Not long ago, there were only a couple major ways you could shop for products. One of them was of course to visit local stores and purchase goods in person. This is how commerce had always been done for centuries, and many people still feel the most comfortable buying items after having some sort of face-to-face interaction with the vendor.
But decades ago, mail order become a second major way in which people shopped for products online. This remained a popular way to shop for many people, especially elderly and handicapped people who didn’t always find it convenient to go out every time they needed a product.
But the way we shop has really undergone a revolution in the last decade or so. This is largely due to the Internet. Today, many of the largest retailers in the world such as Amazon or online marketplaces. And each year, the amount of money people spend purchasing goods online goes higher and higher.
When internet shopping first became mainstream, people tended to purchase known items like CDs and books online. But it wasn’t long until more personal items like shoes and clothing also became big hits. Part of the reason for this is that media has improved quite a bit. Today, people can view high-quality, close-up images of an item they want to buy. They can also customize products and view different versions, all from the comfort of their home. These factors make people feel a lot more comfortable about shopping on the Internet.
It also helps that the vast majority of businesses that sell products online have a very flexible return policy. There is no denying that even if you fall in love with a product through images online, you may be disappointed once the item arrives. Moreover, for things like clothes or shoes, you may find that the item does not fit you the way you had hoped. For these reasons and more, it’s very important that you check the return policy of any shops you purchase from. The good news is that most online stores are very understanding and allow you to return items up to 30 days after the date of purchase. You will, however, need to cover the amount for return shipping in most cases.
Another topic that is important to mention is shopping security. Identity theft has become a major concern worldwide. Each year, we hear news of one or two major vendors that has their servers hacked. Customer information and credit card numbers can be compromised in this way.
With that said, you are typically well-protected if you shop from reputable stores like Amazon.com. Such major e-commerce giants usually use very reliable security protocols such as SSL. While anything is possible, the chances of any sensitive information such as your credit card information being intercepted is very slim when you use a site that employs the latest security technology.
You do need to be more cautious when buying from smaller vendors. Look for trust seals that indicate that the site uses a secure shopping technology of some sort. Also, it helps if a business doing online is a member of the Better Business Bureau.
One major benefit of online shopping to consumers has been cheap prices. Let’s face it, when you can visit other vendors and compare prices with a few mouse clicks, it pressures all online merchants to offer the best price possible. To this end, many large vendors offer a low-price guarantee. While such guarantees are nice, I have found that you still need to do a bit of research to make sure you are in fact getting the best deal possible. And keep in mind, things like shipping costs can affect the ultimate price you pay. A vendor that offers a very cheap price on a product may not be your cheapest option if they overcharge for shipping.
One great way to save money by shopping online is by using online coupons. Sites such as Groupon and Retailmenot offer tons of discounts you can avail yourself to. This is why I always hit up a couple coupon websites before I make a final decision to purchase anything online. In some cases, I will even put off a given purchase if I know that the vendor is likely to be offering a coupon sometime soon. It’s good to particularly pay attention to special days like Black Friday, when almost all merchants, both online and offline, offer steep discounts on many items.
As you can see, there is a lot to online shopping, and it takes a few years of buying things on the Internet before you can become a truly savvy shopper. I recommend reading tons of shopping articles and doing research online to make sure you are taking advantage of all the benefits you can get by shopping intelligently in the modern age. Once you are comfortable with online shopping, it might be time to move onto mobile shopping, which is quickly becoming the next big thing.