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Online shopping in China

Everyone knows about it right now Aliexpress. One of the more well-known online websites in China. You can buy brand and not brand items for a much lower price. But is it really a lower price?  We try to explain online shopping in China.

Aliexpress is become a verb these days in Europe and I’m sure in other parts of the world as well. Buying items much cheaper than you would in stores or online stores in the west. The question is almost ‘what is there in the world that you can not buy on the internet?’. Older well-known online shopping platforms are of course Ebay or Amazon. Bol or Coolblue in The Netherlands but more and more people are buying of Aliexpress..But what is really behind aliexpress? Why does it work as well as it does?

How it works in China
While I was living in China I found out it’s possible to buy almost anything you need, if there’s a need there’s a way and usually this way was found through internet. A cheap order and it will be brought to your given address the next day. Usually by couriers.
While being on holiday in 2017 and being sat at a restaurant for dinner I noticed a lot of different couriers of different companies coming and going, as I watch every of these couriers have their phone scanned and given information and then watching them leave with the food, address and even a map on their phone to go to the costumer. Off they went and within a few minutes another courier was back to get the next order. I was amazed with the technology behind this. It really seems like in the 7 years I’ve been away from China there’s been an incredible mobile leap.

chandan khanna

The things you’re able to do on your mobile in China blows me away. Buying online, renting bicycle’s and even paying in stores by QR code. It absolutely blew my mind and gave me hope for our own leap in Europe. We can barely even use our cards to pay for things I feel like mobile paying is still a long way away. Just like recently where I heard someone who gave up on using their mobile’s chip to pay because it didn’t work at most places he frequented.

Though Aliexpress isn’t used by the Chinese, even though most vendors (let’s call them that) are Chinese. Mainland Chinese are forbidden from using it but they have their own platform owned by the same company Alibaba. TaoBao is one of the websites where you can easily buy everything your heart desires; From kitchen utensils to a boyfriend or girlfriend for the holidays.

Behind the scenes
Though behind the scenes, the places where your orders come from there’s usually a huge market. While getting lost in Shanghai, Wuxi and Nanjing we found huge malls filled with stalls, most shops with identical fabrics, plastics, photo camera’s, candy etc. It was a bizarre sight to be honest. Usually not one of the cleanest places to be but it seemed like the merchants were nearly living in the space. The mall seems deserted with escalators being out of order, broken windows, wooden boards as bridges between two buildings. I don’t think there is anything I can compare it to.

We went to one of the malls where they would sell pets and pet necessities, turns out the bird section we were looking for had moved but we got to walk along the shops, rows upon rows with flowers, bags and any type of decoration you can think of.

Watching them prepare orders and seeing stacks upon stacks of packages waiting to be picked up by couriers. It was truly mind blowing for me to see items I’ve bought over the internet right there in the store and it made me wonder.. do they make enough money to survive? Seeing the prices on AliExpress and Taobao.

I hope to try and find out more for a next post, there is so much technicality to be found on google and I don’t want to bore anybody with numbers.


Credit: Google, Wikipedia.

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