Every now and again I get sick of shopping malls, especially here in the KOK, where it seems a new one pops up each month. I love chilling at a mall coffee shop, I must admit, but shopping weekend in, weekend out, does my nut in after a while.
Traipsing up and down escalators, navigating through the maze of skin clinics and spa shops, heavily discounted clothes shops that aren't really discounted (they just mark things up massively) and over zealous shop clerks who jump to attention and stand right in your face, as if to say,
“I'll only disappear when you buy something and, if you walk out now, you'll lose face because you can't afford to buy anything, can you”!
Jokes aside; I know they mean well, and for some reason bosses tell them that it's good customer service to hover over customers like a fly around poop, but me, I'm from the “If I need something, I'll ask”, school of thought. Though to be asked politely, once, is of course fine.
So, to escape the perils of malls, I had a thought; what about online shopping in Thailand?
I'd never done it before, but I'll try anything once, and who else to try first but Thailand's very own wannabe version of Amazon, Lazada!
So for all those like me, who'd prefer weekends were freed up for far more fun things than shopping, and for those who perhaps live a fair way from a major mall and would prefer to shop from the comfort of their couch, here's my experience shopping online with Lazada…
What the Hell is Lazada?
Lazada is a relatively new addition to the world of e-commerce and online shopping, and made its first appearance in 2012. Being primarily focussed on the SE Asian market, most outside of the region haven't heard of it.
Lazada, however, is growing at a rapid pace. Its well-planned business structure gained a fair amount of investor interest and today the company has the financial backing of global firms such as JP Morgan, Kinnevik, Summit Partners, Tengelmann, and more recently, Tesco PLC.
This privately owned business is currently operating in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam, and gaining in popularity as online shopping establishes itself as a contender to the high street.
What Do They Sell & is it Any Good?
The variety of products found on Lazada is massive, and comparable to Amazon in many ways. From jeans to headphones to aftershave, there's little you won't find here.
Appliances, fragrances, technology, home décor, fashion, baby products, travel, health and beauty are a handful of the staple categories found on the site, not to mention the subheadings that branch off these main categories.
Famous product brands include Microsoft, Apple, Philips, Maybelline, L’Oréal, Samsung, Converse, Levi’s, Rolex and tons more. I stopped counting at 30 of the top names scattered around the homepage. as it quickly becomes apparent that ‘if it’s out there, it’s on Lazada!’
In addition, like Amazon, along with the big brand names, there’s cheaper, lesser known name versions of most products too.
How Does Lazada Stack up Against the High Street?
Like all online shopping websites, the sellers’ overheads and expenses are dramatically reduced. This means less money spent on shop rental, staff members and everyday maintenance and upkeep of the shop premises. All this amounts to a massive reductions in prices.
I ran a few tests on foot, comparing for example a pair of Sennheiser headphones on Lazada to those in a local mall shop. The price saving was near on 1,000 Baht! Of course, this won't be the case on every product, but you will definitely save on brand name goods.
Not only do you save on the product itself, but you also cut down on travel costs, and the time spent going to buy what you want.
Here's my latest parcel of baby's swimming nappies. Delivered in one day, and I saved $100 on the Mothercare price and didn't have to go to the mall!
Is the Website Easy to Use or a Pain in the Backside?
I won't beat around the bush; most Thai websites are very poor; too many images, lots of late nineties-style animated icons and the most un-user friendly (non-mobile optimized) experience you can have. Many use flash too, which, if you use an iPad, or Safari on a Mac, always gives you problems.
The Lazada homepage is a tad overwhelming at first, due to the vast amount of products and information being thrown at you from the get-go. Where to go? What to click? Where do I search? What specials are running? But this is the point. They want to tickle your fancy and get you in shopping mode.
But in fairness the Lazada website is pretty good. It's easy to figure out, and if you’re looking for something specific, simply use the search bar at the top of the page to get all the options quickly. If you feel like doing a bit of window shopping (or cyber shopping in this case), use the category selector on the left-hand side.
The registration process is quick and offers sign up options through your Facebook account or Google Plus Page. The site is fully available in English too. I have come across a few product descriptions unavailable in my preferred language, but I have to say those instances were minimal.
Go Mobile for the Best Deals
Aside from shopping on your desktop or laptop via the website, I recommend the Lazada app for mobile, which you can download free to your phone or Tablet. This not only gives you shop on-the-go mobility, but also access to instant updates on specials and promotions, which sometimes don't last long.
Much of my “want list” comes to me on the fly, and I'm forever whipping out my mobile to Google prices and search where I can get my latest must-have gadget. So since I've been shopping on Lazada, I've installed the app on my Samsung phone. Click on the image below to download the app.
Does Lazada Do Flash Deals & Special Offers?
In short, Lazada is all about the ‘Specials’ There's hundreds of deals, promotions, special offers and discounts strewn across the website on any given day, and if you've got the app, you'll never miss a flash deal. So if like me you never pay full price and would rather hold out a tad longer to get a special deal, Lazada will be your new home.
What's the Deal with Payment & is it Safe?
One thing that really impressed me about Lazada was the ‘Cash on Delivery’ payment option. This shows that Lazada is in tune with the market, as Thailand is not a place where credit cards are readily available for everyone. In Thailand cash is king and many products sold on Lazada will happily collect the cash from you when the product is delivered.
Apart from the ‘Cash on Delivery’ option, you obviously have the everyday options such as Credit Card payment via Visa or Mastercard, and payment via PayPal. The site offers a fully secure payment gateway, as certified by Norton security and PCI DSS.
How Long Will it Take to Deliver My Order & Can I Track It?
Deliveries take place from Monday to Saturday (no Sunday delivery) and delivery time will vary depending on your location. My headphones arrived within 48 hours, which was impressive.
The specific timeframe for delivery is clearly stated before you buy; and the system uses your postcode to determine the delivery date once you have checked out. If there's a delay, you will be informed either via sms, email or both.
Delivery is free if your total purchase amount exceeds the minimum required for your order, Again, this minimum total amount depends on your location and is very clearly stated while purchasing or exploring each product. At the moment the minimum required amount for free delivery within Bangkok is around 500 Baht, while areas in the province are looking at about 2,000 Baht .
Tracking is a breeze too. Simply login, as your would with Aamzon, and you'll see your delivery progress tracked by Lazada’s online tracking system, and if you require urgent assistance, the ‘Customer Care’ section of the website is easily accessible.
That Sounds Good, But How Easy is it to Return & Refund?
It's as easy as any other big online shopping site, in that if a product is faulty or damaged when it arrives Lazada offers an exchange or a refund. In some cases they will even consider exchanging items which don't fit, such as clothes or shoes.
Sellers and the products sold by them are assessed by Lazada before being listed, which protects you from counterfeits and makes for a higher quality shopping experience.
Lazada is coming on leaps and bounds. I'll certainly be using it regularly from now on, and if you're thinking about online shopping in Thailand I'd highly recommend it.
It isn't without its criticism though – see the comments below for reference. One customer complained about a lengthy refund process, and another about a defective product.
But let's face it: with thousands of transactions each day, there's bound to be a few unhappy customers. I for one have had my ups and downs with Amazon back home, but by and large, over the years it has been a positive experience. Moreover, it isn't like we don't occasionally run into problems with retail shopping too.
For example, I bought an 10k Baht chair from SB Furniture in Thailand and within 6 months the material was peeling off all over the floor and covering my clothes. I was refused a refund, even though it had a year's refund!
Head office ignored my emails, and the store staff would not help me in my quest to talk to a senior manager. I was absolutely helpless with no one to turn to. But sometimes in life, stuff like this happens. I re-covered the chair and gave it to someone in need – turning a negative into a positive.
For those based out in rural areas with poor access to malls and local shops, Lazada will come as a blessing, and for those like me who'd like to spend less time in malls, Lazada takes the *sigh* out of the shopping process.
Overall it's a big thumbs up. There's a great selection of products, delivery is fast and the pricing is cheaper than mall shopping.