20 tips to improve your online shopping skills
In India, e-commerce has evolved by leaps and bounds in recent years. From the early days of buying books from Flipkart to today’s social commerce stores that sell everything from washing powder to cars, we’ve seen new features that make the online shopping experience better and more convenient than ever. However, it’s still possible to go wrong when shopping online. Some mistakes can mean losing money and time. In this article, we’ll look at common pitfalls and ways to avoid them so you can get the most out of your next online shopping experience!
Use a password manager.
If you’re like most people, you have a lot of passwords to remember. The problem is that the consequences can be dire when you forget them. For example:
- You may have trouble accessing your email accounts from work and home.
- Your online banking will be inaccessible until the password is reset (which could take hours).
- Other personal information like credit card numbers and social security numbers might not be accessible unless stored online or written down on a piece of paper somewhere (if so, someone else can access it).
Use a secure browser.
This can be your smartphone’s default browser or one of the many great third-party options. Keep it updated regularly to ensure that you have the latest security patches in place and are protected against any new threats that might crop up. Make sure to have good antivirus software installed on your computer — or, better yet, use a virtual private network (VPN) service that you trust so that all your browsing traffic is encrypted and safe from prying eyes. Look for browsers with a good reputation: One example would be Mozilla Firefox; its open-source nature makes it more secure than Chrome or Edge in theory, although both those browsers are pretty solid as well (and have their benefits).
Check the URL and padlock of the websites.
The URL in the address bar should be HTTPS://, not HTTP://. This is an easy mistake to make, especially if you’re dealing with a retailer that hasn’t updated its site (or if they haven’t updated its padlock symbol yet). Also, check that there is a lock symbol next to the URL. The green padlock means your connection is secure and encrypted between your computer and the retailer’s website. Ensure it’s there before proceeding with sensitive information like credit card or social security numbers.
Not all free WiFi is created equal.
Free WiFi is a beautiful thing. It’s convenient, it’s accessible, and it can save you a ton of money on your data plan. But while plenty of accessible networks out there are perfectly safe to use, beware: not all public WiFi networks are created equal.
To find out if a network is safe and secure, look for signs that say things like “secure” or “HTTPS” at the beginning of the URL (the web address) in your browser address bar. If those letters aren’t present next to the URL, move on! You don’t want your identity stolen or worse — and neither does anyone else using that network.
If you’re using public WiFi at home or work, be sure to put all personal devices behind an additional firewall zone with stricter rules than usual — this will prevent most malware from accessing private information stored on those devices without permission from someone who knows what they’re doing (like you).
Take advantage of price comparison sites.
You can save a lot of money by using price comparison sites. It’s easy to get started: enter the name of an item you’re interested in buying, and the website will show you all its vendors’ prices. Some sites also offer automatic price tracking, which means that when you search for something new on the site, it’ll automatically search for it at other stores before showing your results.
If you’re looking for something specific — for example, if someone gave you a list of items from Amazon with their prices — you may have better luck searching directly through those websites instead of through a generalist comparison site like Google Shopping or CamelCamelCamel (which focuses more exclusively on Amazon). But suppose there are several similar products but not identical (say, different colors). In that case, I’d recommend looking at a generalist comparison site first because they tend to cover more products than any retailer alone.
Check reviews before buying.
While you’re shopping, don’t forget to look at the reviews. If a product has a lot of 5-star reviews and no 1-star ones, there’s a good chance it’s worth trying out. But if it only has ten positive reviews and 200 negative ones? You may want to think twice about buying from that seller.
If you notice that many customers are complaining about faulty products or late deliveries — or even worse: not receiving their items at all — you can bet that this seller isn’t reliable or trustworthy enough for your business. On the other hand, if most people say they’re happy with their purchases and would recommend them to others? Then you’ll probably be satisfied with your purchase as well!
Use shopping lists
Use a shopping list. There are several ways to create and use a shopping list, but you can do it on paper, in your head, or with friends and family.
You can create a shopping list using an app on your phone or computer, making it easier to track what you need at the store. Don’t forget about online-only stores like Amazon too! They have everything from toilet paper to pajamas for sale online; make sure to include those items in your digital list!
Set up alerts for deals and discounts
In an age of constant discounts and promotions, it can be hard to track all the deals. Setting up alerts for sales and values will help you stay on top of all the money you can save daily.
Use a price comparison site like Google Shopping. These sites will monitor prices across multiple retailers so that if one retailer’s price drops, they’ll let you know immediately (or even send you an email).
Check out retailer websites regularly as well: some stores offer access to their inventory through their website interface, which allows them greater control over promotions and special offers than third-party sites do…
Make good use of filters when browsing.
Shopping online is an excellent way to save money and find the best deals. And it’s easy to do, too! All you have to do is use a few handy filters.
- Filters are used for finding the best deals on products that suit your needs, budget, and tastes (if those are important to you)
- Your search results will be filtered so that only items that match what you won't show up in your search results
- You should filter out any unwanted results so that they won’t appear in your final list of possible purchases
Ask retailers whether they offer a ‘try before you buy service.
If you’re skeptical about a piece of clothing or want to get an idea of how it fits before buying, ask the retailer whether they offer a ‘try before you buy service. Many do. If not, request a sample: if nothing else, it’ll save on postage costs. This can be especially useful if the product is likely to be returned due to sizing issues (which happens more often than we’d like).
Similarly, ask for a free trial period if possible — but don’t necessarily expect them to agree! The web is full of small businesses and wholesalers who are only able to offer their products at such low prices because they have minimal overheads — meaning they probably won’t benefit from offering any refund policy or money-back guarantees on purchases made through their websites (though some may provide full refunds within 30 days).
Don’t shop from public computers unless you have to.
There are many reasons you should avoid shopping on public computers. Others can use them to steal your personal information and even access your bank account; they can also be used to access your email, social media accounts, and online shopping accounts.
If you must use a public computer, log out before leaving the machine so no one else can access it while you are away.
Understand retailers’ returns policies.
What if you buy something online and it doesn’t suit your taste? What if it’s too big, too small, or just not what you thought it would be? Well, then you can return it! But how do return policies work?
Know the difference between free returns and free shipping. Some retailers offer “free returns” but charge for the cost of shipping. Suppose a product is sent back due to a defect or an error on the retailer's part (like selling you something they knew was defective). In that case, they’ll reimburse your return shipping costs.” Free returns” means that when you send back an item because it’s broken or doesn’t fit as well as expected, no matter what caused the problem (your fault or theirs), they will refund your money with no questions asked.* Understand returns policies for items sold by small businesses. If you’re buying from a small business instead of one giant corporation, more leeway may be built into their policies — and sometimes even things like price matching are possible!
Check whether an item is available locally before buying it online. You might be able to pick it up and save on shipping.
If you’re not buying an item for immediate use, it’s essential to check if the item is available in stock locally before purchasing it online. If it isn’t and you need to wait weeks or months for delivery, there’s a good chance that another buyer will get their hands on the last one while you’re waiting.
In addition to checking whether an item is available in your size and color, consider checking whether other sizes and colors are available locally. You might be able to pick up a version of what you want at a store near your home instead of paying shipping costs and waiting several days or weeks for delivery.
You don’t need to be an expert online shopper, but if you follow these tips, you’ll have a much better shopping experience. That’s not just because it’s safer for you; it’s also because the more informed you are about where your money is going, the more likely you’ll get a great deal on what you want. And isn’t that what we’re all after?