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Shopee, Lazada, Taobao, Amazon, Aliexpress, Qoo10: Which is the Best Shopping Portal?


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With the holidays coming it is natural for people to look for presents. It is the time of the year when shoppers go into a frenzy trying to snag the best deals, especially the few days before Christmas. In the midst of this hive of activities, we are facing the prospect of some popular departmental stores closing. So, where can we shop?

Since the circuit breaker began, Singaporeans have taken to shopping online more than before. In fact, this monumental shift in habit from retail to online shopping is hastened when we find that online shopping is the only place where we can get certain goods. Coupled with the fact that online shopping usually means the prices are cheaper too. To illustrate:  my dad noticed what he thought was a good deal at Courts recently. The laser printer was going for $168. A quick check online yielded a cheaper price of $148. Chances are, you might also be looking for something yourself too.

With so many ecommerce portals around, which is the best? Let’s dive in:

1. Amazon: This is a great place to shop. You’ll get access to Amazon’s huge arsenal of products on sale here. Granted, not everything ships to Singapore. Still, you get to have 12 million products at your fingertips. Apart from the usual electronics, you’ll get access to unusual household items not sold on other portals. For example, you can find extra-long 2.3m shower curtains (like who searches for that???) on Amazon. If you sign up for Amazon Prime for just $2.99 a month, you’ll enjoy free local delivery and access to their collections of TV series. If you’re not a Netflix fan, then Amazon Prime offers a pretty compelling alternative.

2. Lazada: Not far behind in terms of the number of items sold, is Lazada with 11 million items. Apart from the usual fare, they have groceries on Redmart, which was a lifesaver during the circuit breaker. Honestly, Fairprice really bungled up with the delivery, whereas Redmart quickly made adjustment and provided grocery delivery. I digressed. Back on earth, I mean, Lazada, they provide very quick resolution to the problems I encountered by phone. In these days of automated attendant that goes into an endless loop and eternal wait, it’s refreshing that my phone calls were picked up readily by a human (well, they sounded real – AI’s not that advanced yet). Kudos to them!

3. Shopee: I’m not sure how many items are sold on Shopee, but you would notice that many of their items are sold by Chinese merchants. And if you have an issue with you purchase, you’ll have to deal directly with the vendors. Apart from their addressing me “Dear” in their response (if you have written to these vendors, you’ll know what I mean) – which gives me the goosebumps (Aha! That’s a clever deterrent to get rid of pesky customers complaining), customer service by the vendors is acceptable. On a rare occasion when I had a very uncooperative vendor, Shopee helped resolve it and got me a refund – they did take pains to explain to me that they do not usually step in. Still, I appreciated their responsiveness to my complaint. If you’re a fan of Taobao, Shopee doesn’t disappoint. True, Shopee doesn’t quite offer as broad a selection of things as Taobao, but when they do – they sell it cheaper. And if you’ve ever shopped on Taobao, shipping is a pain and takes forever. Whereas Shopee makes it simple. The icing on the cake? Shipping is often offered free. Oh, did I mention that Shopee is in English?

4. Qoo10: The darling from a few years ago and stalwart of ecommerce continues to be a leader today. Although its market share is taken over by Shopee (1st) and Lazada (2nd), it still maintains a formidable presence in Singapore. Although they can’t avoid the ubiquitous Chinese-made products, they maintain a fair bit of Korean made products. And I managed to score a few special deals here, far cheaper than on any other portals. I also like their QExpress courier service, where you can send a parcel to neighboring countries from only $4.30. My only gripe with them is their rather user-unfriendly navigation on their website. Still, if good value is what you’re looking for, don’t write them off yet.

5. Taobao: The elephant in the room. At first, I can’t understand what’s the draw of Taobao. Apart from the fact that everything is written in Chinese and to effectively search for anything on their website, you need to type in Chinese, is that the portal is so complicated! And their shipping is the proverbial pain in the #@! Fundamentally, they offer 4 modes of international shipping: consolidated door to door (by air), sea freight, air freight, and the option to use your own freight forwarded. Not all items are available to be shipped by consolidated door to door delivery. Most large items (anything larger than 80cm) have to be shipped by sea. Delivery is included in most cases from the vendor to the seaport, but you have to pay an international shipping fee to the warehouse before they’re being shipped out. And you’ll have to keep an eye on that. For, if you did not pay for the international shipping, your items will either be kept in cold storage (that’s not the worst part) or returned to the vendor without warning. Still, most of the individual vendors take customer service seriously and response to queries and problem resolution is quick – if you can bear with their addressing you “dear dear” that is. Prices, after including shipping, might not be as cheap as you imagine. You might even fine them cheaper on Shopee or even qoo10. Still, you can’t beat variety, especially for furniture.

6. Aliexpress: Owned by Alibaba (who else?), Aliexpress has a unique proposition: they have Chinese-made products geared towards the western consumers. So, if you’re looking for that special European-style lamp or antique (European antiques) chest of drawers, you’ll find them here in abundance. Though I can’t get around it when I searched for “dresser”, they returned artificial boobs in the search results. As Popeye (who’s that?) would have said, it’s “embarassking!”, yeah right. Shipping is easy – vendors will either include it free or offered at nominal cost. Anyway, prices are reasonable and the best part of Aliexpress? It’s in English.

7. ezbuy: One of the newest kids on the ecommerce scene, ezbuy positions itself as the easier version of Taobao but in English. They aim to simplify whole purchasing and shipping process. When searching in English, their product offering is not as wide as the other portals, but they have the essentials, and sometimes that’s a good thing – as long as you know what you’re looking for. But if you search in Chinese, you’ll discover many more products. I find that the products listed here are generally cheaper too.

So, which is the best shopping portal? I can’t really say. It all comes down to what you want and the kind of shopping experience you expect. Each has its unique proposition, along with its advantages and disadvantages. If you’re licking your wounds over the closure of Robinsons, you might start “window” shopping on all these websites. Now, if only someone can scrape (legally) from all these portals and offer a single check out, that would be game changer.

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