Taobao Vs Shopee: When to use which?


Well, before we get into the topic, let's a few things clear.

1) I'm a regular online shopper (who might just happen to shop a little more than usual shoppers LOL), so these information are largely personal opinions and experiences.

2) These are NOT official information and should be use as reference only.

So with these 2 things made clear, let's get to the 3rd and fourth one:

3) I'll not be responsible if anything unpleasant happen if you decided to make an important purchase decisions because of this post!

4) This context is true for Singapore only! I can't say for other countries!

Ok, now that we're clear, let's get started.

I actually didn't want to make a comparison between these 2. As I'm probably going to be biased. LOL. I'm a huge Shopee fan the moment I discovered it! I like how cheap and convenient it is!

Anyway, I'm going to split this comparison into 5 main parts - Selections, Price (before and after shipment), Time (speed of delivery),  customer service/buyer protection and discounts.


Well, well, there is nothing to compare here. Taobao have a much larger selection. The prices are also more competitive which brings us to the next point.


Comparing prices between these 2 shopping sites is rather complicated. It's almost like comparing Apples and Oranges. Well, you see, Shopee has a more expensive price tag but much cheaper (or even free) shipping fee. While Taobao has a much more lower price tag but higher shipment fee (depending on the options you choose)

Let's take this as an example:

18 pieces of 1.5mm thick A3 size grey cardboard will cost SG$55.89 on Shopee, shipping fee is $0.

It'll cost SG$4.60 on Taobao. Cheap huh? 

But then let's calculate the shipping fee, shall we?

The item weights 2.29kg and depending on shipping options, the fee will varies. I chose to ship by Sea via Taobao Global Consolidation and Shipping(集运) for these and the shipment fee is about SG$9 (estimated) including the 7% GST tax.

The sea consolidation shipping option is in most cases the cheapest way to ship from Taobao, but the downside is that it'll take a long time. 

Taobao promises 17 working days for the parcel to be delivered, but it can take up to a month, especially during festive/sales periods.

If you consider the other options, Air consolidation shipping will cost SG$16.50, Direct shipping via Sea would cost SG$10.70 (excluding GST tax) and Direct shipping via Air will cost SG$17.10 (all shipping fees are estimated).

*Only Sea shipments incurs GST tax, Air shipment doesn't.

I actually bought these cardboards from Taobao and shipped them via Sea consolidation and I'm pretty sure they didn't cost SG$50! I don't think they're ever close to that amount!

Anyway, now to our next example:

These cute Sundae correction tapes cost SG$1.54 each on Shopee. Shipping fee is $1. So it'll be SG$6.16 for 4, and $7.16 after including shipping fee. 

They cost SG$3.35 for 4 on Taobao.

The items weights 0.333kg, which will be converted to about SG$4.50 via Sea consolidation shipping. 

You might be wondering why something so light can cost so much? 

That is because for small items <1kg, the shipping fee is at a flat rate of RMB21 (~SG$4.50). However, if the weight (or total weight if you consolidate many items) is 1-10 kg, the rate is RMB11/kg (SG$2.50/kg) and RMB9/kg (SG$1.90/kg) for 11-30kg.

So yes, Sea shipping is not the best option for shipping small items. For this item, if you go via Direct Air, it'll cost SG$3.80. (estimated) So that makes the price of these correction tape is about the same on both sites.

So after 2 example, we get no conclusion. It's just not a clear A vs B comparison. I mean, it depends a lot on the shipping options. But in most cases, Taobao have a slightly cheaper price (if you buy many items and use consolidate shipment). 

Side: I noticed a "trend" on Shopee. That is some sellers would purposefully delay shipment and the system would cancel the order due to "inactivity" of delivery status. I've faced it a few times over the past few months. And I did contacted one of the seller and she said she have to cancel the order because after all the vouchers and coins (discounts), she is selling at a lost. 

Well, I've tried to sell on Shopee too, I know that Shopee makes the seller bear all the discounts from coins, vouchers, sales and also the shipment fees. So I predict it'll be soon that prices on Shopee will go up. 

Shipping/Delivery Time

I think it's no secret that most of the cheaper options on Shopee actually comes from overseas (China). For the same product, the one selling on a local store would usually cost more than one that is from China. Not to mention that those that ship locally usually have a higher shipping fee (it's complicated but let's just say courier and postage in Singapore is expensive).

So, you might be thinking that there is no much different when it comes to shipping time?

Well, yes and no.

Because shipping methods plays a huge part.

Shopee Shipping Time

Shopee shipment time is usually faster than most of the shipping methods on Taobao. Shopee averages about 8-10 days on shipment time. But this depends on the Shipping methods too. Did you opted for the free Standard Economy or paid the SG$1 for the Standard Express? Or did you pay more for other shipping options?

Let's take a look at the delivery process:

Most of my shopping on Shopee left China 4 days (5 days max) after I paid for the order. Meaning the 2 red colour parts took only 4 days. (Talk about China have very demanding requirements for their courier drivers). 

So what makes the differences is in the blue > yellow colour parts - local courier.

For most local courier (exception of SingPost), they usually takes up to 3 days max to deliver. SingPost can take up to 5 days. It's because of the shorter working hours of SingPost compared to the other courier services.

And from my personal experiences, there is no noticeable difference in speed of delivery between Standard Economy (free) and Standard Express (cost SG$1), which both is handled by SingPost. (They used to engage 3rd party courier services but I'm not sure now).

Taobao Shipping Time

Well, once again, it depends on the shipping methods. For most Tabobao Direct shipment, they'll go through the same thing as Shopee shipment (see above diagram).

As for Consolidation shipment, there'll be one more step between the 2 red colour parts (seller and port), which is the forwarder warehouse. You've wait for all your shopping items to reached the warehouse, consolidate them and then pay the shipment fee. (Don't be surprised at the price, coz I usually do! LOL)

Anyway, the average shipment for Taobao Sea consolidation (after paying for shipment) will be 3.5 weeks, 2 weeks for Air consolidation (after paying for shipment), 8-10 days for Air Direct and 10-12 days for Sea Direct.

Customer Service/Buyer Protection

Customer Service

I'll have to say they're both very polite but not very helpful in most cases. They'll much rather you liaise with the vendor (seller) yourself. (And hell, you might face some really rude sellers!) It's unless things can't be settled that they'll step in. 

However, I do feel that the Customer Service (CS) from Taobao seems to have more knowledge about the system and is more willing to go the extra mile. I remember there was once that I faced some problems (I can't remember the details now since it's years ago) and need to contact the warehouse.

When I told them that I'm overseas and that international calls is expensive, the CS actually made the call for me and settled the problem! 

For the Shopee CS... well, you're better off reading the FAQ. I mean they just seems to copy and paste a set of fixed answers. With of course a few rare exceptions who take time to understand the situation.

I remembered a recent incident, whereby I almost vomited blood when contacting their CS. I mean she just kept repeating the copy-and-paste "solution" which obviously doesn't apply in my case and doesn't answer any of my queries. At the end of it, she played the "delay game" - asking me to wait for the item to arrive before contacting Shopee again. Well done.

Buyer Protection

Hmm... To be honest, I'm not very clear about Taobao's buyer protection since most of them aren't applicable to me - Like their 7 days return, local shipping insurance (you've to pay for it). If I didn't understand wrongly, it's an insurance that you'll get compensation if you need to return the item perhaps due to damage or other reasons. (It's only for the courier within China) Anyway, I never paid for it, so not very sure how it really work.

From what I checked, Taobao promises a refund of up to RMB2000 + International Shipping fee for damaged item and will refund for missing parcels too.

I've personally received a full refund of my shopping (excluding shipment fees) when my parcel was believed to be missing. What happened was, it was not delivered 2 weeks after arriving in Singapore. Contacted Taobao delivery CS and he confirmed it went missing, guided me through the refund procedure and I got my refund shortly. (I forgot the details already... but the parcel did arrive, about a week after I got my refund... oops!) 

When requesting for a refund, the key is to NEVER click the "Confirmed Received Item" (确认收货). Because once click, payment will be released to the seller and you'll probably never get your refund back. The same goes for Shopee, NEVER click the "Order Received"!

For most cases with wrong or damaged item received, liaising with the seller would solve the problem, as most of them won't mind refunding you in exchange for a better review. However, some would refuse to refund if you don't promise a shining good review or if you can't return the item.

Worst case scenario would be, asking Taobao CS to get involved. Show them the prove (photos and sometimes video) and you'll get your refund. But there are time whereby Taobao request you return the item and that's when you can't do anything about it unless you're willing to pay the shipment fee (which can be more than the item itself).

Shopee buyer protection work almost in the same way as Taobao. You can request a refund if you do not receive your item after the promised estimated delivery date and you'll usually get it. For other reasons (damaged/missing/wrong items), you liaise with the seller first and if it doesn't work, Shopee get involved.

For Shopee, I find that you've a slightly higher chance of getting refund without having to return the item to oversea sellers. (But it'll be a long process - disputing with seller, submitting video and photos evidence, it can be a few back and fore)

If you want more protection, buy from Shopee Mall, they offer 15 days return, whereby they will not only refund you the full price but will also cover the return shipping fee.

Discounts, Promotions and Reward program

Hmm... I guess this is the part which makes a huge difference when choosing which site to shop on! I mean this is one of the biggest factor which got me into choosing Shopee over Taobao. 


Firstly, since Taobao is a China platform, it serves their local community better. Plus, there is the language barrier and there are some features that requires ID verifications, which I didn't want to.

I must admit that due to language barrier I still couldn't fully understand all their features and games. I just know they can earn coins, ang baos and discounts vouchers. 

But I don't get why I couldn't use more coins (I've over 10K of them) to offset my shopping. There is options to exchange coins for coupons/vouchers. But these vouchers have a lot of limitations (only selected items and stores only, which are still more expensive after discounts) and some are discount vouchers for their local couriers, place of interest tickets, train tickets...etc. These are not useful for non-local like me. 

Apart from their annual huge Double 11 and 12 sales (which have gotten less attractive over the years), I usually don't visit Taobao as much unless I'm not able to find something on Shopee or that Shopee's price is way too expensive.
To me (and I reckon for all overseas non-ID verified users), Taobao have zero reward system. Or is too complicated to understand.


On the other hand, Shopee have lots of sales catered for locals (National Day sales, Children's Day sales, Hari Raya sales, GSS, Bubble Tea sales...etc) on top of the annual Doubles Sales (Double 9, Double 10, Double 11...etc). I can't count how many times I bought Liho and Four Seasons vouchers during sales.

Not to mention the various ways to earn coins - daily login, playing games and Shopee farm. Well, they're obviously ways to get users to visit their sites daily. But it can be a win-win situation if you can resist the temptation to buy things!

You also get daily cashback vouchers whereby you can use them to get cashback in the form of coins. Coins can be use to offset shopping - 100 coins = SG$1. A maximum of 1000 coins can be use per day. (I wish I can use as much coins to offset my Taobao shopping! I've so much Taobao coins!)

There is also Birthday discount vouchers, tier rewards and refer a friend program which I won't go into. You can find out about them here and here.

I'm pretty cheapskate, I'm love the vouchers, discounts, sales and free coins! So Shopee is my obvious choice.

Well, at the end of the day, it all depends on your needs and preferences. There are pros and cons for both sites and the things to consider would be:

- Shipment - Are you in a hurry to get the items? How heavy is your items?

- Is Reward/loyal system important to you?

- Price - How much price differences makes the deal?

- Language Barrier (I assume you know some Chinese since you're shopping on Taobao)

- Convenience - paying only once or paying twice?

I personally go to Shopee first since I've got the coins and vouchers and I'm quite a lazy shopper, so I just want to pay and leave the rest to Shopee. If I'm in the right mood, I'll browse on both sites. But it's quite impossible to compare the price then since you won't know the exact weight. 

A trick I try to estimate the weight of the item is to proceed to checkout the item and when asked to select shipping options, look at the Direct Air option, there'll be an estimated shipping fee. (You can proceed to divide it by it's price/kg to have a rough gauge of the weight. It usually work but its a lot of work.

So yeah, I've only done that twice. Both time, they're lighter than the estimation. 

I've actually did a comparison for a particular shopping haul the estimated shipping fee for Direct Air is RMB84.50 but in the end, I went with  Air Consolidation shipping and only paid RMB33. 

However, note that there'll be rare cases whereby the estimated weight is much lesser than the actual weight and you'll have to pay for the differences.

Well, I must say my experience on both sites have been pleasant so far. There have been small hiccups but no huge problems. Which site do you prefer?

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