Online shopping or ecommerce has been a popular avenue for years, but the current and ongoing events have pushed more people into the online realm. Even though online retail has been taking market share from brick and mortar stores for years, the ongoing pandemic has made the growing gap even wider as in-person shopping has massively dropped off to keep the general population safe. More people than ever are starting to shop online, and while high-quality websites make the process look more effortless than could be imagined, there are still some things you should know before committing to online retail. The rules you are used to from in-person shopping are different with ecommerce. Here is a quick rundown of the guidelines that will make your first foray into online shopping even more painless and help you avoid pitfalls that can trip up customers learning the ways of online shopping.
Finding Trusted Sellers
When you walk into a brick and mortar store, you have some assurances that the business is selling legitimate products at prices the store feels are appropriate. You can typically spot a dodgy store a mile away, know what storefronts to avoid, and know which stores are reputable. You can do the same thing with online retailers, but the markers you are looking for look different than in-person stores. Reputable sellers and untrustworthy sellers can look very similar online, so you must learn how to spot the differences before giving anyone your hard-earned money.
The first hallmark of a trustworthy site is whether they use HTTP or HTTPS in the URL. HTTPS sites are more secure and up to date, but user functionality should be the same. Switching from HTTP to HTTPS is not hard to do, and any website that has not bothered to update is not worthy of your business, so avoid websites that do not make your security a priority. Also, look at the website design as outdated or poorly made websites are often not trustworthy. However, not all old sites are malicious as sincere, but smaller companies cannot always afford to update their design, so do your research before spending money on a lesser-known brands’ site. Also, look at item listings. If there are no or minimal pictures of items, hesitate before buying anything. You do not want to think you are buying one thing and have something else arrive, as can happen on less than trustworthy retailers. Unless you know what you are looking for and how to spot frauds, avoid buying things on auction sites like eBay or Zen Market, no matter how attractive the likely fake or dishonest prices are. Also, avoid too good to be true sites like Wish that are infamous online for delivering items of a wildly different quality than what you expected.
Once you find a reliable and trustworthy site with items you want to buy, it is time to navigate checkout and shipping details. Amazon has popularized the 2-day shipping standard, but independent retailers likely have different options. Double-check your address format to minimize problems with your local carrier. Consider how long you are willing to wait for an order and how much you are willing to pay for shipping. Expensive shipping is often what makes or breaks a sale as there is no reason to pay $20 shipping on a $15 order. Make a note of where your order is shipping from, as the country of origin will affect delivery times and prices. Products from overseas will naturally take longer to arrive but typically offer flat rate shipping.
If you are willing to wait, most sites offer cheaper shipping options with longer delivery times. However, not all shipping programs are created equal. Look for sites that use helpful programs, namely shipping tracking APIs, ups time in transit API, and others, to ensure your package will arrive on time at the correct location. For large purchases, do not be surprised by a Captcha or credit card authorization check. These security and verification measures are becoming more common as more scalpers or shoppers with bots attempt to grab as much inventory of popular items as possible before reselling them for a profit.
The world of online shopping can invite a wide range of new items and brands into your life, but you should know the basics before starting a shopping spree. Not all online retailers are safe to buy from, so look for a reliable site’s hallmarks before spending anything. Pay attention during the shipping stage to ensure you are not overpaying for shipping that will take too long to arrive. Do not mind the security measures designed to keep bots out and double-check your address to reduce delivery errors. With the primary online shopping guidelines in hand, you are ready to explore all that ecommerce has to offer.