For a long time now, China has served the entire world with fascinating products. There is practically no product in the world that Chinese manufacturers have not produced. Little wonder international buyers flock into China day and night for commercial reasons. For buyers who cannot or do not want to visit China, online shopping is the way to go. Online shopping provides enormous benefits for people who want products from China without the hassles of long distance travelling.

While online shopping is great, it doesn’t come without significant downsides. With the exception of Alibaba and its direct affiliates, most other popular Chinese online stores like 1688, Tmall, Taobao and JD have their texts written in Chinese language. Obviously, this is a challenge for international customers. Often times, buyers looking to purchase from China encounter a myriad of problems, some of them are:

– Communication with the sellers
– Selecting the best quality products
– Making payments
– Shipping purchased items.

How to Overcome These Challenges

There is just one proven way to buy from a foreign country, especially if language and logistics could prove to a herculean task – shopping agents. Shopping agents help to eradicate the hurdles that could be faced when purchasing products online. Using shopping agents is almost the same as shopping from your favorite online store. The only difference is the purchase will be made on the buyers’ behalf and shipped to them. Basically, the following steps are involved:

Step One: Registering on the Website.

First of all, buyers looking to have a third-party shopping agent make purchases for them must create an account with the shopping agent. This involves a registration, setting up a profile, adding addresses and providing a means of payment. Once the buyer’s account is complete, orders can be placed. However, it is important – not just in the ecommerce industry, but in any online subscription service – to read the terms and conditions of the company in question before commencing.

Step Two: Placing an order

Once registration is complete and a buyer has familiarized him/herself with the website, the next thing to do is to proceed with placing orders. To do this, buyer needs to follow simple instructions and fill custom fields on the form that will be displayed on the shopping agent’s website.

The steps highlighted below should be followed next:

Search for Desired Item:

Browsing through online stores in search of desired items. Once a desire item is found, buyer has to copy the product link and head straight to the shopping agent’s website. Alternatively, buyer may just copy the product name (not link this time), head over to shopping agent’s website and search for it there. If the item is found – good. If not, the site offers alternatives. But if a buyer is still not satisfied with the results, the agent will complete the order using the link to the given product.

Submit Order:

This is as simple as clicking the submit button on the page that displays after pasting the product link. Before clicking on the “Submit Order” button, it is important that buyers specify the number of products they need, as well as the colors and sizes. This information helps reduce or eliminate mistakes while the agent processes order. Upon hitting the button, all chosen items are added to shopping cart from where payment and subsequent shipping will take place.

Pay for the Item(s):

An order is not complete until they are paid for. Though the option of Cash on Delivery (COD) has made it possible to pay upon receiving purchased items, it is not a convenient mode for payment for purchases made (especially cross-continental purchases). So, this is where the buyer commits to the transaction financially. This is also where buyer chooses currency of choice (sometimes currency conversions cost a little bit) and the method of payment.

Payment methods vary from international credit cards to bank transfers to e-wallets. For security reasons, many merchants prefer using e-wallets like PayPal, Neteller, Skrill and their likes to credit cards as they help to prevent internet fraud.

For the buyer, this is where the job ends. The agent will do the rest. Of course, buyer must fill shipping address properly so that the purchased items don’t get missing during delivery.

Shopping Agent Completes the Rest

From the moment, the buyer completes an order request, the rest is in the hands of the shopping agent. What the agent(s) do can be summarized in the following steps:

Agent Places a Direct Order:

Having known the item(s) the buyer needs, the agent places an order to local seller. The local seller packages these items and ships them to the agent.

Inspection and Storage:

On receiving the items, the agent thoroughly checks them for consistency with the buyer’s demands, originality, quality and condition of arrival. If fake or broken or not exactly in tune with the specs the buyer wants, the items will be returned for replacement. If it reaches standard, the next step begins

Repackaging and Storage:

While some agents will ship the items with the manufacturer’s default packaging, some repackage it with their own materials so as to promote their brand and all that. Thereafter, the items are stored in the agent’s store room pending when they will be shipped.

Shipping and Delivery:

Now the agent forwards the items for delivery to the buyer. Usually, the shipping fee is incorporated in the total purchase. This means the buyer pays for the shipping fee as at when payment for the items was made. This fee is calculated based on the weight of the item and the distance the package is expected to travel.

Confirmation and Review

This brings us back to the buyer. Once buyer receives the items ordered, examines them and discovers they are up to standard and is satisfied, the next step would be to confirm successful delivery of the items. This is often accompanied by writing a short review of the buyer’s experience with the shopping agent.

It is beautiful to use shopping agents when trying to buy from countries where a buyer does not know much about, especially when language is a barrier. It could ultimately save the buyer both time and money on the long run as mistakes are often avoided when expert shopping agents do the job.

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