Making the most of
Everyone knows online shopping is an increasingly popular and effective method to enhance your retail experience. Especially so in America, where the ecommerce market is so mature. And yet, you'll surely wonder if internet shopping can work for household goods too. After all, books and DVDs are fairly standardized products, but furniture and appliance purchases involve measurements, specifications, colors and a host of other factors. Can someone really shop for these things online?
The short answer - based on my personal experiences, and those of others whose inputs helped develop this site - is a cautious but contented yes. Internet shopping works, but keep some pitfalls in mind.
Here's a quick rundown:
Exploit online shopping to the fullest
- Always do your shopping on secure websites. Look for marks like 'Verisign Secured' at the bottom of the webpage for evidence of security protocols followed.
- Reputed chain store websites are likely to be safe and secure (even if you can't immediately find the security certification).
- If you did a google search for a product, any site that ranks in the first 20 results is likely to be a 'good' store, even if you don't recognize the retailer's name.
- Having said that, if you're using a site for the first time and don't recognize the retailer's name, avoid storing your credit card details at the time of checkout. On the other hand, it is quite safe and efficient to store your card details in top ranking sites like ebay and amazon.
Things to be careful of
- Unless you reside in the same state as the company's headquarters, chances are you won't have to pay tax on internet purchases, compared to in-person shopping. Exploit this fact.
- Inventory is usually bigger and better online. Many retailers feature products that are labeled 'internet-only' and are not available at regular stores.
- An item might be out of stock, or might not be available in size at a particular store location. No such issues with online shopping. If the retailer has the item at any location, anywhere in his inventory, you'll have access to it.
- Due to lower operational costs, internet prices for the same item tend to be lower. Make sure you search for good deals - the internet abounds with them!
- The internet allows comparison shopping of the same item simultaneously across multiple retailers. This is a huge productivity tool - doing the same exercise in the offline world would require several weekends of effort! So you can shop with confidence, knowing you're getting the right product at the right price at all times.
- Nothing beats online shopping in convenience. You can browse and shop 24/7; you can shop in complete privacy; you can multi-task while you're shopping. So if time is at a premium, just go ahead and shop online!
- When comparing prices between sites or against a brick-and-mortar option, always remember to add shipping costs. Although this is a fundamental concept, people tend to overlook this and take purchase decisions based only on the product price.
- While purchasing furniture, it is imperative you note the product's dimensions. Then mark out the area in your room to see how the item would fit. Online pictures can be very misleading and items often turn out to be larger or smaller than they look in room photos.
- While buying appliances or electronics, you must take time to read the technical specifications carefully, and not purchase just by looking at a picture or on the basis of the cover write-up. For instance, I wanted to buy a camcorder and chose one that looked perfect in all respects. It had the right features, was in my price range and came with great reviews. But only after I read the detailed specs did I realize it was DVD-RAM and not DVD-RW compatible (DVD-RW is the more common read-write format, and its a lot more difficult to get DVD-RAM discs in stores).
- Colors and textures can be misleading too, especially for fabrics. A good tip is to select something on the internet, go to the nearest physical store (same or different retailer) and check out the product in-person. Then come back online to complete the purchase at the retailer of your choice.
- Read the return policy of the online retailer you choose. There is a good probability you may not like the product when you actually receive it. Check out how returns can be done; in what timeframe; whether you have to bear return shipping costs and so on.
Chain store websites apart (like the Walmarts and the Targets), here are some excellent online shopping sites for bargain-hunting. These sites specialize in household goods and can be a good starting point for helping set up your new home.
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