The Ultimate Guide to Shopping Online

  • What Is Online Shopping?
  • Why Do We Purchase online?
  • Searching And Researching Your Products

Ultimate Guide to Shopping Online

Most of us these days purchase things online without thinking twice. In this day and age, online shopping is a dominant force to be reckoned with. Have you made an online purchase in the past weer or month? Chances are, your answer is yes. In today’s Ultimate Guide To Shopping Online, we will cover all the essentials you need to know to have the most positive experience on ecommerce websites. Whether you are looking to purchase your weekly groceries online or are a tech geek who is looking for the best deals on electronics you can find, this article will give you a little more insight as to what exactly online shopping is and how you can make the best use out of it. Grab a cup of tea, a biscuit and read on to find out more.

 

What Is Online Shopping?

Online shopping is such an ubiquitous part of our lives in this era that sometimes we don’t pause to think about what online shopping actually is. To put it simply, online shopping is when someone chooses to purchase an item or experience/activity over the internet. All financial transactions are made online to the retailer, whether that be through a Credit Card purchase, a Paypal purchase or a Direct Debit transfer.

The spend on digital products and services is a hugely significant and increasing part of our personal and household budgets. In fact, it is said that in 2017, 96% of us Australians have already made a purchase online over the past twelve months. The largest areas in which we tend to splash our money out on online are homewares, groceries, media and fashion.

 

Why Do We Purchase online?

The biggest growth when it comes to online purchases year-on-year is in the food industry. Even when in a physical grocery or food store, there is an increased appeal in the digitalisation of the physical shopping experience. Over a quarter of Australians find the idea of shopping online, especially for food, appealing. This was particularly driven by younger Australians, who may not have the time in the week to go out and do a weekly shop. With services such as Woolworths, Coles, Marley Spoon, Your Grocer and Hello Fresh now available to consumers, it is no wonder everyone would rather spend their precious time with friends and family, rather than picking food out at the supermarket.

Aside from the aspect of convenience, another appeal of shopping online is the fact that consumers are given the ability to compare prices in a matter of a few minutes. Imagine having to go to every single store by foot, just to check the price difference of the same items. Most of us would find the idea of doing this completely abysmal. However, with the internet and ecommerce stores, you can compare prices almost instantly and with the click of a button. This can ensure that the consumer is getting the best deal that their money can buy, all whilst still getting the convenience of items being delivered to your doorstep.

For those who want to avoid stores during crazy sales periods, online shopping is a godsend. If you are anything like me, you cringe at the idea of having to swoop through crowds in a busy shopping centre or store. With online shopping, you can shop for all your necessities in the quiet of your own home, without having to deal with the swarms of people at brick-and-mortar stores. An addes bonus that consumers tend to mention as well is that online purchases are discreet. Whether it is purchasing intimate items or something that you would rather others not see, shopping online gives you the ultimate privacy of ensuring that no one else knows what you are purchasing.

 

Searching And Researching Your Products

Searching For An Item

The first challenge of online shopping is of course, finding an ecommerce store that stocks exactly what you are looking for. Of course, as we know, in this day and age, you can practically find anything online. With that said, the first step towards going purchase crazy is to find a reliable and trustworthy website that provides you with all the items you need, paired with secure payment.

So, how do you go about finding the right website? First of all, like almost all of us on the internet, you will probably want to head towards a Google search.  Typing in the name of the product category or the specific product you’d like to buy into the Google search bar will reward you with hundreds upon hundreds of search engine results that will cater to your needs. The great thing about Google is that you know the higher a search result has ranked, the more reliable and popular it is probably going to be. Still can’t find what you are looking for? If so, don’t forget to add terms such as “buy online” or “online store”, to your search terms if your first search doesn’t give you what you need. Keywords are, well, the key to directing yourself to the right websites.

Another perk of a Google search is that should an online retailer have a Google Plus page, both the page and its reviews will pop up on the right hand side of your search results. Thus,  not only has your search query led you to a variety of retailers to choose from, but it has also given you the opportunity to check out their reviews and ratings before you make up your mind on where exactly to shop online.

Secondly, word of mouth is a fantastic way of finding out about some great websites online. If you know someone who has made purchases online, go ahead and ask them about their experience, their favourite websites to shop on and so forth. You can be sure that if someone has had a negative experience, they will let you know. Word of mouth is one of the most reliable ways to gauge if a website or online retailer will be able to match your needs.

If you are still looking for more ways to find a product or online retailer, head to Sensis, which is essentially the online version of the White and Yellow Pages. Once on the website, select the Yellow Pages tab and perform a search for the business type and location. Many Sensis search results include a link to company websites and if the company has an online store, you can follow the link to it directly.

 

Researching An Item

Once you have found the products you are looking for, a great and advised idea would be to research the product. After all, unlike a regular physical retail store, you can’t actually touch and play with a product that you buy online. It can also be harder to return it when purchasing online, so you want to ensure that you don’t have to deal with pesky returns as much as possible.

Some great resources at your disposal are Youtube reviews, Facebook reviews and websites such as Product Review which can often provide you with thousands of useful reviews on both products and services that you can purchase online. Similarly, some shopping sites such as Amazon have a great reviews section for all their products, and can verify that reviews are left by genuine buyers and not competitors or the company themselves. Other options you can look into are Choice and Cnet.

 

Tips For Buying Online

Of course, like most things in life, shopping online is not without potential pitfalls. In order to prevent these pitfalls from occurring, you will have to stay vigilant when on the internet. Below are some guidelines that you can follow that you may find useful in protecting yourself whilst online shopping.

 

  • Choose reputable companies that you have heard of before and that have a good reputation. It is advised to avoid purchasing online on websites which you have not heard of before. 
  • Check that the company or retailer has an actual address, not just a PO box •
  • Drop the company a phone call in order to check that their phone number works and that you aren’t just directed straight to voicemail.
  • Trust your instincts – if a website seems dubious or suspicious, check the company’s credentials or shop elsewhere. A badly maintained website is usually a sign of an unreliable retailer or service.
  • Compare prices between different websites and shops before making your final purchase.
  • Check for an itemised price list that includes postage costs, and check what currency the price is in. It is also advices that you check the company’s return or refund policy should you need to make a return in the future.
  • Check for a privacy policy to ensure that the retailer or company will not forward your personal information to marketing companies.
  • Avoid shopping on public or shared computers, such as those at libraries and internet cafes, or on unsecure public WiFi networks (often called WiFi hotspots ).
  • Do not enter your credit card details into a website that doesn’t seem secure. It is good to note that secure websites will start with a https page address in the internet browser and display a small green padlock in the address bar. Always look out for this before entering your bank or credit card details in.
  • Double-check your order before pressing the Confirm or Buy button, and remember to only press the buy button once, in order to prevent multiple purchases or transactions from being charged to your credit card.
  • Lastly,  print receipts of all transactions and store them in a safe area.

 

Do keep in mind that if you are buying from an international online store, always remember to check the currency, exchange rate and delivery cost as these may wipe out any price advantages. It is also good to note that you may have to anticipate long (and unpredictable) delivery times, so if you are looking for a quick retail fix, you may want to purchase on domestic websites instead. Other countries also use different power plugs and voltages, so electronic equipment may not be compatible with Australian standards. On top of that, there may be other incompatibilities as well. One example is how US mobile phones may not work on Australian networks.

 

How To Pay For Things Online

One of the most obvious and most common ways for anyone to pay for their purchases online is via their Credit Card. Because Credit and Debit Cards are the most common way of paying for purchases,  if you plan on doing any serious online shopping, you will definitely need to sign up for one! An online store will ask you for your credit card name, number, expiry and possibly CCV (card code verification; that is the three or four digit number on the back or front of the card). They will also ask what type of card it is (MasterCard, VISA, American Express etc.) before you can finally submit your payment for the items purchased.

Another common way of paying for purchases online is via PayPal. PayPal is a very reliable online service that adds a thick layer of security between you and an online store, for your own peace of mind. You can create a PayPal account for free and you can either purchase PayPal credits, or give PayPal your credit card number directly. When you choose PayPal as a payment option on an online store, the store will redirect you to the PayPal website, where you log in and authorise the transaction. PayPal then deducts the funds from your PayPal credits or directly from your credit card. This saves you from having to give the online retailer your personal credit card details aiding in the prevention of overcharging and fraud. PayPal is particularly popular on auction sites such as eBay where you are dealing with everyday people rather than businesses.

Lastly, there is BPay. BPay is a service that provides direct funds transfer from your bank account to another. BPay payments can be made using your online banking service and you can also use phone banking to make BPay payments. Most usually use BPay for paying utility bills. The store or biller gives you a biller code and a bill reference number which you will need when making your payment online.

Where to Shop

Now that you are familiar with the ins and outs of online shopping, in comes the fun part - the actual shopping. Below we have listed some of the best online retailers for Fashion, Beauty, Technology, Travel Food and Gifts. Have a look, and shop to your heart’s content!

Fashion

ASOS: Asos is a global fashion giant for both men and women with an Australian warehouse and hundreds of brands. Free shipping for orders over $40, and returns up to 28 days and student discounts.

MISSGUIDED: Young, fun, affordable fashion, brands like Kookai at a low price. Australian store offers free shipping for orders over $40, returns up to 100 days, express delivery for $9 and student discounts.

THE ICONIC: Australian-based website with super-fast three-hour delivery in Sydney and Melbourne, free overnight shipping and free returns within 100 days. Brands include Finders Keepers and River Island.

PRINCESS POLLY: On-trend fashion at a reasonable price. Free express shipping for orders over $50, returns up to 30 days and free returns on orders of $100 or more. Ten per cent off if you sign up for the newsletter.

SHOPBOP: Hundreds of designers from “the editors of what’s cool”. Free express delivery for orders over $100 and returns for up to 30 days.

BOOHOO: Urban, youthful fashion for men and women at low prices, with 100 new pieces launched each day. Free shipping over $40, returns up to 30 days, student discounts.

Beauty

STRAWBERRY NET: Hundreds of cosmetics and beauty products, free shipping worldwide for skincare and makeup, free returns within 30 days and discounts of up to 70 per cent off some top brands. Loyalty program available with 10% discounts.

PRICELINE: Australian store with popular makeup brands, fragrances and health products. Free delivery for orders over $100 or more and loyalty programs.

Technology

DWI: Massive range of amateur and professional digital cameras, smartphones, tablets and other gadgets. Free shipping to metro areas, dispatched within 24 hours and live chat customer service is available.

MICROSOFT: Major player offers free shipping on computers, phones, tablets and accessories and returns up to 14 days.

Travel

HOTELS. COM: Hotels.com is home to thousands of hotels with Tripadvisor reviews pulled in alongside your search. Rewards program earns you free stays with every 10 nights booked, 24/7 customer service.

WOTIF: Over 13 million rooms on offer plus flights and special packages advertised in the newsletter. “Mystery hotels” offer even greater savings.

CONTIKI: Epic guided tours and experiences for the intrepid 18- to 35-year-old traveller. Hundreds of tours available in five continents and 10 to 25 per cent off sale on now.

Gifts

EBAY: The original and still one of the most popular, eBay sells everything from collectibles to sporting goods. Save hundreds of dollars on new designer clothing if you know exactly what you want, and order new or refurbished electronics for a fraction of the price.

THE BOOK DEPOSITORY: Millions of titles at cheap prices and free shipping worldwide. Why bother with the library when orders are dispatched within two days of ordering?

PETITE GRAND: Luxury Australian brand selling beautiful jewellery. Shipping is $6 within Australia.

WOW HD: Australian site with extensive list of cheap vinyl for music lovers, as well as cheap DVDs and CDs. Free shipping on everything.

MY MESSY ROOM: Adorable clothes, books, toys and homeware for children. Beautiful wrapping for gifts and free delivery on orders over $150.

 

KOGAN: A popular Australian company selling electronics, homeware, appliances and more at discount prices. Fourteen-day money-back guarantee.