Expats in China get English language online shopping platform

Published:  9 May at 6 PM
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Tagged: Visas, China, Money
After years of struggling with massive Chinese language online shopping sites such as Alibaba, expats now have their own English language online website connected with the huge retailer and its endless choices of goods.

Finding the way around the huge, Mandarin language Alibaba sites and their 8000 million products has been a nightmare for expats working in China. Without a Chinese friend to help negotiate the giant sites, the chances of being able to purchase anything were rated as slim to none.

Help, however, is at last in hand, due to a trio of frustrated long-term expats happy to risk their life savings to solve the problem. Jay Thornhill, Tyler McNew and Charlie Erickson invested their joint savings of $77,000 plus loans from friends in what they saw as a unique chance to help the expat community as well as making money.

The new website, Baopals, was set up in Shanghai two months ago by the intrepid trio. According to Erickson, the original idea was born out of necessity, with all three friends totally disenchanted with having to ask for help every time they needed to shop online.
They were convinced they could find an independent solution and, along with a little help from their friends, Baopals was born.

The site constantly updates the stock lists on Alibaba’s platforms, reorganises the content into categories and translates product information and customer reviews into the English language. There’s an item search for non-Chinese speakers and the bilingual customer service team are happy to help with multiple enquiries.

Baopals even accepts China UnionPay, WeChat Wallet and Alipay, with acceptance of Barclaycard, Mastercard and Visa expected soon. Since its start-up in February, 7,000 products have been purchased and shipped to over 40 of China’s cities.

Erickson expects the site to double its transaction total every month until at least early autumn, and is now in the process of securing additional funding in order to improve its technology and boost a further expansion of its services. Baolpals charges a reasonable five per cent of the purchase price on each item, plus an eight yuan charge per type of item.

Unsurprisingly, the site’s hottest categories are women’s fashions, household goods and electronics. Complimentary comments on several local expat forums suggest Baopals is the best online innovation ever for linguistically challenged expats in China.

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