China is an online shopper’s paradise. There is very little you cannot acquire online and have delivered right to your doorstep – often at no additional cost or at least way cheaper than in most other countries. The Chinese network of courier companies is astonishing and their means of delivery very unusual to the Western eye: you would not believe what sorts of goods may be transported via electric scooter or even the good old foot-pedaled cargo bikes.
But to give work to these bike, e-bike and scooter couriers, people need to order online first. And to order online, one needs an account with one of the countless Internet platforms dedicated to online commerce so popular in China.
Today, I will tell you how to set up just such an account with e-commerce giant Taobao. This company, which belongs to the Alibaba Group (Alibaba is a Chinese whole-sale e-commerce platform which has expanded to serve the entire planet), is the market leader for e-commerce in the Chinese market today. It provides a platform for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs to open online stores that cater to consumers in Chinese-speaking regions (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) and also abroad. Since the entire platform is only available in Chinese, this creates challenges for foreigners who want to enter the wonderland of online purchasing in China. The biggest hurdle to getting started is setting up an account. We will discuss at a later date how to link a Chinese bank account card to your Taobao account and how to go through the process of ordering something and getting it delivered.
But first, let’s get to the actual account set up.
Go to www.taobao.com. The landing page will look something like this:
For now, the text we need is just to the right of this – 免费注册 (miǎn fèi zhù cè) for signing up for free. When you hover over the text, it will also turn orange. Please click on it.
The next page SOMETIMES will show you the registration agreement, which you have to accept by clicking on the big orange button with 同意协议 (tóng yì xié yì, meaning „accept agreement “) on it.
This in turn brings you to the next page, where you will be asked to link your phone to the account. That will be easiest if you have a Chinese phone number, because a lot of Taobao’s safety features rely on sending out text messages with codes to be input on the website or into the mobile phone app. So you need to receive text messages while in China – which is not possible with all foreign SIM cards. To input a Chinese number, please choose the first option, 中国大陆 +86 (zhōng guó dà lù) for China Mainland from the drop down menu and add your phone number in the little window to the right.
Then, you need to slide the little bar beneath from left to right until the entire bar has turned green. A captcha will appear below, asking you to identify a certain character out of a list of characters. This part will be a bit tricky. You need to find the character that is highlighted in yellow in the picture below and click on it (for example, it is the character 幽 (yōu) meaning calm. In this case, 幽 can be found in the first line of characters, all the way to the right). If you’re lucky (like me at this moment), you just need to fill the numbers and letters in the correct order like on the picture:
Once you have completed this little puzzle, confirming that you are not a robot, the adventure of setting up your own Taobao account can continue. We are almost there, actually.
If you haven’t “accept the agreement” before, you will have to do it like on the picture:
The last step is to request a confirmation code by clicking on the grey surface to the right. Within less than a minute, you will receive a text message with a 6 digit code that you have to input immediately into the window labeled 密码号 (mì mǎ hào, password number).
I say immediately, because it becomes obsolete after a very short time and you would have to request yet another one in this case. Once you have put the 6 digit code in, you click on the big orange button with the characters and – tadaam – you are now the proud owner of your personal Taobao account.
But it is still not the end. You will see this:
In first two gaps you have to fill your password and in the third gap – login name. After you confirm it (press the orange button) and – congratulations – you did it:
If this process seems daunting to you, you may also of course ask a Chinese friend to help. Or, if you have the good fortune of being one of our tenants at Yuqinfu Residence, come by the Landing East office and we will be happy to help you set up an account.
Please share this information with your friends or colleagues who have always wanted to turn into online shopping monsters. And don’t forget to follow us on all our social media presences – WeChat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and of course our blog.
Written by Julie Marx