Usually, my articles approach the people behind the ecommerce store or a startup – now it’s time to speak to my peers… the online shoppers.

Remember when you were younger and your parents would drag you to the mall for a long day of shopping? Other than the pit stop at the Garden of Eden (read: food court), those trips were less than spectacular. Nowadays, the mall happens to be located on the same device you're using to read this right now.

Certain things, like fitting rooms and product testing, are unique to shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, yet more and more people are opting to do their shopping online.

Personally, I’ve always been a little bit terrified; submitting my credit card details online is just something I used to stay clear of. But like with anything else that’s new, it’s a matter of good practice.

Here are some helpful practices to turn you into a pro:

Check the Reviews

One of the benefits of online shopping is the ability to read the praise (or criticism) by previous purchasers. A lot of websites will even let you know if the reviewer is a verified customer, meaning that the review is genuinely by somebody who bought the product. However, with great power comes great responsibility, so be weary of individuals who use reviews as a platform to troll other shoppers.

If Googling for reviews isn’t your thing, then head over to sources that automate it. Israeli startup Comparaboo analyzes thousands of customer reviews across the web to showcase an aggregated score of the top products in a category, like when searching for a blender to buy.

Free Shipping is King

A lot of shopping websites will ship your items for free if you spend a certain amount. Others will outright ship for free, albeit not as quickly. Be sure to check the shipping policy before clicking "check out" on your order.

Another thing that goes along with this topic is the site's return policy. It may be free to ship your items, but to return them if they're unsatisfactory may be at your own cost. If that's not the case, it's wise to order multiple sizes of clothing so you can make sure the fit is ideal and send back the others.

Deals, Deals, Deals

The best thing about Internet shopping is the amount of discounts or sales that pop up every second. When you're looking up an item on a website, there's a good chance that the same item is cheaper on another site, or may come with free shipping. Take a moment and do a quick Google search to see what you can come up with.

Coupon codes are also very helpful. A lot of websites have lists of thousands of coupon codes or deals for various websites. Snoop around and see if you can find one that works, because for all you know you can save 10% on that backpack you're buying.

How Can I Help You Today?

We've all been there–we found a great product online and purchased it, only to find the shipping is too slow or the product is malfunctioning, and there's nobody on the other end to answer our questions. Lesson learned. Deals are great, but only if they can be backed up by customer service that's even better.

According to Tamar Frumkin, Head of Inbound Marketing at nanorep, Pre-emptive 'customer service' is necessary to reduce shopping cart abandonment and decrease decision paralysis. Customers need easily accessible information throughout their entire customer journey in order to make a well-informed, confident transaction.”

So before you buy a product, make sure the site you're purchasing from has positive customer feedback and reviews. Additionally, look for an onsite customer service feature which allows you to ask questions and receive thoughtful, helpful responses. Finally, check out their social media sites. If their customers' issues are being addressed online, most likely there is someone at the other end making sure that customer service is a top-priority.

What's Next?

Now that you have all this new knowledge in your back pocket, it's time to put it to use. Remember to always do your research to find the best product and the best price for you. Check the reviews, find the deals, and look for the free shipping. Take the time to utilize these tips and you'll be the smartest online shopper out there.

Published on: Jul 21, 2015