Online Shopping Tips & Guide

Online Shopping Tips & Guide

I love shopping. It’s one of the few things I really miss doing pre-pandemic. All my friends know that I could literally spend the whole day going from one store to another looking for just about anything—clothes, makeup, craft materials, books, groceries, even at a hardware store! But you know what I really didn’t like? Online shopping.

I didn’t like the hassle of waiting for a few days to get an item, nor not being able to personally inspect every single corner of the item for any damages. You could say I was a “late bloomer” so I had to read through online shopping tips.

I only order online when I see a cheaper deal compared to what I saw in a physical store. Trust me, it has an upside. I once bought a pair of earrings at a known online beauty marketplace, and I bought another one from some Chinese store that is 70 percent cheaper on another app. They are EXACTLY the same, even tarnished at the same time. I felt a little betrayed. I guess branding is really everything.

Anyway! So this pandemic changed everything as I didn’t have a choice. I was stuck at home for almost three months in June, only going out to get groceries (but that’s limited too) and my every two-week visit to Art Bar to get painting supplies. I miss having the luxury of hunting for new stuff and basically deciding where to throw my money at.

Warning: online shopping can be very addictive. Purchase at your own risk!

Moving on! Here are some online shopping tips to live by.

Read Reviews—The Most Important Online Shopping Tip

This is probably the most important online shopping tip that I always share—always, always read reviews. Don’t let the followers deceive you. It all comes down to valid reviews.

I honestly think some sellers have found a way to cheat on the followers, at least on the apps I use. I base my decision on reviews with legitimate customer photos. Anything above 4 stars is okay but there are also exceptions. I seriously scan through every single review to check.

I love people who take their reviews seriously—you know, with actual photos and videos. Those reviews are my life-savers as I don’t have to have that expectation vs reality meme popping out of my head.

For people who buy stuff online with no reviews, I THINK YOU’RE REALLY BRAVE. I could never risk that much.

Check Product Description

Product descriptions are as important because that’s where you can see the measurements and product inclusions.

For example, there are products that look big in photos but are actually tiny, as is the case for some bedroom decor (e.g. pen holders, baskets, etc). Note though that these measurements are usually an estimate so also give the seller some room for error.

Fashion items are another thing. It really depends on your body size, but as a petite, I usually order one size bigger for clothes to be sure. It’s easier to have it resized than try to lose weight to make it fit. Some jeans, however, are baggy (like wide leg or mom jeans) so I either get my size or go one size down.

For shoes, I always stick to my size because I’m really small, except for slingback shoes or other lace-up sandals. Footwear with straps is usually better with a little allowance.

Another issue I usually see in reviews is product inclusion expectations. There are products that you think come with the whole package but only include a part of the package. Examples of these are pillows, bean bags, etc.

Read product descriptions, period. It’s kind of like inspecting everything physically when you’re thrift store shopping.

Compare Online Stores

If you are extra cautious like me (and have a lot of time), another helpful online shopping tip is to compare online stores (or apps).

For local stores particularly, there are products that only have one supplier but they sell either for the wholesale price or a more expensive one. I’ve seen a few stores that have the exact same thing and sell it for a ridiculous price.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that there are online stores that manufacture their own products but with the same design as the others. This is especially true for “trendy” clothes like street or summer outfit staples. They mostly have the same prices or a slight difference but the quality is not the same. Read the reviews to judge which one is better. More often than not, the cheaper has the lower quality, and it’s better to pay for that slight difference if you’re after a long product life.

Also, it’s good to pay twice the price if you’re all for supporting local businesses, but if you’re on a tight budget or want to order in bulk, you might have to look for a direct supplier for a cheaper deal.

Watch Out for Promotions

Who doesn’t like promotions and free shipping vouchers? These are my number one weakness.

I know a lot of people who pay for shipping even if they end up paying more for the shipping than the price of their order.

So here’s the thing—free shipping in most online stores has a minimum order. If you think you’re a few bucks away from obtaining that minimum order, then just add an extra item. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand having to pay for shipping if I can just add a couple more cheap items to qualify for free shipping.

What if I can’t find any other good stuff from the shop? Well, here goes tip #3—compare stores. Sometimes, you can find better products that you can add in to achieve the minimum for free shipping. This applies if you’re shopping from an online marketplace.

What if I can’t find any other good product? If it’s something you really can’t find in malls, then buy it and pay for the shipping. If you can still wait, then try to explore every mall near you. If you’re shopping from brand websites, I suggest you call the branch near you and inquire about the product. It might be cheaper to buy from the physical store than to pay the shipping fee. Take note, though, that some deals may only be available online.

Take Advantage of Cashback

I love cashback promotions, especially if I’m a regular buyer of an online marketplace. Some promotions go up to 50 percent, that’s why. I think of it as a discount instead of getting a part of my money back (I don’t know if that even makes sense, potayto, potahto), since I’m just going to use it for my next purchase.

But the point is, a cashback can save you a couple of bucks one way or another.

Talk to the Seller for Queries/Concerns

Whether it’s an online marketplace or a brand website, don’t be shy to contact customer service if you have questions or concerns.

Sellers at online marketplaces usually reply fast while known brands are more challenging because they usually only have email support and take a while to respond. Still, there’s no harm in approaching the seller. You’ll also get to know the brand more—I usually shop at online stores that respond to my queries promptly and professionally.

Add Items to Your Wishlist

Most online stores have this section they call a “wishlist”. It’s where your product likes go when you tap that tiny heart button.

I add products to my “wishlist” when I don’t want to buy them yet. It’s kind of like a to-do checklist so I don’t buy everything impulsively.

Be Patient

Think of online shopping as normal shopping, except this time it’s more convenient. Do you always get the perfect stock when shopping in a physical store? Exactly. So don’t expect that you’re going to get a perfect, scratch-free product. One of the top online shopping tips I always share is to lower expectations, ESPECIALLY if the items are cheap. As they say, you get what you pay for.

Your package won’t always arrive on time. That’s okay. You’re just at home and everyone else—from the seller to the courier—worked for it. Be a little more understanding.

Also, online shopping can be stressful. There are times when you’ll see something on sale but will be out of stock in a blink of an eye. It happened a lot to me!

Leave Honest Reviews

Make the world a little better by leaving honest reviews after receiving your item. I’m still a little disappointed with some stores and online marketplaces that don’t have UGC features.

Anyway, it would be nice if you can share photos of the product and leave one or two lines about your experience or how it was in general. This will help other customers with their purchasing decisions. If you really liked the product, that will also help promote the store.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT leave a long, angry review immediately after receiving a bad product. Coordinate with the seller first. Don’t let your disappointment ruin a store’s reputation forever. Again, be patient. I usually give it a minimum of two days before I leave a review just to check if the product is really okay.

Stay Safe

This is still the most important thing to consider among all of these online shopping tips. First of all, please only shop from legit and trusted websites—always use official apps and sites with secure checkouts. There are hundreds to thousands of scams online that may take advantage of you.

If you’re shopping from an online marketplace, check out the seller. Even a popular online marketplace has a couple of scammers roaming around. Save yourself the trouble, and avoid spending more than the average, especially at a store that has not established itself as a reputable shop.

Do you have other online shopping tips to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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