping was 160 Yuan. Update 23 Jun 2016: this is more an exception than the rule. For all my subsequent shipments, the shipping cost quoted for Taobao Global Direct Shipping was significantly more than what it costs to ship via third party forwarder.

I really think the rating scores given for each of the fowarders are made up. I have never been asked to give a score for the forwarders. If the scores are not from customers, they must have come from thin air.
Only 105 Yuan was quoted for the shipping via Taobao Global Direct Shipping
160 Yuan
160 Yuan for shipping via Global Consolidate and Shipping. I think the 55 Yuan difference was due to one item having an actual weight much higher than its estimated weight.

The moral of the story: there’s no harm checking the shipping rates quoted for Taobao Global Direct Shipping every time when you check out, just in case the rates look good. You do have to have a good sense of how heavy or bulky your parcels could be. Do a quick comparison by converting the RMB shipping rate into SGD and dividing by 3.38 (Ezbuy’s per kg economy air shipping rates). If this result is much higher than what you think your parcels weigh, then it’s not worthwhile.

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10 thoughts on “Making sense of Taobao shipping options”

  1. I’m starting to suspect that third party forwarders like ezbuy or sgshop are comparable to taobao consolidate shipping these days. $1.90 for air shipping (0.5kg and no first kilo surcharge) whereas taobao rates are ¥35-45 for first kilo and ¥11 for subsequent 0.5kg).

    Do you have any insights pertaining that?

    Thanks

    1. Yes, indeed the third party ones are very attractive now. They are especially good for shipping just a few items because they charge a flat fee (whereas taobao consolidate has the first kilo surcharge as you correctly pointed out). However, don’t forget that third party use volumetric weight (which, at the point of calculating total, they will add another 10%!), whereas Taobao goes by actual weight, so each has its own merit.

      My strategy now is, for very light but bulky items (for example a yoga mat, or clothing in general), i ship via Taobao consolidate (and like what i discovered and shared in my posting above, Taobao direct is more worthwhile). For everything else, i go by third party. For third party, if it is very low cost but bulky items, use sea freight. If it is high cost, but not high enough to attract GST, use economy air.

  2. I want to buy from 3 different sellers. When I am about to check out, there are 3 options, namely, Taobao Global Direct Shipping, Global Consolidated and Third Party Shipping. Questions: 1. Can I use Global Direct Shipping even though I am buying from 3 different sellers? 2. Which is the cheapest option? Thank you.

    1. Hi hasacott, yes you can use global direct shipping regardless of the sellers you’re buying from. You will be quoted the shipping to Singapore individually for each of the item you’re buying, so you will not be able to enjoy the benefit of savings from consolidating the 3 items, I think.

      The cost of shipping depends on the size and weight of the items. Assuming you are shipping via air freight (there is also the choice of ocean freight for really bulky items), the general rule is that if you are shipping bulky items, global consolidated shipping is cheaper (you have to further choose from the 4 courier combinations available), whereas ezbuy (third party) could be cheaper for shipping non-bulky items.

    1. Hi Rene, anything that contains a battery has to be shipped as a sensitive item. If you are shipping only a few other items and this is the only sensitive item, then you should ship this one separately under sensitive, since the sensitive shipping fee costs a lot more (S$4.99 per 0.5 kg via ezbuy). Otherwise, if you happen to be buying a lot of bulky stuff, you should ship via ocean freight, and 86of.com would allow you to ship the sensitive item at their normal shipping rate. Or at least they say they will close one eye if you happen to be shipping a few items through them. I actually tried so I know it’s true.

  3. Thank you so much for this most helpful post. Just one question: I saw that you managed to get an estimate for Global Consolidate and Shipping. May I ask if you got that estimate after checkout, or if you could get that before checkout and do a comparison with Taobao Global Direct Shipping?

    1. Hi CeeJayHage, there’s no way you can get an estimate for Global Consolidate and Shipping. What I’ve shown in the post was the actual shipping rate. I guess you have to rely on intuition to decide how you want to ship, but you can assume Global Direct will be more expensive most of the time.

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