The Clever Consumer’s Guide to Shopping Online

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Over the past decade, the way in which we shop has completely changed. More of us now shop online, buying everything from our groceries, clothes, home appliances and smartphones from online stores. Statista estimates that 2.14 billion people will shop online by 2021, a huge increase from the 1.79 billion online shoppers in 2018 and the 1.32 billion who purchased goods online in 2014.

Shopping online offers greater convenience as we can buy goods from the comfort of our couches instead of braving the cold weather to head to the shops. In some cases, there are also goods that can only be purchased online because of stock issues at physical stores, or because they just don’t sell that particular item.

However, just because shopping online is easier than buying things in-person, that doesn’t mean that you should stop doing your due diligence when it comes to selecting products to buy and where you buy from them. You still want to get the best deals and offers and the best quality products. So, to help you achieve that, read our guide to being a clever consumer when you shop online.

Shop Around:

When you shop online, it can be very easy to be tempted by the first offer that you see. If you see a price that suits your budget, or an offer of “free shipping,” you may feel inclined to order right away. But don’t just order immediately, instead, a file that product listing away in the back of your mind (or add it to your bookmarks) and begin to shop around.

The beauty of online shopping is that it’s incredibly easy to compare everything. Unlike shopping in-person where you would have to call different stores on the phone or visit them in person, a quick Google search will allow you to pull up a list of retailers that sell what you’re looking for. From then, you can quickly compare the prices, the cost of shipping the product, and bonuses (e.g loyalty offers and extra rewards) in order to find the offer that suits you best.

Do Your Research:

It’s always important to do your research when shopping, but especially online. You don’t want to be stuck with a product that wasn’t as you expected, leaving you feeling disappointed. You just want to be sure that what you’re ordering will be of a high quality.

The first step in doing your research is to read reviews of that retailer. If the retailer sells brand new products, what do people say about those brands online? Some retailers list customer reviews directly under the products listings, or you could search for the brand name on social media to see what people are saying in real time (try searching for the URL if there’s nothing recent for the brand name). Doing your research when buying used or refurbished goods, such as refurbished phones and laptops will look a little bit different. You’ll need to learn what seller refurbished means and how that differs from manufacturer refurbished (and vice versa) in order to understand who has refurbished a product and how it has been tested. These terms are commonly found in product listings on online retailers (including Amazon) and so finding out more about refurbished testing processes and how technicians have been trained can be key to getting quality refurbished goods.

Double-Check the Returns Policy:

Sometimes, even when you’ve done your due diligence and have researched the retailer and have confirmed that it is trustworthy, things still go wrong. This may be due to mistakes during shipping or the manufacturing process. These things happen and they’re unfortunate and disappointing, but if a store has a good returns policy, then you don’t have to worry.

Always double-check the returns policy before buying because you’ll want to know that you’re covered in the event that anything goes wrong. Some of the stores with the best return policies include IKEA which is famous for its 365 returns policy which lets you return something for a full refund within a year if you are unsatisfied. Bath & Body Works is also a standout as it has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, offering no limit on when you can return a product. In fact, it even has a price adjustment policy, letting you get some money back if the price of the product is lowered within 14 days of your purchase.

Review the Security:

Safety is paramount when shopping online. You’re placing a significant amount of trust in an online retailer because you’re showing them personal details such as your name, your address and your credit card info. Any time you spend money, you just want to know that your personal and confidential data is protected and will not fall into the wrong hands or be used for anything other than what you’ve consented too.

Reading reviews of retailers and doing your research as mentioned above can be a useful tool in this, but you may want to get even more technical given that this is the Internet. Something you can do in that case is to check the retailer’s SSL certificate. An SSL certificate is something that confirms that a website encrypts its data and that it cannot be intercepted by any malicious actors. You’ll know if a site has SSL because you’ll see a padlocked sign next to the URL (website) in the address bar at the top of your browser. The website will also start with the phrase “https” to let you know that it’s secure.

Armed with these top online shopping tips, you will be able to find the best prices and deals from the most trusted retailers. So enjoy your shopping and all of your new products.

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