Many people are still scared to shop online as they don't want to deal with exchanges and shipping charges, their credit card getting stolen, email addresses being sold, or dealing with small companies that don't deliver as promised. The truth is, internet shopping has become so popular, that all these things will most likely not happen to you. Most stores have amazing security, free exchanges, free shipping and protect your email. Whether you've been shopping online since the internet started or are yet to click the buy button, here's my 20 must know tips for happy online hunting.
1. Powerful passwords:
Safe online shopping starts with creating strong user names and passwords, it's the equivalent of keeping your credit cards hidden and not writing you PIN on the back of your hand. Use a memorable word and incorporate at least one number and capital letter.
2. Store your passwords somewhere safe:
Derek Milne, 51, post man, says "A simple but stress saving tip is to always write down passwords and user names, they can be easy to forget or get mixed up if different sites require different combinations of characters".
You can also store these in a private google doc, or in Keychain on your Mac.
3. Look for the lock:
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn't have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You'll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. It depends on your browser.
4. Don't tell all:
No online shopping store needs your IRD number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.
5. Check postage costs:
You might think you are getting a bargain by buying online, but always double check how much you will have to pay in postage as this could bump the cost up.
6. Use a separate email account for your online shopping:
You can set up a free email account on Google's Gmail or Yahoo, among others. This can prevent spam and clogging up your email account with junk
7. Check your statements:
Don't wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly, especially during the holiday season, and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don't see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal.
8. Double check your address:
Ali Johnson, 42, designer, says, “I always make sure I double check my billing address against the shipping address, I've made this mistake in the past as I sometimes send purchases to different places and it can be real convenience.”
9. Work your way up:
When searching through shopping sites work your way up the page: Go from the bottom up. Most people start at the top, so you're likely to have less competition if you shop the last items first, especially on sales sites
10. If you see something you like, put it in your cart:
It's a great way to remember what you've had your eye on without having to go back through lots of pages, so load up your cart and decide later. Also, remember that you can usually cancel your order up to an hour after purchase.
11. Use the Wish List:
Ashleigh Hoyle, 22, waitress, says, "My favourite trick is when I'm shopping on Amazon- if you put items you want in you 'Wish list' and leave them there for a few days they get reduced by the site. Maybe it's to encourage you to buy them but if you want them anyway it's a bonus!"
12. Know your measurements:
Just as with the high street, sizes differ vastly between the various online fashion retailers. Because you don’t have the luxury of trying clothes on for fit when shopping online, it’s therefore crucial to be aware of your measurements. Most sites will have detailed size guides – but to take full advantage of them you’ll need to know your exact height, waist size, hip size and bust measurements in both centimetres and inches. Investing in a tape measure will instantly cut the number of time-consuming returns you could be forced to make.
13. Look out for sister sites:
Popular online stores like Amazon now have other sites that offer more specific shopping experiences to their main site. Myhabit.com is Amazon's sister site and sells more glam upmarket products but from the same trusted brand, so know they’ve got their shipping system down to a science.
14. Open two windows:
Phil Skegg, 45, graphic designer, says "I always win an eBay auction by opening two windows; have one on the items main page with the time the auction finishes and one ready and filled out to buy the item. All you need to do then is click 'buy' when there is about 20 seconds left, which gives the site time to register your bid without the time running out".
15. Misspell on purpose:
An old friend gave me this tip back in high school and it's very sneaky. When searching on a site like eBay type words with a slight spelling mistake. For example, if you're looking for cheap Topshop dresses, type 'topsohp', as sometimes a seller won't have noticed their error Even with the advance of spell checkers. This means you can bag a bargain with less competition.
16. Sign up for alerts:
This is why it's handy to have a separate account for your online shopping. You can sign up for alerts from all your favourite sites and they will inform you when sales are starting or if specific items have been reduced. You can also join websites that track items of your choice and and email you up to date prices. The top three recommended price tracking sites are priceprinx.com, gazaro.com and shopittome.com.
17. Stick to a budget:
It's easy to get carried away when shopping online so set yourself a budget. Easier said than done, I know, when you can spend at the click of a button. Be smart and keep a diary of the money you're spending each month shopping online. Put this somewhere visible like on the fridge, in your wardrobe or a spreadsheet on you computer desktop, anywhere that will make you a more mindful and guilt free shopper.
18. Have a breaking price point:
On the other hand, it's easy to shop around for too long and miss out on bargains so have breaking point price for what you consider a 'bargain'. Once you find it- buy it, it can be easy to go round in circles on the Internet looking for the best deal and end up with nothing. There will always be someone else out there who will snap up the items of you don't, but you can always return your purchases if they're not right when they arrive.
19. Don’t be afraid to email:
With regards to returns and queries about your purchases, don't be afraid to email and speak to someone. The Internet can seem an impersonal and faceless domain but online stores have fantastic customer relations departments and mostly deal with enquiries efficiently to ensure you return to their site. Waiting for an email reply beats waiting on-hold to ear-piercing music any day.
20. Have fun!
Shopping is all about enjoying yourself and the possibilities are endless when shopping online. You can buy items and experiences you could only have imagined at the click of a search engine so make the most of this priceless resource.
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