A Complete Guide to Online Shopping
Lately, most of my shopping needs are fulfilled by online stores. During the last couple of years, I got lots of gift vouchers for online stores that, I shopped to my heart’s content, not without some lessons. There are boons and banes of shopping online and so, it is always better to read up and do your researches before you leap into the mess that is online shopping.
I have plenty of friends and relatives who are still skeptical about online shopping. They haven’t tried it yet since they have lots of doubts and rightly so. Every customer has the right to ensure that the product they buy is worth the money. So, I decided to compile a list of Do’s and Don’ts based on my experiences with online shopping.
1. Shop from an Authentic Site – This had to be mentioned for the sake of newbie shoppers. Flipkart, Amazon, Myntra, Snapdeal, Jabong, Limeroad etc have been the most prominent shopping sites. Others such as Ajio, Koovs and many more have joined the bandwagon. If you shop from lesser known or completely unknown sites, there is no guarantee of receiving your product, let alone getting them in good condition.
Image courtesy: Here
2. Look out for Ratings and Reviews – Before shopping anything expensive, see what the other buyers have to say. Sites like Flipkart and Amazon have ratings and reviews for almost all the prominent products. The key point here is, if a customer is too happy/unhappy with his product, he will definitely come back and write an honest review. That being said, a couple of bad reviews in a hundred do not matter. Go by the majority reviews for inexpensive products.
Also, in some cases, you will know minute details about the product from the reviews. For instance, I decided to buy a dress and the reviews said that the size M of that product was equal to the standard size S. So I ordered size S instead of M (being my size) and got the right fit.
3. Read the Description – This is something people don’t notice. In most of the sites, you will notice that certain descriptions cannot be found unless we look carefully for them and expand them. Reading description is very important because the image of the product could be misleading. They might show a picture of a set of four plates but they might be selling only two for the price.
4. Look for Quality Assurance – Multiple sellers sell the same products. Some sites have their own Quality Assurance checks. They do multiple rounds of checks for some of their products which is an additional guarantee that the seller and the products are genuine. You could identify these products by the seal affixed next to the product in their page. Amazon and Flipkart have this facility and so, look for sellers whose products have this assurance seal and pick amongst them based on the ratings.
5. Keep the Shade Difference in mind – when you are purchasing something whose color you are particular about, keep in mind that the shade could be slightly different due to glare and lighting when the image was taken. That being said, you are not obliged to keep products that are entirely different or unsatisfactory for you. There is a thin line between unintentional shade differences and tricking you to buying slow moving products by displaying different stuff.
6. Read the Return Policy – I cannot stress how important this is. Most of the above-mentioned sites have transparent return policies. The things you need to look for are:
- The period within which the products should be returned – 7 days/10 days/15 days/30 days. This would help you take action within the specified time.
- Whether they have a pickup facility or whether you will have to courier it yourself.
- In the latter case, whether they will reimburse the courier cost and the amount up to which they will reimburse.
- Whether the refund will be in store credits or in cash.
The site will have a link to their return policies. Read up before you decide to purchase. Check the return period for every product since it changes with the type of product, brand and seller.
7. DO NOT Fall For Discounts – Whether it is a flat 90% off or Buy 1 Get 1 Free, use your common sense. I used to stalk shopping apps for a long time since I had vouchers close to 30k. I learnt that they keep changing the type of offer to attract customers but eventually, the prices varied only slightly. While this isn’t the case always, it happens most of the times.
They price a Kurta at Rs. 1500 and sell at 40% off (Rs. 900) normally. When the festive season comes, they sell it at 60% off while increasing the MRP to Rs. 2000. Frequent shoppers will not note the initial MRPs which have been struck off. We only notice the red colored 40% off/60% off since they are more catchy. Eventually, you are purchasing the same Kurta with only a difference of Rs. 100.
What you should do? The description will have the type of material used. Estimate the market price of the material and the quantity you would need for the kurta. Add the average stitching charges. Compare the cost to the price of the Kurta. Slight price fluctuations are acceptable considering the seller’s profit, packing charges, the convenience of buying from home etc.
8. Look for the asterisk – If you find a mail with unbelievably good offers, do not fall for it and make purchases. Look for the asterisk (*) and the related terms and conditions. For instance, every shopper wouldn’t get a 100% cashback. They aren’t running charitable organizations. Nor are they Santa Claus’s grandchildren. So, always approach every mail and every offer skeptically.
9. Know the difference between return and exchange – This knowledge is important both online and offline. In common parlance, when you return a product, you get a refund. When you exchange a product, you get the same product of different size or color. This option is available in most of the prominent sites. So, if you love the product but need a different size, you don’t have to be disheartened. You can always exchange them.
10. Know your Voucher Expiry – If you have gift vouchers with you, remember that most of them expire in a year’s time. When you purchase a product towards the last week of the expiry date, ensure that you won’t have to return it (exchange is alright). Once you return the product after the voucher expiry, the refund to your wallet will be useless since the voucher has expired.
For instance, buy a dress from a brand you are familiar with or purchase branded makeup or body care products.
11. Search for Discounts online – There are umpteen discount sites such as CouponDunia, Nearbuy etc. Be on the lookout for discount coupons or offers through these sites so that you make maximum out of your purchases. But keep two points in mind; Point 5 and point 10 😛 which is…
12. Know the Difference between Want and Need – We all love to save some extra bucks. Sometimes we get too carried away in saving that we will spend more on unnecessary garbage than we intended too. So, just because you save 200 bucks in every purchase, do not end up burning a hole in your wallet.
The mantra here is, look for discounts when you need to buy something. Do not buy because you have discounts. When you see an eye catchy discount ask yourself, ‘Do I really need it?’
Image courtesy: Here
13. For any issues, contact the Site – The competition is very high today. The sellers would do anything to keep up their reputation. So do not hesitate when something goes wrong. Make the best use of social media. Firstly, mail them the issue. If you get no response within a reasonable time, tweet the issue tagging their handle, post on their facebook page or message them. The response is quick and the issue is resolved in no time.
14. Leave a review – This is a bonus point I added which, if followed by you, will help the other buyers. The way ratings and reviews would help you, you could help someone with your reviews too. A two liner about our experience in their site would help other buyers make a decision. It will also help the seller improve his products. When it comes to electronics and expensive products, the importance of a review increases manifold.
The reason why I like showroom shopping is that we know exactly what we are buying. If they are clothes, we can try them on, compare and take home the best. But the plus point about online shopping is that I have a wide variety to choose from and I get customer reviews too which isn’t available in showrooms. It is definitely more convenient and so I believe everyone should get comfortable with it in a healthy manner. So shop online, shop safe and shop skeptically.
So do you shop online often? If you don’t will you do it after reading this post? Do let me know in the comments if there are any more points to be added to this list. 🙂
PS – This is not a promotional post in any manner. Being someone who has shopped online frequently, I decided to help others who are still alien to the concept. The pictures and examples given are from personal experiences and for clarification purposes.