Online shopping tips are the best way I know of helping people get over their fear of a) making a poor purchasing decision when you can’t touch/feel the product and b) losing money to a vendor or a hacker.
Last year, I completed all of my shopping online in *one day* mainly using SheSpark’s Holiday Gift Guide and a few other boutique sites. (Exception: a golf club for my husband that he put on hold at Golf Smith.) I plan on using it again because most of the retailers are small businesses that do business with my company or support our cause. IOW, I trust them.
There’s more to it than just that, so I put together this list of online shopping tips that I use and hope you find them helpful.
Tip #1 Make A List the 2017 Way
Pull up your “Notes” app and type in everyone on your list. Next to each name, add the amount of money you’d like to spend on a gift and, if applicable, sizes or special considerations. When you purchase a gift, add the gift page URL and the confirmation number. Storing this information all in one place can come in handy later.
Tip #2 Shop Trusted Sites
How do you know if it’s a trusted site? Major department stores, chains, and sites like Amazon.com are easy, but what if you want to buy from small businesses? I recommend buying from businesses recommended by a trusted source with links like the SheSpark gift guide or an niche magazine or industry expert. Note: Sale items may have different return terms– differences should be stated on the product or checkout page.
Tip #3 Search Smart
Remember that list you made? When you have a gift idea, input the price, size, and any special consideration keyword to narrow down your options. This will save a LOT of browsing time. Note that search results usually show up in order of “Relevance” to your search terms. This can be great, but you may want to choose “low to high price” or another order the better fits your needs. Some of my favorite search engines are ShopStyle.com, Nordstrom.com, Etsy.com and Amazon.com.
Tip #4 Look for Ratings and Reviews
Other people’s experiences account for a lot. However, look at the bad reviews with a critical eye. Sometimes, a competitor will plant false reviews to undermine their competition. They usually have generic wording (“This product sucked”) rather than a specific experience, or a bizarre handle (e.g. “John4567918”) is the author. If you’re not sure, Google the product name and see if a trustworthy source recommends the product. Many small businesses don’t have ratings/reviews yet. Go with your gut.
Tip #5 Read the Return Policy Carefully
Before completing the purchase, look for the return policy and make sure it suits your needs. If a policy isn’t stated, email the vendor and ask them to send it to you.
Tip #6 Choosing Fashion? Embrace Accessories
Jewelry, handbags, scarves. These are all delicious options for the fashionista in your life and fit better than clothing. The trick is to choose something the gift recipient would like instead of you. Think about her current wardrobe/style and find items that complement it. You can go by most worn colors, or designer brand/theme, or current obsession– I’m currently gushing over my English bulldog, Spike. Unique or #OOAK (one of a kind) gifts are truly special, especially if there is a cultural or sentimental story associated with them. This is part of the joy of shopping artisans and small businesses.
Tip #7 Use the Size Charts and Descriptions
If you’re shopping for that perfectly pink cashmere sweater that Allison requested, it’s easy to get the size wrong. If you know her measurements, a size chart works wonders. Be sure to note if sizes are in US, UK, or Italian, which all vary. Otherwise, read the product description and be on the lookout for “runs small” or “shoe runs narrow” or “100% cotton,” which is code for “will shrink.” This is also where reviews come in handy.
Tip #8 Consider Shipping Options
My dad and his wife live in Florida. They don’t care about fancy bows or pretty paper. So I ship their gifts directly to them and type in a holiday “message” during the checkout process. The vendor adds the message to the contents and off it goes. I pay for shipping one time vs. two, leave a lower carbon footprint, and get the package there on time. Note: you’ll pay extra on express or overnight shipping if you’re a procrastinator like me. So either, prep your loved one that the package may be late or suck up the extra fees. Some sites will post “Buy before DATE X to arrive by December 24th” banners on their side. Pay close attention to those dates.
Tip #9 Look for a Secure Payment Button
Most of us have seen a PayPal button. Be sure the button actually takes you to the PayPal site when you click it (if you use a trusted site, this shouldn’t be a concern). Google Wallet and Apple Pay are other biggies. Here is a list of 29 alternatives to PayPal from GrowingYourBusiness.co that you can refer to before typing in any credit card information. And **use your promo codes for discounts and free shipping** when available.
Tip #10 Stay On Target
“Ohhh, I like that!!” turns into me online shopping for myself. For two hours. Not the time! So you don’t feel deprived, tell yourself that you can come back to that dazzling item after your list is finished. Click the “favorite” button if available, or pin the link to a Holiday Wishlist board on Pinterest. Easy!!