Updated: May 22
Shopping online is, and should always be easy, hassle-free and fun. Shopping online will never give us the taste, touch and smell factor, but we will always have a wider selection of products available online at the click of a button as there are no storage restrictions on the internet.
We have been shopping online for 24 years. With the first secure shopping retail transaction over the internet being placed by NetMarket and Internet Shopping Network in 1994. Immediately after that Amazon.com launched its online shopping site in 1995, and eBay followed that same year.
With this in mind, I almost spat out my honey and ginger tea when one of my Bulgarian colleagues told me, just last week, that she had never placed an order online before. The following day, she had placed a virgin, online purchase with Amazon in the form of three books. I was in stitches when she started spitting venom because Amazon had sent her an update regarding her order, informing her that one of the three books will not arrive until 2020. She was literally fuming the bite out, ranting about how she can't possibly wait that long. When she told me the name of the book I almost fell of my chair with laughter, the book locked in cyber space is 'The subtle art of not giving a fuck' by Mark Manson. This gave me the giggles for the rest of the day. She really needs this book Amazon, because she really gives a fuck!
The fact is not everyone buys online and certain generations do it more often than others. So the conversation sparked a memory of my first online order when I was, about 17 years old. It was so dull. I ordered Starflower oil and Aloe vera pills. Things haven't changed much as I still love shopping in a herbal hut or pharmacy of sorts! Even now I can recall the delivery arriving, as my Mum ruined the delivery-at-the-door experience by asking me to open the rattling parcel whilst she suspiciously hovered over me. My diet was perfect without taking vitamins, so the tune went!
The only problem with shopping online is you have to accept there are many factors that can go wrong, delays with the delivery, the absence of touch and lack of interactivity and fraud. Here are 8 things to consider before you check out online.
1. Create an account : Most online shops (websites) prompt you to create an online account before you shop. This is NOT only for marketing purposes, fundamentally it is to improve your online shopping experience. It allows the company to track your online shop and assist you with your shopping. Avoid being a guest consumer, always login to your account, even more so if the supplier (online shop) offer a loyalty scheme. A purchase equals points and points often lead to free loyalty gifts!
2. Read the return and refund policy : Before you purchase online take two minutes to read the return and refund policy. Not all online shops have a exchange policy, particularly international companies who delivery globally (COM websites) so it is important to understand the process before you commit.
3. Check the URL : A URL is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator and is an address to a resource on the Internet. The protocol when navigating on the internet is to simply check your website browser, for example https://checkyourURL.com to ensure you are shopping on the correct website. Remember counterfeiting and fraud are a daily business for dishonest people so before you check out and pay by card / PayPal, check the URL you are visiting is correct.
4. Ensure your personal data is correct
a). Enter the correct delivery address : In particularly, cross reference the billing and shipping address. If you fail to enter this information correctly the courier company will struggle to communicate with you and the payment process may incur delays. Check and review your personal data twice before you process a payment.
b). Enter your mobile number (favour entering your mobile number instead of a landline telephone number) : Why? Because most courier companies send you a tracking number and delivery update. They generally communicate via text message (mobile phone number) or via email. It should be straight forward, but when logistics are a factor things can go wrong.
5. Internet Fraud : The most common types of online fraud are phishing and spoofing. Phishing is the process of collecting your personal information through e-mails or websites, duplicate websites claiming to be legitimate. Fraudulent “Pop-up Windows” are a type of online fraud often used to obtain personal information. Whilst you are shopping online be mindful of this and be careful you do not click on random pop up boxes from other sites whilst shopping. This is how some hackers operate, so keep an eye on your URL (website browser address).
If you experience online fraud, you need to file a report with your local police department. You may also contact your state consumer protection office. You can also report certain types of scams and fraud to federal enforcement agencies.
6. If you have a query contact customer relations : Not all online companies have a communications channel. Check the website contact us or Customer Service page before you commit so you know how to contact someone if need be. The mentioned contact pages are usually at the top of the website or right at the bottom of a website.
7. Use credit, not debit : The first rule of keeping your payments safe is to always use a credit card. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, your credit card company is jointly liable if something goes wrong with a product or a service you've paid for by credit card. You can potentially claim for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the company from which you've bought your goods. Despite this being number 7 on my list, it is probably the most important factor when shopping online.
8. Read the delivery information : This is usually found on the Customer Service page. Most large companies guarantee delivery within 3-5 business days. Remind yourself of this before you proceed to check out. If you place yourself in compromising situation because you need that dress by Friday. You only have yourself to blame if the delivery took five business days not three!
Don't delay, read the small print and product description today (sorry!) and subscribe to my blog for more useful shopping tips and all things inspired by plants and nature.