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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Tips for buying books online on ecommerce sites or in group buys


A lot of parents are turning to buying books online because of the MCO and prolonged home learning. Many buy in group buys from parents whatsapp group recommendations and also online from ecommerce sites like Shopee or Lazada.


First I want to quickly mention about group buys before doing a mini case study on tips for buying online from an ecommerce site. 


Group Buys


A group buy is when a group of people use their collective buying power to get goods at cheaper prices.

When it comes to group buys, the most important thing is to ask yourself whether you need it and whether the book is suitable for your child. 

It is so easy to get carried away in group buys. "I want! Add me. Me too." and adding your name to a long list of names makes you feel like you are getting a really good bargain and who doesn't love a bargain? Most times, it really is a good bargain too but only if you really need it. 

I remember once a parent in our kid's class whatsapp group started a group buy for a historical Chinese book when my kid was in P6 and sitting for the UPSR that year. Now the lady who started it was very involved in her child's academic progress. She even came to school to volunteer to teach or read to the students in the mornings. Her child was consistently the top student in class. 

So, when she initiated a group buy and recommended this historical Chinese book as an extra reading activity book for those who need reference for the ancient Chinese part of questions in the Chinese paper, all the parents in the whatsapp group became very excited and started adding their name to the list. 

I also added my name in jest. To be honest, I got carried away. I was worried that if I didn't have that extra reference which everyone would be getting, my child would be losing out somehow. My child and her child are not the same. My child's Chinese was not all that good and I did not understand Chinese at all. So when the book finally arrived, a thick cover book with lots of tiny little Chinese words arrived, we found it totally useless. My kid could not understand it at all. I still have this book to this day, a sore reminder of how I was once caught up in a useless group buy just because someone recommended it and almost the whole class bought it. It may have been really useful for those who are affluent in Chinese but not for us. 

So when it comes to group buys, ask yourself whether you really need it and don't get caught in the bandwagon. You should also check to see if your child or sibling already has the book! Sometimes we accidentally buy duplicate books which we already have because we are so caught up in a group buy. 

Tips for buying online from ecommerce sites


1. Search for the most competitive priced product.

When it comes to buying online, you will find that there are many sellers who are selling the same thing. Do a search to find the one that sells it at the most competitive prices. 

2. Go for sellers with a badge
On shopee, some sellers have a badge called the preferred seller badge. Preferred seller must fulfil the following criteria



On Lazada, sellers on Lazada Mall must fulfill the following criteria




3. Read the product description carefully!
It is very important to read the product description on the number of items, the colour and the dimensions of the product you are buying. Don't just look at the pictures shown by the seller. The description should match the picture.

4. Always read customer reviews of the product you wish to buy
Read the good as well as bad reviews. Check out the buyer's pictures and video to make sure they match with the seller's image. They don't always match but you don't want to find that out that the seller had put up a nice photo "for illustration purposes only" after you had already made your purchase.

5. Always view ratings or read reviews of the seller's store
If the product review is not available, make sure you at least read the seller's overall store review.

Here's a mini case study from a random seller on Shopee using the 5 tips mentioned above. 

eg. I wish to purchase these set of books and found this seller. Using the above, criteria, let's assume I have searched for competitive pricing and after looking at a few sellers, I found that this seller is charging within the normal price range that other sellers are selling and not at a marked up price. (Some sellers mark up prices especially during sales)

Next I will check to see if the seller is a preferred seller. Yes, the badge is there and that means this seller has met some important rating criteria as shown above.



Next, I am going to look at the ratings for this seller for this particular product. Has the seller sold many books or just a couple?  Things to look out for. 
  • How many people rated this store? 
  • What is their response rate like? 
  • How long have they joined the ecommerce site? 
  • How many products does the seller have in their store? 
  • What is their response time? 
  • How many followers do they have? 
Every one of these statistics tell us something important about the seller. It is better to have a seller who has been around for some time, who responds quickly to chats, and has many ratings compared to a new seller who sells only a few things and have a poor response time. Sometimes you need to chat with the seller to ask them a question or get assistance or ask why your item is taking so long to ship out. It is very frustrating to chat with a seller who responds slowly or not at all.

Speaking of shipping, you should also check out where your seller is shipping the product from in order to gauge the estimated delivery time. Are they shipping from overseas or locally?




Next, scroll down a little further to look at the specific product rating and read the reviews if any. How many rated 5 stars or 1 star, how many has comments and with media. Look at those with comments and media (pictures or videos) and check them out! Read the reviews on whether the seller ships out on time, packs the product carefully and whether the products are as advertised. Look at the buyer's pictures and videos to see if they match the pictures provided by the seller.



Next, read the product description carefully, how many books in a set you will be getting etc. If buying clothes or shoes, look at the size chart and do the necessary measurements. Other things to note in the description include the colour of the product and the dimensions.

After that, click on "View Shop" to check out the shop ratings further. This is especially important if the product does not have any ratings or reviews. If you can't read the reviews for the product, then at least read the review for the store.




At the store's home page, you can view the number of products, the number of followers, their chat performance, how long they have joined the ecommerce site and the shop's overall rating including how many buyers have rated them. Go for ratings as close to 5 as possible. Obviously the more buyers who rated is better than only a couple as it is harder to get high ratings from many buyers compared to just a few. 



You may perhaps have to spend a little bit of time to do all these but it is definitely worth it to avoid being cheated, short changed, not being able to reach the seller to ask a question or having to wait for your purchase for a long time

If you take the time to check out the pricing, sellers, product description and read reviews, you will have a more rewarding, stress free time shopping online.

You should also know the different types of online shopping scams so that you can shop safely online.

Happy buying!

This post includes some affiliate links. The example picked is for the Odonata Series of books for children just learning to read Chinese. It is rather like the Chinese version of Ladybird Keywords Peter and Jane series. Instead of Peter and Jane we follow the story of Ming Ming and Li Li and new Chinese characters are added. The series starts with 100 Chinese characters and move on up to 1200 Chinese  characters. Audio dvd read along is also available for parents who do not know Chinese to guide their children. Flash cards and activity books are available too. Some kindergartens are using this series to teach their students, so always check before buying to make sure you are not buying duplicate books.


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