Tuesday, January 27, 2015

All I want for shopping is you

I'm not a great fan of shopping. While I do enjoy half a day out at the mall, trawling through favorite stores to see what's new and happening, I'm generally the "buy what I need and let's have coffee" kind of shopper. It must be age. In my youth, I used to have the energy to walk up and down Orchard Road in Singapore the whole day and into the night. Not anymore. But now I've literally found a shopping haven at my fingertips. Literally. Online shopping!

How great is it that I can shop from my living room, take my time to view what's on offer, do comparisons, save the item in my shopping cart, come back later to consider it again, and get it delivered to my doorstep. I saw on a program that even when regional shopping site, Zalora, introduced pop-up stores in Singapore over the holidays, they still delivered the items shoppers bought, because that's what the shoppers preferred!

I've just read on Facebook that there are a couple of online shopping sites that have been disappointing their customers with late deliveries or non-deliveries of paid-for items, and then not addressing complaints. To these people and everyone out there who like shopping but don't want to brave the malls, I have one word for you. AliExpress.

I had used the Ali Baba website a few years back when I was looking to buy equipment for my now defunct cafe, at wholesale prices. But recently, I found out that its retail offshoot, AliExpress, handles retail orders. So I checked out the website and I've been hooked ever since.

You can find anything, and I mean EVERYTHING, on AliExpress. Because it's a retail site, you can order just one item of what you want, and pay a really affordable price for it. Of course, you have to be discerning in your choice, and expect to pay more if you want better quality. Would I get an electrical item on AliExpress? Probably not, nor would I get stuff like pharmaceuticals or edible items where quality control is paramount.

A set of linen cushion covers for USD40
What I have bought on the site, I have been very happy with. A set of cushion covers whose quality turned out to be better than expected only cost a fraction of what I would have paid in the stores. And what really impresses me is how well laid out the whole website is, informative and professionally managed. I'm sure that all the staff that billionaire entrepreneur, Jack Ma, brought in from places like Google and Apple have helped to give it its international feel.

The way AliExpress is set up is different from what Amazon does which is ship products from its own warehouses. AliExpress serves to takes orders and channels them to the vendors themselves, who then ship out the items. But AliExpress maintains a close watch over every aspect of the order from shipping to delivery, and encourages (or should I say, politely demands) feedback from purchasers. All this is posted on the page of the item itself so that all other customers can view for themselves the satisfaction level of the purchaser.

Best of all, shipping is FREE, to anywhere in the world. I haven't figured out how the vendors manage to do this when some items are ridiculously priced at USD1 and the margins are so small. Shipping itself can take anywhere from 5 to 34 days which is fine if you can wait. If you're in a hurry to receive your item, you can pay for express service.

I love my new travel bag!
I tested out the whole shopping process on AliExpress when I first started out with small purchases such as earrings, and then a bag and cushion covers. Fairly detailed descriptions of the item are displayed on the page, with clear photographs generally, so you get a fair idea of what it is. So AliExpress is my go-to shopping site now, saving my time and legs. The only gripe I have at the moment is the exchange rate which is heavily in favor of the US dollar, putting a dampener on the whole shopping buzz.

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