Here are a few tips to consider before adding items to a shopping cart
The retail landscape has undergone a substantial transformation during the pandemic lockdowns. People who had preferred traditional shopping outlets before were forced to explore online storefronts. Many of them liked that new experience so that their shopping behaviour has changed irrevocably.
In 2020, over two billion people purchased goods or services online, whereas e-retail sales surpassed $4.2 trillion worldwide. With the introduction of vaccines and the rebound of global economies, the trend didn’t fade away. Online retail sales in the US increased 39% in Q1 2021 compared to 32.4% year over year in 2020. A global survey conducted by PwC in June 2021 shows that consumers do not think they’ll go back to their old shopping ways once the pandemic is over. In addition, they’re increasingly using connected devices such as smartphones, tablets and smart voice assistants for convenient purchases.
With a major shift to Internet retail sales, it’s important to understand the basic rules of safe and advantageous online shopping.
1. Choose a reputable platform
The platform you choose for online shopping must be trusted. It shouldn’t necessarily be a global retail giant like Amazon, eBay, or TaoBao. However, if you buy from a certain brand or a retail network, you’d better deal with their official website or mobile app. To begin with, it’s often much cheaper than when you buy from dropshippers. Besides, you’ll be sure that the product is original and some purchase guarantees are in place.
Some fraudulent sites have URLs that look just like those of legit websites, so you have to be careful with the online stores you use for the first time or haven’t visited in a while. Always look for a padlock in the address bar. It can show you whether the security certificate is valid if you click on it. Google Transparency Report may also tell you how safe a website is. Enter the URL in the “Check site status” box and press Return.
2. Check the reviews
Even reputable trading platforms may host thousands of different sellers. Not all of them are honest, so check the customers’ feedback before you make a deal. The sellers who have zero reviews may post lucrative sale offers. Yet, if they turn out to be a scam, you’ll waste both your time and money. Moreover, customer reviews will reveal some details about the product that ads or item descriptions don’t tell. Some reviews may be fake, so look out for the following red flags. When close to 99% of reviews are positive – it should make you suspicious. If a product or a seller has mixed reviews, note when they were posted. If it had mostly negative reviews and suddenly you spot an influx of 5-star ratings, the seller may be engaging in a customer review fraud, and paying for positive feedback. Unbelievable claims and odd formatting as well as similar feedback patterns are a bad sign too. According to research from Cornell University, fake online reviews frequently use “I” and “me” and use more verbs to describe their shopping experience. Many of those fake user profiles utilise generic names (like John Smith) and have no photos attached.
3. Keep your connection clean
When browsing the web is combined with sensitive banking info, it’s utterly important to mind the safety of your Internet connection. Public Wi-Fi spots are a no-no for online shopping. The information on public networks is often transmitted unencrypted, giving other people potential access to it. If you’re in a public place and can’t wait to start your shopping spree – at least, use VPN. Secondly, protect your PC, laptop, and other connected devices with reliable antivirus programs. If you keep your browser and antivirus software properly updated, it should tell you when you’ve run across an unsafe shopping site. If you see a “Not Secure” warning, back out and choose another shopping resource. Finally, beware of identity theft. Don’t store your passwords, change them regularly, make them secure, and don’t use the same password for all the accounts and apps you have.
4. Use a dedicated card
Despite all the precautions, sometimes banking details still get stolen. Hence, it’s always better to use a separate bank card for online shopping, especially if you do lots of it. This dedicated card should never be full of cash. Load money onto it only before you’re going to buy something, and even if your shopping account at a web-store gets hacked – the thieves won’t get much. Prepaid cards without an overdraft possibility are perfect for this purpose. If you don’t want to have a lot of cards in your wallet – at least set minimal online shopping limits. In addition, some banks issue virtual cards specifically for Internet purchases. If you use a shopping platform for a one-time purchase, you may opt for purchase without registration so that less personal data is stored online.
5. Read the fine print
Terms & Conditions, as well as sections like Payment & Delivery, are an essential part of every shopping platform interface. Read them, and be especially attentive to the Returns & Refunds policies. The goods may turn out to be not what you’ve expected, be of bad quality, or not work properly. Read the applicable terms and make sure to check the purchased item before the return time runs out. Be especially careful with software and media purchases. They have more limitations than physical goods. Some items bought on sale may not be refundable at all, even if the store policies generally allow such returns. Consider those factors before making a purchase decision.
6. Do not link shopping accounts to social media
Try to avoid using any social network profiles to sign in to online stores if you can help it. Social networks are not as protected as banking software and they get hacked quite often. You can check which sites you’ve logged on to through social networks. To find the list on Facebook, go to Settings, then click Apps and Websites in the left-hand menu. If you use your social profile for online purchases, protect it better than ever. Use a strong password, don’t use auto-fill forms, and update your passwords regularly.
7. Compare prices
One of the main advantages of online shopping is that you can compare prices before making a purchase. You may either do it yourself manually, or use dedicated comparison tools. Google Shopping, Yahoo Shopping, BizRate, and CamelCamelCamel price comparison platforms for Amazon are among the top consumer choices. You may also have some helpful local comparison engines. Some price comparison resources require you to scan the barcode, while others allow you to type in the product name to find the item you need. Visit a few websites with the best pricing policies before making a purchase decision. Perhaps, they have an upcoming sale soon and you can wait for a while to finalise your purchase. Check the available coupons and discounts you can use. Do not forget to add up all the expenses. The price is only part of a deal. You should also calculate the shipping price, especially if you order something from abroad. Some resources may advertise free shipping, but make sure to read the fine print. Usually, such offers presuppose a minimum purchase cost.