The Christian Science Monitor reports on the growing phenomenon of “team shopping” in China:
Welcome to China’s newest shopping craze, tuangou, or team buying. By combining the power of the Internet to compare prices with the stealth tactics of the flash mob, team buyers are driving hard bargains in the world’s hottest economy. Dozens of team-buying websites have sprung up to catch the trend, which first began in online forums and chat rooms.
Most people sign up for these events online, and then meet at the preappointed time. Sometimes they discuss this with the store managers beforehand, and sometimes they don’t and just show up en masse. Shanghaiist decided to take a look at several local Chinese tuangou sites to see how the folks in this city are finding strength in numbers.
One of the top-ranking results was SHtuangou.com, where we found a fairly straight-forward interface where there are categories for the stuff you want to buy, as well as arranged group buying events. The most recent one we see was for wedding ceremony necessities, including jewelry stores, wedding photography and hotels. On this page you could see what companies had been invited, where to check out their products beforehand, as well as contact and sign-up information for the event. There’s also a little video that shows what this process is like.
Those are set up by the folks at the website. They also have forums for people to arrange their own groups.
How popular has this become? While it’s unclear whether or not every website that uses tuangou is a bonafide team buying site, the sheer number of search results should speak for itself. This other Shanghai team buying site asks on its main page if you are still trying to drive a bargain on your own — while offering scheduled events as well as forums for people to organize themselves. There are also comments on past events so you can get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Some of the events are sponsored by the sellers themselves (which doens’t make it bad). Still, the most basic problem is the price — some people just assume that by buying things in bulk together they are getting a good price without making comparisons beforehand.
Just from our brief look we’ve seen mp3 players, mobile phones, computers, vitamins, cosmetics, pets, rare Adidas sneakers and pretty much anything else you can think of. Did we mention cars and furniture?
Is this as new a phenomenon as the media reports make it out to be? Certainly, the proliferation of sites and the numbers of people participating is, but it seems that a group of folks in Shanghai already tried this back in 2004 when they decided to buy Kodak digital cameras, which in most places would go for about 6,490 yuan with an SD memory card. Team buying got the price down to less than 4,000 yuan, not to mention more memory cards, tripods, and little camera pouches were throw in as well.
If anyone is interested in buying a MacBook Pro (and who isn’t!) please let us know, because Steve Jobs can afford to be a little less filthy rich than he is now. Or better yet, start up a thread in our new forum, where you can exchange some ideas and tips with potential team members. Make it happen.
Photo from shtuangou.com.
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