Edit: I'm sad to announce Dowaja shut down in September 2015. But at one point in time a unicorn existed, and that unicorn found you the best deals to be had in Korea.
A few days ago, I teased about Dowaja.com, a new Korean shopping concierge masquerading as an average shipping service. I truly believe they are game changers that are destined to be a hit. My wallet has been hemorrhaging ever since I found out about them.
WHAT IS DOWAJA?
They are a buying service/shipping service similar to Avecko.com, if you're familiar with that site.
From their site:
Dowaja (도와줘! which means help me! halp!) is a Korean shopping service, also commonly referred to as a buying service or proxy shipping service. We take product orders for customers who would like to buy items from Korean websites. We order the products on the customer’s behalf. The products are then shipped to our office in Seoul, where they are repackaged and finally shipped to the customer’s home."
The process of ordering through Dowaja is simple.
1. You find an item you want, from any Korean mall or brand site and submit a buying request here.
2. Dowaja then shops around to find the best price they can find on the Korean web which is a daunting task for us non-native Korean speakers, and passes on the savings to the customer.
3. Dowaja then invoices the customer. They charge a 10% buying fee. The exchange rate is pegged to the Paypal exchange rate which fluctuates with the market.
4. After receiving payment, they order the item, receive it for you in Seoul, and repackage all of the items in the order into one package destined for you.
5. As they prepare to ship the package they invoice you once more based on your desired shipping. See the options here.
Everything is done over email, which I quite prefer as it simplifies the process and their English is impeccable.
I had the lovely opportunity to interview the founders of Dowaja, Min and Kevin, who were so completely gracious and willing to take the time to humor me. They were again gracious enough to donate 5 chances for nonsonoquitter readers to win $5 towards their first order with the service. Stay tuned for all of the details at the end of the post!
MEET THE FOUNDERS OF DOWAJA, MIN & KEVIN
When did Dowaja launch?
Dowaja is still just a baby. We went online in mid-July of this year, and started taking orders at the beginning of August.
Who are the faces behind Dowaja?
Dowaja is just two people: Min and Kevin. Min is Dowaja's expert shopper, a.k.a. she does most of the buying. One of the ideas that inspired Dowaja was her amazing ability to find deals when shopping online. You can pretty much call it a talent. Kevin handles most of the orders and web-related stuff. If you send us an email, or chat with us on Skype, odds are you're talking with him. ^^
Why did you launch Dowaja?
Besides skincare and cosmetics, we originally really wanted to highlight smaller or lesser known designers and clothing brands here in Korea. There are a lot of brands that could use some exposure and we hope to do more features and blog posts about them in the future.
What sets Dowaja apart from other shopping services?
The biggest thing is our separate cosmetic and skin care buying service. There are lots of awesome deals on the Korean web, but it can be pretty intimidating and time consuming to find them.
With dowaja, you submit an order with the items you want and we find the cheapest available price online.
There's no need to submit direct store links. Simply give us the product name and a link to it's information page in English or Korean, and we'll do the rest.
Which stores in Dowaja's shopping directory (linked here) are most popular?
To be completely honest, it's all over the place at the moment. Most people tend to know exactly what they want. The majority of orders are definitely for skin care and cosmetics, but there isn't really one stand out brand or shop that continuously pops up yet. However, we've had quite a few orders for some newer brands and limited edition sets exclusive to Korea.
Are there any trending cosmetics orders you've noticed?
It's hard to say right now, as we're still getting started, but what we can say is, that people love cushions! Pretty much every order has had at least one or two cushions in the mix.
I see you list many Korean malls in your shopping directory, some of which will ship to foreign customers without the use of a shopping service like Dowaja, ex: Gmarket, 11st. Could you make the case for why someone would use Dowaja in this instance?
When you place an order on a website like Gmarket or 11st, you are not buying from Gmarket or 11st, but a vendor selling their items on that site. Quite a few vendors offer international shipping.
To be honest, if you're just ordering one item, it really makes more sense to buy directly.
However, if you're ordering quite a few things, chances are you will have to buy from multiple vendors. That means you're paying for international shipping charges on each item, which can get pricey very quickly.
What is the craziest, or most elaborate request Dowaja has filled so far?
Even though we've only been up for a month, we've already gotten a few fun orders. We have been helping one customer track down out-of-print Kung-Fu VHS tapes subbed in Korean. We're also helping another customer order some dried herbs--the kind often used in a lot of cosmetics.
WHY AM I SO ENTHRALLED WITH THIS SERVICE?
I've ordered twice from Min and Kevin, once using their regular deal-finding service, which leverages Min's deal-sniffing abilities which I imagine to be a bit like Dug's squirrel sniffing talents.
Order 1: Regular Deal-Finding Service
|first ingredient: green tea extract.. further down, ginseng, shrooms, licorice root, hyaluronic acid, and collagen, whoo get on my face!|
- Price-wise, including all service fees, I got this for $44.57 shipped with the fastest EMS shipping.
- eBay had listed this item for circa $70 shipped. This was the only English site on which I could find the item.
- A high-profile competitor's bid was 20% higher, if using a slower shipping option.
- A low-profile competitor's bid was 65% higher due to shipping fees though their service fees are less, IF you know how to find the deals
- Customer experience-wise, they have always responded to me in less than 24 hours.
- For security's sake, they transact through Paypal.
- Time-wise, the Dowaja experience from order initiation, to deal-finding, to shipping the items from Korea was 4 days. EMS itself takes 3-5 days after that. So worst case scenario, I will have this item in my hands in 9 days! Here's a link to their shipping tables.
Order 2: Rare Items Finding Service
I mentioned a few days ago that Dowaja.com were the only service other than having a family member or friend irl going back and forth to Korea that could track down recent limited edition collections like this limited edition History of Whoo cushion and lip gloss, which were only available at duty-free shops and at a single museum exhibit in Seoul.
|pr0n, Miranda Sings would say this is pr0n|
|snagged it in shade 23, by the grace of Dowaja|
Dowaja-Kevin: It's no problem at all! It was a little tricky to organize, and we were quite lucky to have a friend leaving the country, but it worked out well in the end thankfully! ^^
I'm super impressed with Dowaja.com. The service they're offering is super unique and will present a challenge to long established players in the shipping service market. I've had two really excellent customer experiences with them. They had no idea I had a blog at first contact. I only mentioned it to them after having had a great experience.
I'm really interested to see how they keep up their service levels as they grow, which I am sure they will, being so unique. There may be some growing pains, but there may also be some growing gains to be had as well. For example, right now they don't offer ePost (a mid-end shipping option between the slow as a snail Registered Air Mail, and the speedy as a snailbee EMS) as one of their offerings, but as they grow, they may be able to do so, making it even more cost-effective to use Dowaja. They've earned a pretty loyal customer of me.
WIN $5 OFF YOUR FIRST PURCHASE
This contest has ended.
Lastly, get on Dowaja's mailing list as they have planned some really awesome af giveaways in the near future. We're talking limited edition packaging pr0n beaut's. You can sign up at dowaja.com
Will you be checking Dowaja out? Have you ever ordered from a Korean-Korean website before? What were your challenges?
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