Category Archives: Shopping

As shopping online consistently grows more popular

In fact, some companies are even starting their online deals early. Wal-Mart’s “Cyber Week” begins on Black Friday. You can get Best Buy’s crazy good deals now

 As shopping online consistently grows more popular, Cyber Monday (or Cyber Week) is sure to be another success this year. So sit back, relax and get all of your discounted items online.

Check out these online discounts you don’t want to miss.

Echo smart speaker

Amazon’s Echo smart speaker is rumored to drop to $139.99, and its Echo Dot speaker accessory to only $39.99.

Kindle e-reader

There’s much talk over price drops for Amazon’s popular e-readers. The Kindle Paperwhite will allegedly be available for $99.99 on Nov. 28.

Dell laptop

According to a leaked Cyber Monday ad, Dell is planning on some major price cuts on products for the online shopping frenzy. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., score a Dell XPS 8900 laptop for only $699.99 (typically $1,049.99).

Xbox and Playstation

Dell will offer an XBox One bundle for only $249.99. For those who prefer Sony’s system, the PS4 Slim 500 GB Uncharted 4 Bundle will be on sale for $279.99.

Related: The Best Black Friday Deals of 2016

Samsung Smart TV

The Samsung 65-inch Curved 4K Smart HDTV, which is usually priced at $2,399.99, will be available on Dell.com for only $1,099.99.

Tablets

You can save big on tablets this year. Best Buy will offer $200 off the gold Galaxy TabPro S and $75 off all 128GB iPad models. The store has started cyber deals early this year to beat the rush — so many of these promotions are available on its website now.

EBay will offer the Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch 256GB Wi-Fi (all colors) for $649.99 — it’s priced at $999 on Apple’s website.

Noise-canceling headphones

Amazon may offer $100 off Philips Fidelio Noise-canceling headphones. Best Buy will offer Bose SoundTrue Around-Ear Headphones II for $99.99.

Drones

DJI Phantom drones will be offered at a 40 percent discount on eBay. DJI’s Phantom 3 Professional drone, which is typically $1,408, will be available for $749 on eBay.

Related: 4 Ways to Fit Holiday Shopping Into Your Hectic Schedule

Apple computers

Likely due to Apple’s recent release of new Macbooks, eBay will offer Apple’s typical $999 Macbook Air for $786.99. Also on eBay, the $2,149 Apple iMac will be available for $1,899.99.

Deals Early as Black Friday Loses Focus

Black Friday, as the day after Thanksgiving is called, has traditionally started the holiday shopping season in the United States and was the day when retailers turned a profit, thus going from “being in the red” to “in the black.”

Many retailers have started opening their stores on Thanksgiving evening to boost customer traffic and sales.

 But the number of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers fell by nearly a third to 102 million in 2015, from 147 million in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. Moreover, early holiday promotions and online shopping hurt in-store spending by more than 6 percent last year, it said.

U.S. retailers, however, have redoubled efforts this year to boost sales with familiar tactics but greater intensity. Wal-Mart has already said it will increase inventory by more than half this year and make deals typically reserved for Black Friday available online early Thanksgiving morning.

Retail pricing and data analytics firm Market Track said an analysis of 15 top U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers and their Black Friday circular announcements online showed they were about three days earlier than last year.

“They are all trying to beat each other to the punch and starting their promotions earlier and earlier every year,” said Traci Gregorski, senior vice president, marketing at Market Track.

Last year, discounts on popular products deepened by 30 to 40 percent from Black Friday prices as Christmas got closer, according to Market Track data.

Mark Cohen, a professor at Columbia Business School and the former chief executive of Sears Canada, said the urgency related to Black Friday has greatly diminished.

“Consumers know great deals and discounts are available throughout the year, and prices during the holiday season will only get better if they wait,” he said.

Deals have been available for several days already on websites of retailers like Target Corp., Macy’s Inc., Kohl’s Corp., Home Depot Stores Inc. and Lowe’s Cos. Inc.

Ecommerce giant Amazon.com Inc. joined with a first of its kind month-long Black Friday promotion.

Some brands are getting in on the action by offering steep discounts that reduce the appeal of waiting for Black Friday. Handbag maker Kate Spade is already offering 75 percent off some items, and off-price chain Saks Off Fifth has similar discounts on some clothing and shoes.

Expanding season

“The holiday season is expanding, and Black Friday is no longer the kickoff for the season,” said Natalie Kotlyar, who heads retail and consumer products at business advisory firm BDO Consumer, adding many start holiday shopping at Halloween, Labor Day or even Amazon’s Prime Day on July 12.

Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,639 adults online showed 63 percent did not plan to shop on Black Friday this year. Some 32 percent said they plan to finish about half of their holiday shopping on that day.

The year-end shopping season spanning November and December is crucial for retailers because it can account for up to 40 percent of their annual sales. The NRF, which has been overly optimistic at times in the past with its sales projections, expects holiday sales to grow 3.6 percent this year to $655.8 billion.

For Black Friday alone, about 70 percent of retailers expect sales to remain flat this year, according to telephone interviews with chief marketing officers at 100 U.S. retail firms, BDO Consumer said.

Nevertheless, big bricks-and-mortar players like Target and Wal-Mart will still open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

The best and busiest time of the year for all kinds of marketers

The best and busiest time of the year for all kinds of marketers. The time when sales and marketing team can meet their pending targets in a short span of time. This presents a huge opportunity for retailers, only if they know how to cash in on the season of gift-giving and group events. On the other hand, the evolution of social media has made it mandatory for marketers to come up with fresh ideas to increase customer engagement and drive sales. If you still haven’t been able to formulate ground-breaking strategies to engage your customers, you’re definitely losing out on some great conversions.

Customers are usually inundated with holiday promotions pertaining to offers, deals and discounts. Marketers understand the expedience of offering enticing promotions and that this is the time of the year when customers tend to spend more time browsing for the best deals across preferred brands. If you are an online business, your customers are already habituated to receiving special offers; chances are that they don’t even spend more than a couple of minutes on the website if the deal is not alluring enough. Special offers targeting holiday euphoria, announced via social media at the right time, is a good recipe to break into the market and acquire customers. Creating a sense of urgency compels customers to buy the product as soon as they see the advertisement.

Video marketing and live feeds

Video marketing is an excellent way to create fresh content for your brand promotion. Live streaming during the holiday season is a great way to connect with audience through creative, fun and interactive campaigns. For example, Snapchat, Instagram Story and Facebook Live are good options to explore when designing videos/live streaming campaigns.

Your company can use an internal resource for recording and publishing videos on snapchats and other equivalent platforms. However, you’d need a full-fledged production team to create videos that attract eyeballs. Regardless of whether the video content is produced internally or through agencies, a company would do well to integrate their creative teams to brainstorm new ideas and leverage video marketing to connect with their customers. The idea is to deliver interactive campaigns that translate into leads and eventually, profits.

Utilizing mobile marketing

Mobile influenced holiday shopping is a continuing trend, and marketers have witnessed a huge shift in this category. Today, there are 35% more mobile users than desktop users and successful brands are taking all the right steps to leverage on this massive growth. Even if your maximum conversations are taking place on desktop, remember that there are consumers who research their purchases on their mobile phone prior to any purchase and if you won’t make efforts to reach out to them, you’ll end up losing a big slice. In short, you need to make sure that mobile remains a focal point of your holiday season marketing if you want to effectively influence and capture mobile-influenced consumer attention.

Tip: 

Last minute deals and offers will not help you capture the market during the peak holiday season. You have to make sure that you plan your campaigns 2-3 months in advance and commence soft promotions. Make your customers are aware of upcoming deals so that they don’t divert to other equivalent platforms in an endeavour to find better price points.

It’s time to start planning your holiday season campaigns and get ready to execute them when the season sets in. When done right, these tips should help you increase brand awareness, engagement and conversions.

Anticipating Customers’ Holiday Shopping Habits

In 2015, between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, ecommerce sales increased by 20 percent over the same period in 2014. When this year’s 2016’s, holiday-shopping sprint ends this month, ecommerce figures are expected to rise yet again — an estimated 17.2 percent.

It’s no secret that the holiday season is huge for retailers — both on and offline — but that doesn’t mean we should let the period play out unaided. Leveraging customer data to better prepare for next year’s, 2017’s, holiday season (even as you’re finishing out this year’s holiday) will pay. The first step? Anticipate customers’ holiday shopping habits to maximize this critical time of year.

 Learn what motivates your customers to buy.

Every purchase is driven by a very specific motivation. That motivation won’t be the same each and every time we buy something, nor will someone making the exact same purchase necessarily share our motivation. But, at its most basic, the reason we buy generally belongs to one of two categories:

  • A want
  • A need

Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll see countless factors that influence our decision to buy.

  • We’re celebrating.
  • We want to reward ourselves.
  • We feel down and want to cheer ourselves up.
  • We know we’ll have a need for this thing in the near future (i.e., we need wine for Friday night’s dinner party, even though it’s only Monday).
  • We need this thing right now (i.e., we’re out of toilet paper).

And of course, sometimes we’re buying for others.

  • In celebration of a holiday or birthday
  • “Just because”
  • As an apology
  • That person bought us a gift, and we feel obliged to return the gesture.

Consumers’ motivations for buying have a significant impact on their shopping habits. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of these reasons to buy, and how they can change. A genuine need for something right now? Chances are, we won’t be fussy about it, and we’ll probably be willing to pay more than we should.

A realization that we’ll need something in the near future? We’ll be happy to wait until we can get the right item at the right price.

Related: Revealed: The Online Holiday Shipping Deadlines for This Year

A Christmas gift? Initially we might not be too fussy, but as the 25th inches closer, the more urgent our “need” to buy becomes.

Understanding why your customers buy from you is key to anticipating how their habits will change during the holiday period.

Identify your audience.

To anticipate your customers’ holiday shopping habits, first understand who it is that’s buying from you. To do this, identify your target audience (or in many cases, audiences).

If you operate in a niche market, you may have a single “target audience.” Retailers that sell a wider range of products are going to have a greater number of target audiences.

Begin painting a picture of the people you sell to by looking at your current customers, paying special attention to those who are the most loyal. Why are these people buying from you? What traits or habits do they share? Can you spot any patterns in what they buy, and when?

Tools like Shopify’s Point of Sale software can help you identify common attributes your audience shares and trends they tend to follow.

Look at where your visitors —  especially those that convert — are coming from, too. This can reveal your most profitable traffic sources, and help you identify channels that have the potential to be moreprofitable if you increase the time and funds assigned to them.

Use this information to create detailed profiles of your target customers that you can leverage to make more informed decisions about how to sell to them.

Segment your audience data.

So, now you should have a clear picture of who’s buying from you and why, as well as where those sales are coming from. Next, you need to segment your customer data so you can see how their behavior changes during the holiday season.

While there is no “official” start date for the holiday shopping season, retailers generally begin to push for Christmas sales after Halloween, or from the first of November. Things really ramp up for Black Friday and pretty much stay that way until the last store shuts its doors on Christmas Eve (ecommerce stores obviously wrap up their Christmas sales a little earlier).

When segmenting your data, you’ll probably want to start by looking at the period beginning a month or so before the holiday shopping season generally kicks off. This will ensure that you get a clear picture of when your sales begin to spike, and how hard and fast they grow (or don’t grow) from that point on.

Use this data to influence your marketing strategy.

There’s little point in collecting all this information if you don’t leverage it to boost sales. Changes you might make could include (but certainly aren’t limited to):

  • Investing more cash into channels that consistently drive high-converting traffic your way
  • Configuring ads to display only during periods that your audience is most active and most likely to buy
  • Highlighting your most popular seasonal products during your holiday email marketing
  • Doing the same with your holiday ads
  • Segmenting email and ad campaigns to target regular customers with specific messages as the holiday season begins
  • Creating gift guides to drive traffic to and boost sales of your most popular products during the holiday season

Shopping Tips

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has some tips to help you get the most for your money.

  1. Shop around. A “sale” price isn’t always the “best” price. Some merchants may offer a sale price on an item for a limited time; others may discount the price on the same item everyday. Having an item’s manufacturer, model number, and other identifying information can help you get the best price for the item you want.
  2. Read sale ads carefully. Some may say “quantities limited,” “no rain checks,” or “not available at all stores.” Before you step out the door, call ahead to make sure the merchant has the item in stock. If you’re shopping for a popular or hard-to-find item, ask the merchant if he’d be willing to hold the item until you can get to the store.
  3. Take time and travel costs into consideration. If an item is on sale, but it’s way across town, how much are you really saving once you factor in your time, your transportation, and parking?
  4. Look for price-matching policies. Some merchants will match, or even beat, a competitor’s prices — at least for a limited time. Read the merchant’s pricing policy. It may not apply to all items.
  5. Go online. Check out websites that compare prices for items offered online. Some sites also may compare prices offered at stores in your area. If you decide to buy online, keep shipping costs and delivery time in mind.
  6. Calculate bargain offers that are based on purchases of additional merchandise. For example, “buy one, get one free,” “free gift with purchase,” or “free shipping with minimum purchase” may sound enticing. If you don’t really want or need the item, it’s not a deal.
  7. Ask about sale adjustments. If you buy an item at regular price and it goes on sale the next week, can you get a credit or refund for the discounted amount? What documentation will you need?
  8. Ask about refund and return policies for sale items. Merchants often have different refund and return policies for sale items, especially clearance merchandise

Mind-Blowing Stats About Online Shopping

Online shopping has become a multibillion-dollar revenue stream–not to mention it has completely turned the path to purchase on its head.

What retailer doesn’t want a piece of that growing pie? This is where multichannel marketing comes into play. Any successful online marketing strategy, however, begins with understanding–and then catering to–consumers’ various shopping patterns and preferences.

To start you on your way, here is a glimpse into the online purchase habits of the modern-day shopper.

1. Online shopping retail sales are predicted to grow steadily to $370 billion in 2017, up from $231 billion in 2012.

2. Consumers ages 25 to 34 lead the way in smartphone usage in-store, comparing prices, reading reviews, buying products, and engaging with brands on social media while in physical stores.

3. Seventy-two percent of Millennials research and shop their options onlinebefore going to a store or the mall.

4. Nearly 50 percent of Millennials say they regularly browse for items that they don’t necessarily plan on buying.  Thirty-six percent say they only buy items they deem necessary–for which one-third are willing to pay full price.

5. Online retail revenue saw an 11 percent year-over-year growth rate for the first quarter of 2014, with online orders up 13 percent compared to the same quarter last year.

6. In the first quarter of 2014, retail revenue generated via a mobile device was up 35 percent over last year’s first quarter, with mobile owning 13.7 percent of total e-commerce orders in Q1 2013 compared to 18.5 percent during Q1 2014.

7. Adults 50 years old and above represent the Web’s largest constituency, comprising one-third of the total 195.3 million Internet users in the U.S.

8. Two-thirds of Americans 50-plus buy from e-retailers online.

9. Forrester found that more than three-quarters of 57,499 U.S. online adults surveyed had ordered products or services online. And while Gen Y adults (ages 24 to 32) are the most likely to have done so, Gen Xers (ages 33 to 46) spend the most.

10. With an average $561 in spending, Gen Xers spend about 15 percent more online than Gen Yers ($489), and roughly 25 percent more than the average online adult ($449).

11. Overall, satisfaction with online shopping is high, at 83 percent. However, it drops below 50 percent when shoppers are asked about, specifically, flexibility to choose delivery date; ability to choose a specified time of day for delivery of purchase; flexibility to reroute packages; and a green shipping option.

12. Indeed, today’s online shoppers are looking for a variety of flexible optionsfrom retailers; 62 percent also want to buy items online and make returns in-store, and 44 percent want the ability to buy online and pick up their purchases in a store.

Future Shopping

Historically, retail is the dipstick of social change; what made a good store in 1600, or in 1900, or even 2000, and what makes a good store today are different.

Those differences are a reflection of the evolution of us. The changes have been about gender, or who we sell what to; economic circumstances; and, of course, technology, which has altered both our ability to understand and access goods.

Retail change is accelerating as the mantle of consumption is passed from a retiring generation of baby boomers to a millennial generation that is in its genetic prime: finding partners, having children and pumping up spending. But particularly in North America, that millennial generation is also battling downward mobility and the appetite for goods that many cannot afford.

Thirty years down the road, much of the change in retail is going to be driven by a complete reformulation of the relationship between how we make the stuff, how we sell the stuff and how we consume the stuff.

Four trends to watch:

Malls are becoming “alls.” In the recent past, malls would begin and end with Contempo Casuals, Borders and french-fry-filled food courts. But this aging model has already started to transition into a fully functional lifestyle center. The mall of tomorrow will have all the apparel, consumer-electronics and general-merchandise options, but alongside it will be gyms and innovative fitness centers, medical services and even schools, grocery stores and luxury spas.

The mall across the world delivers an important experience in many emerging markets. The three key offerings are physical safety, a hygienic place and climate control. In a world where turmoil is unlikely to disappear completely even 30 years into our future, going to the mall will still have equity. We will go to the mall to be entertained and live our lives; to recreate, not just to shop.

The artisanal movement will flourish. Artisanal goods—stuff made in a nonfactory setting that we are willing to pay a premium for—are the new must-have. Call it the durability of craft; whether hand-knit sweaters or stinky cheese, homemade is cool again.

 Homemade is a brand in itself; things we cannot commoditize. We see this piece of the future in the health of the farmers-market movement. Eliminating the middleman, the makers or farmers of stuff can find their markets and—if they work efficiently—make a modest living.

We see it also in Etsy, an online site where people buy and sell artisanal goods, and Murray’s Cheese, an online business where acquisition is crossed with a romantic element of consumption. Can we assume that 30 years into our future our computers will allow us not only to see but also to feel and smell the things we shop for? It is not out of the question.

This is also about the counter trend of being local. It is about a need to be different and nostalgic for things that are timeless and somehow pure. How much will this market represent? Probably no more than 15% to 20% of our consuming economy. Access to the artisanal market is predicated on the financial resources to afford it.

Apparel in the future will be personalized—and tailored to our unique proportions. The apparel factory of our future is robotic and compact. In Seoul, the epicenter of the digital world, we see the prototypes of that future shop where—on the showroom floor—you have a body scanner linked to a magic box that cuts, stitches and glues. What comes out the other side is simple and basic in 2015, but in it, we see our future.

Indeed, that combination of a personal shopping “bot” that knows all our measurements and manages our closet will take the guesswork out of lots of purchases and give us both customization and uniformity. Thus the distance between factory and point of sale could be a few feet or few miles, but not across the ocean. That shopping bot works both in store and online.

Mobile retail will have two means. First is the way our smartphones now link us to a digital e-commerce universe. The second definition is retail that comes to us. Both in the sense of a farmers market that opens once a week on a specific street corner, but also a new version of the peddler’s wagon that finds us at the beach, the football game or on the street corner. It curates its goods and gets us at happy, if not vulnerable, moments.

Retail and shopping in the next 30 years will be an incredible evolution to watch. Yes, we still will be shopping 30 years from now. The merchants and chains of yesterday and today will be largely gone. Retail has always been about birth, life and death; and just as in organics, that death ends up as compost that regenerates.

Consumer shopping behavior

The chasm between online retail and its brick-and-mortar counterpart is expanding, and people’s shopping preferences are evolving in turn. For storefronts, traffic and sales are declining, leaving retailers with little choice but to adapt to an interconnected world and to their customers’ shifting expectations of the shopping experience.

A great deal of research focuses on how consumers shop, but the rationale behind their chosen behaviors remains somewhat underserved. This article bridges that gap by capturing consumers’ decision-making processes—in their own words, from in-depth interviews (indicated throughout the article in italicized text), and combining these insights with secondary research that adds context, resulting in a closer look into the minds of modern retail consumers.

The shopping journey and its R’s

Three factors are evolving the shopping process and empowering consumers. Lucky for us, they all begin with the letter R: research, recommendations, and returns.

The proliferation of digital technology is giving consumers access to an unprecedented amount of product information. Not only is more information available, consumers are increasingly accessing this information—and doing their own “homework” before visiting a retailers’ venue to make their purchase. In 2014, a Deloitte study1 found that digital data influenced 49 percent of consumers before they made an in-store purchase, and analysts expect this proportion to grow to 64 percent in 2015. For some categories, particularly electronics (62 percent) and home furnishings (59 percent), destination shoppers (who have already chosen which product they want to buy from a retailer) are outnumbering traditional information gatherers who browse in stores before deciding what to buy (see figure 1).2

Historically, consumers lost their leverage once they made a purchase.3 That is no longer the case: Retailer-sponsored content—advertisements, user guides, retailer blogs, etc.—are losing out to user-generated content and reviews as the predominant influencers of purchase decisions. Consumers feel more comfortable searching online and reading expert reviews and user opinions as a first step in gathering initial information about a product or service. As evidence, Deloitte’s Digital Democracy survey4 reveals that personal recommendations (81 percent), including those from within social-media circles (61 percent), play a major role in purchase decisions. This change poses many challenges for retailers, as they have less control over the information used by customers in various stages of their shopping journey. Many retailers have built interactive features within their websites to encourage customer discussion and feedback, but these efforts may only enjoy limited success; this same research suggests that consumers trust third-party reviews more than the retailer from which they are considering making a purchase (see figure 2).5 Thus, while consumers read user-generated reviews on company websites, they tend to cross-check these with reviews provided by independent sources.

Distinction between online and offline shopping

Consumers no longer see a distinction between online and offline shopping. Whether it’s searching on a laptop, browsing main street shops or hanging out at the mall — it’s all shopping. To adapt to the competitive new reality, smart retailers are drawing on classic retailing truths of the past and augmenting them for the now.

Innovative retailers are embracing this new reality, using digital to extend their storefronts. These are my top five observations on how shopping has changed and suggestions for how marketers can adapt to join the retail revolution.

1. Shoppers know as much as salespeople

Then: People came into stores with little to no knowledge and relied on a salesperson to advise them on what to buy.

Now: Today’s shoppers have become accustomed to doing their own research to get the maximum value out of every dollar they spend, and to feel secure about the purchases they’re making. With this power shift comes a great opportunity for retailers; those that use tools and insights from the web have the opportunity to close the gap between the smart online consumer and the offline retailer, and to stand out in a competitive marketplace. Every moment in a consumer’s decision journey matters. To win these moments, smart retailers need to be there when inspiration strikes consumers and as they start researching purchases online.

2. Retailers can deliver personal, relevant suggestions at scale

Then: Retailing began with shopkeepers who would welcome in people from the neighborhood and then come to learn their customers’ needs and preferences.

Now: In our constantly connected world, a device is just a proxy for what really matters — getting to know your customers. Devices provide context, helping us learn what matters to a consumer in a particular location and at a particular time. Coupled with the intent provided by search, this is incredibly powerful. It can help retailers deliver relevant suggestions, essentially recreating those shopkeeper conversations at scale. The right message at the right moment is the next level in customer service — it can quickly and easily turn intent into action.

Context also allows retailers to better than ever anticipate what a customer might need based on when, where and how they arrive at their site and help them decide how to respond to them. People are constantly looking for product information, deals, local availability and local discounts online — and retailers who aren’t there to supply the right information when people raise their virtual hand will lose out.

3. Mobile devices drive foot traffic to stores

Then: Finding the right store — and the product you needed — depended on familiarity, or serendipity.

Now: As the lines blur between online and offline, innovative retailers are integrating mobile into their brick-and-mortar store experience. When shoppers search for a store name or category, they expect to see a map with directions, a phone number that they can easily click-to-call, or special offers that match their location and time of day. Adidas worked with their agency iProspect to evaluate how mobile clicks on their store locator links were driving in-store sales, and found that for a mobile investment of $1 million, the value brought by store locator clicks in mobile ads generated an extra $1.6 million in sales.

The search element of shopping doesn’t end once the customer walks into a store. At some point, we’ve all been lost in the supermarket, searching the aisles for an elusive item. Mobile can be a map, a shopping list, a personal shopper, a salesperson and a product finder all at once.

4. Opinions carry more weight than ever

Then: Retail therapy was an activity shared by friends and family — and word of mouth was a social force that transformed new products into must-haves and small shops into retail empires.

Now: This is truer than ever. With YouTube and social networks like G+, people are now sharing their opinion on products not just with a group of friends, but with millions of people. This is why Google Shopping incorporates reviews and introduced shortlists to make it easy for people to discuss products and purchases with friends and family. Smart retailers are recognizing the opportunities that lie in digital where instead of basing campaigns on the broadest reach possible they can now zero in and speak directly with the individuals, or communities of fans, who love their products most. Retailers are also seizing the opportunities around online comments by advertising against terms like “reviews” and working to promote the positive and counteract the negative.

 

Shopping Online

Online buying and selling has become an important part of many people’s lives. Students and parents rely on the internet to acquire and sell textbooks at affordable prices, virtual stores allow people to shop from the comfort of their homes without the pressure of a salesperson, and online marketplaces provide a new and more convenient venue for the exchange of virtually all types of goods and services.

Both businesses and customers have embraced online sales as a cheaper and more convenient way to shop, but just like anything associated with the internet, there are benefits and dangers associated with shopping online. Read on to learn how to protect yourself while you use this handy resource. (To read more on online buying, see Keep Your Financial Data Safe Online and 10 Things To Consider Before Selecting An Online Broker.)

Mechanics: How Does Online Buying Work?
Shopping online is just like heading out to the store. You can buy all the same things from your home computer and can sometimes even get access to better sales.

Finding a Product
When you shop online, you have to start by searching for a product. This can be done by visiting a store’s website or, if you are not aware of any store that has the particular item you are looking for or you’d like to compare prices between stores, you can always search for the items with a search engine and compare the results.

On major retail websites, companies and merchants will have pictures, descriptions and prices of the goods that they have for sale. If a smaller company does not have the means to create a website, some sites like Amazon and Yahoo! make it possible for small businesses and individuals to display products or build their own online stores for a monthly and transaction fee.

Other websites like eBay and Bidz provide an auction format, in which sellers can display items for a minimum price and buyers can bid on these items until the listing ends or the seller chooses to award it to a buyer. Most stores also have placed virtual customer service centers on their websites, so you can either call, email or chat with a live customer service representative if you have questions.

Buying and Receiving the Product
After finding and selecting your desired product, the webpage usually has a “checkout” option. When you check out, you are often given a list of shipping and payment options. Shipping options include standard, expedited and overnight shipping. Depending on the shipping company being used and your location, standard shipping usually takes seven to 21 business days and expedited shipping can take anywhere from two to six business days.

When it comes to paying for your purchase(s), there are also different options:

  • E-Check: This payment option is just like paying directly from your bank account. If you choose to pay by electronic check, you are required to enter your routing and account numbers. Once this is done, the amount is taken directly from your bank account.
  • Credit Card: When you pay by credit card, instead of swiping your card like you would at a brick-and-mortar store, you type the required credit card information into provided fields. Required information includes your credit card number, expiration date, type of card (Visa, MasterCard, etc) and verification/security number, which is usually the last three digits on the back of the card, right above the signature.
  • Payment Vendors: Payment vendors or payment processing companies, such as PayPal, are ecommerce businesses that provide payment exchange services. They allow people to safely transfer money to one another without sharing financial information. Before you make purchase through a payment vendor, you’ll need to set up an account first to verify your credit card and/or financial institution information.

Advantages of Online Trading
There are a lot of benefits to be gained from buying and selling online. These include:

  • Convenience: It is very convenient to be able to do all your shopping from one spot – your couch!
  • Cost Savings: With ever-increasing gas prices, shopping online saves you the cost of driving to and between stores as well parking fees. You will also save time by avoiding standing in line, particularly around the holidays, when stores are very busy.
  • Variety: The internet provides sellers with unlimited shelf space, so they are more likely to offer a wider variety of products than they would in brick-and-mortar stores.
  • No Pressure: In a virtual or online store, there is no salesperson hovering around and pressuring you to purchase an item.
  • Easy Comparison: Shopping online eliminates the need to wander from store to store trying to compare prices.

Disadvantages of Online Trading
There are also disadvantages to buying and selling online. These include:

  • Increased Risk of Identity Theft: When paying for your goods online, it can be very easy for someone to intercept sensitive information such as a credit card number, address, phone number or account number. (To read more about online scams, see Identity Theft: How To Avoid It and our Online Investment Scams Tutorial.)
  • Vendor Fraud: If the vendor/seller is fraudulent, he or she might accept your payment and either refuse to send you your item, or send you the wrong or a defective product. Trying to rectify an incorrect order with a vendor through the internet can be a hassle.

Protecting Yourself While Shopping Online
Overall, the advantages to shopping online outweigh the disadvantages. That said, it is important to note that while they might be smaller in number, the disadvantages can be a major hardship.

While shopping online, it is very important to protect yourself and your information. Here are some tips that can help you take care of yourself:

  • Invest in Technology: It is a great idea to install antivirus and anti-phishing programs on your computer. An antivirus program will protect your computer from viruses and an anti-phishing program will attempt to protect you from websites that are designed look like legitimate sites, but actually collect your personal information for illegal activities.
  • Be Careful: Vendors do not have the right to ask for certain information. If a website requests your Social Security number, it is probably a scam. You will need to research the company requesting the information or exit that site as quickly as possible.
  • Research: If you are searching for an item using search engines and you encounter a store or a website you have not heard about, make sure you check the bottom of the pages for an SSL logo. SSL is a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. To be able to create an SSL connection a web server requires an SSL certificate.
  • Shipping Check: Always read shipping policies posted on the seller’s website or beneath the product listing. Some sellers allow you to return an item within a specific period of time, while other vendors never accept returns.