Shopping in stores is a complete drain on most consumers. During the Halloween season, you dread going to the stores that sell costumes because it’s like a mad house.
It’s no different on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or during the Christmas rush. Chaos ensues – especially when anything in the store is limited in quantity, and you wind up going all over town trying to find an item and sometimes encountering rude shoppers and surly clerks.
Why put yourself through that?
Every consumer knows that now, you can shop online – from the comfort of your own home. You can take advantage of web-only sales, have items shipped to your house for free, and save gas (and your sanity) by using your mouse to shop instead of your vehicle.
But not every consumer knows how to shop properly online. Sometimes you need a little guidance to help you navigate the online sites to find what you need and get the best deal.
Shop Safely and Protect Your Information
Before you ever get started shopping online, you want to make sure you shop safely. This is the number one reason many people worry about shopping online is because they don’t want their information compromised.
The first tip is to shop and check out of any online store as a guest. Don’t let any site – even reputable household names like Walmart.com – save your information in their files.
If their online files are ever hacked, you don’t want your credit card or banking details being used when you didn’t authorize it. Read the site’s privacy and terms of service pages to make sure you know how they treat online visitors’ information.
You can look for certain badges of trustworthiness like a Better Business Bureau seal or an eTrust verified button. Look for formidable refund policies in case the item you order isn’t as it was described or doesn’t arrive in good condition.
Once you know the basics about protecting yourself financially when shopping online, you will be able to enjoy what millions of others are enjoying – shopping from the comfort of your own home.
Consider Shopping from Sites That Sell a Variety
When you shop offline, one of the most tiring things is when you have to go from one store to another. Not only is it physically exhausting, but it can also waste gas if you have to travel a distance between locations.
It’s much more convenient if you can go to one store and find everything you need. This is rarely the case in the offline world – but online, it’s a very real possibility!
You can go to an offline store like Walmart and find many items for sale in a variety of categories. You can find a futon or jewelry, clothing or electronics. But the choices are limited due to sheer space.
Online, you could shop at Walmart.com and find many more opportunities for things that might not be carried in your local store. You can even shop online and have everything sent to your local store, ready for pickup!
Another great place to shop online for a little bit of everything is Amazon.com. This is a site that carries a supply that almost can’t be rivaled when it comes to online shopping.
Not only do they carry a variety – such as furniture and books, cosmetics and tools – but they also have a wide range of those categories for you to choose from.
Some people shop based on price alone, looking for the least expensive options. Amazon would have something for everyone in this category. They carry high end items costing tens of thousands of dollars, too – so you could have a $100 futon or an entire living room set worth thousands.
Have you ever shopped on eBay.com? Here, you find everything from trinkets that cost pennies to collectibles that cost a lot of money. You have to shop smart on this site, relying on reputable dealers, but it’s a great place to acquire some things that might be hard to find in your area.
For example, maybe your spouse is a huge sports fan for a team that’s not located near where you live. It can be difficult to find gifts for that person, but on eBay, you can find quite a few options – like personalized jerseys.
Variety stores offer convenience because everything gets shipped in fewer boxes and you don’t have to place multiple orders. You just look around a single site, put everything you want into the virtual shopping cart, and check out.
Look for the Best Shipping Deals
Shipping can add quite a bit on to your bottom line, almost canceling out any savings you may have earned from staying home and shopping if you’re not careful.
If you order heavy items or order multiple items to be shipped, then your charges might accumulate into something excessive. Your ultimate goal in shopping online is both convenience and keeping costs down, so you have to watch how the charges add up.
Sometimes shipping can equal or even exceed the cost if the item you initially ordered. Some products weigh a lot but dot cost a lot and them you feel cheated paying an exorbitant shipping fee.
You can save money on shipping fees when you shop online if you shop smart. There are sites that have a flat rate for shipping and this can help or hurt you. It might turn out that you save money using a flat fee shipping option – but you might also pay more than it’s worth.
Amazon has free shipping for some orders where the amount surpasses $25. Not everything on the site qualifies for this special shipping deal. If an item is eligible, it will say so on the product page.
Another option you have if you’re an Amazon shopper is to sign up for Amazon Prime. This is a program where you get free two-day shipping on many items. This program pays for itself in shipping costs alone and comes in really handy for last minute holiday shopping.
Sometimes, especially during the holiday season, a site that normally doesn’t offer shipping freebies or discounts will run them just to grab a larger piece of the retail pie during peak shopping times.
Consider Online Consumer Reviews
When shopping for holiday items online, you want to make sure that what you’re buying is top quality and a good value. You won’t be there in person to try things out yourself, so relying on consumer reviews is important.
Learn how to tell the difference between a real review and hype that’s meant to push a product on you no matter what. If a consumer hasn’t reviewed multiple products and glows about this one thing, then it might not be genuine.
Most online reviews will include a star rating and some comments left by the buyer right on the site. But it might also include blog posts with thorough user reviews and no star rating.
You want to look for products that are ranked at three stars above. But never just look at the star rating only to make a buying decision. It’s important that you read the comments and judge for yourself.
Many consumers will complain about things that wouldn’t matter to you. Some, you can tell, are simply revenge feedback because the consumer didn’t want to pay for an item.
There are even those that leave negative ratings against their competitors. You can weed those out and look for fair and reasonable feedback so that you can make a proper buying decision.
You also want to read the feedback reviews on many sites about a particular product. Go to blogs that review the items, look at different websites and study up.
Of course, it might not be something that’s worth going to all that trouble for – only you know that, and it’s typically something that’s a higher dollar amount for you to order.
Once you read through the online reviews, make your actual buying decision based on the value you get from online stores – including the cost of the item, speed and price of shipping, and things like return policies just in case.
Sign Up for Sales Alerts
Sales alerts online can be a real blessing for you around the holidays. By signing up (or opt in) for alerts, you’ll get email notifications whenever certain things have been priced lower, or if new quantities are in stock for something previously sold out.
You can get notifications on pre-release orders for things like video games or new gaming consoles. You can get notified if a site like Amazon is currently having a sale on an entire category – such as patio furniture or toys!
Sometimes you’ll sign up directly on the site where the products are being sold. Other times, you’ll be signing up on a website run by an online blogger who takes it upon him (or her)self to keep tabs all over the ‘net for you and let you know the best deals that can be found.
Plan Your Shopping Strategically
When the holidays roll around, you want to map out your shopping just as the couponers do when they go through a store strategically, buying things that are on sale so they pay next to nothing for them.
If it’s for a sale day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, make sure you plan early. There are several ways you can do this!
* First, look online for advanced Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) deals. Many sites will have leaks available where you can find out what’s going to be sold ahead of time.
* Get an advanced copy of your local stores’ Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) deals. For example, you want to know if Best Buy online will have a better deal than your local Best Buy – because sometimes, stores will give their online shoppers extra perks – and vice versa!
* Compare all of the offline and online stores for the best deals. Sometimes you might find different brands of a particular item that are on sale for a better price, and this gives you time to research them and read reviews about them.
You also want to check dates and times. Some stores have pre-Black Friday deals, for example – or they extend their sales past the official Cyber Monday date.
Others will have specific windows where you can order things on sale, or they’ll have limits such as 100 TVs, so you have to plan to be first in line (online) to put it in your cart for checkout.
Plan to stay up late or get up early on days when sales start because there will be shoppers who know exactly what they want and are going to get it. Don’t expect to sleep in until an hour before the sales end and turn on your computer and find the top notch deals, because they will have been snatched up already!
Shopping for Valentine’s Day Online
In an online Business Wire news article, it was reported that in 2011, 19% of shoppers were going to increase their spending on Valentine’s Day – and the numbers continue to grow.
The good news is, most of those people are shopping online, so retailers are meeting the demand for e-commerce needs. In 2011, 32% of Valentines Day shoppers were buying their gifts online – that was a 9% increase from the previous year!
What do consumers usually buy online that you might be interested in as a fellow shopper?
* Plush animals
For all of these things, you could shop at a single site like Amazon.com. You don’t have to go to a store like ProFlowers directly. You can order an array of items all at once and have them shipped directly to your recipient or to your home so that you can prepare to give them as a gift.
You can order any kind of bouquet – from simple, small designs for approximately $25 to larger bouquets of red roses for $70 and up. You can often pick a more extravagant vase for the arrangement, too – and add on a cute teddy bear.
When it comes to chocolates, you can order small selections or huge ones with heart-shaped truffles, Valentine’s Day chocolate liqueurs, or Godiva gift baskets that are overflowing with goodies.
When it comes to jewelry, you can buy simple pieces, like a diamond heart-shaped pendant – or go all out and invest in a high-end tennis bracelet, or a luxury watch if you’re buying for a man.
Many men propose to their loves on Valentine’s Day, so you might want to order an engagement ring online – along with roses and other cute gifts to shower her with.
Perfume is a popular Valentine’s Day purchase for women. You can buy individual bottles or look for special Valentine’s Day gift sets that are on sale online.
Some couples even give electronic gifts on Valentine’s Day – such as eReaders, cell phones, and more. There are usually discounts on these items around this time of year.
Shopping for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Online
Mother’s and Father’s Days are perfect for online shopping! You can find fantastic cyber deals right around this holiday, starting a few weeks out so that you have plenty of time to have it shipped to you.
Many of the same gifts that you would buy for a girlfriend or spouse, you can buy for your Mom on Mother’s Day! For this holiday, some of the most popular gifts include:
But you can also invest in more sentimental items, such as a musical jewelry box, a craft kit made for her by her grandchildren, or something for the kitchen like a small appliance.
For Dads on Father’s Day, the gifts can include the same things you would buy for your husband on a special occasion, including:
* Home improvement tools
* Sports collectibles
* Electronic gadgets
Shopping for Halloween Online
Halloween shopping on the Internet can be great fun! When you live in a large city, it can be pure chaos trying to fight the crowds around Halloween who are all battling for that last size 7 Monster High costume your daughter’s been dying to get.
Problem solved online – there are no crowds and there’s plenty of stock to go around. All you have to do is shop around, point and click your mouse to choose the right size, and check out!
The costume is delivered to your doorstep in a few days. Another great thing about online shopping for Halloween costumes is that you can add on the best accessories that bring you or your child’s costume to a whole new level of awesomeness.
But Halloween isn’t just about the costumes – it’s about the décor, too. You can find tons of indoor and outdoor fall or Halloween decorations at a fraction of the price you’d find them locally.
And for trick or treating, you’ll find cute bags for your children – plus a ton of perfectly-priced Halloween candy for the ghouls who come knocking on your door.
Shopping for Christmas Online
Christmas shopping is the pinnacle of online buying. Consumers don’t want to get mixed up in the holiday rush and sometimes inclement weather that can be dangerous to drive on.
You can shop for the entire family – whether you’re having Christmas with them in your home, or sending gifts far away to loved ones who can’t be with you during this season.
One of the most popular things to buy online for Christmas are gift cards! Instead of buying from individual stores, you can buy Amazon.com gift cards and your recipient can shop for exactly what they want – so they get to choose between clothing, jewelry, music, movies, and so on.
If you want to make things a little more personal, you can! You can shop for tons of toys on Amazon, and many other things for every age – newborn to senior citizen!
Holiday savings on sites like Amazon start on Black Friday (actually a bit early for pre-Black Friday deals). They go all the way past New Year’s Day when most people go online shopping to claim their gift cards.
Shopping online during the holidays requires a bit of planning, but not anything more than what you would do with offline stores. You can save a great deal of time, frustration and money using web-based retailers.
Make sure that when you’re doing a lot of shopping, you print out your receipts and keep a record of what you bought, from which website, and when it’s expected to arrive. You want to be able to notify them if something doesn’t arrive.
Don’t be afraid to keep looking for good deals right up through the end of December closer to Christmas. Some web retailers will put up steep discounts to help move more merchandise at the last minute.
The more you shop online, the easier it will become for you. You’ll not only buy all of your seasonal holiday gifts on the web, but you’ll probably become accustomed to finding good deals for every day of the year when you need something and prefer to buy it online rather than get out and look for it locally.