People have been shopping online now for 22 years. It used to be something only geeks did, then it became popular with those seeking niche or luxury goods, and now it has become indispensible for many individuals. But the skills you need for shopping online are different from those you need in your local marketplace or on the high street. Do you have what it takes to bag bargains and discover hidden treasures?
A changing world
Despite the long pedigree of online shopping, it’s only really over the last ten years that it has become established as something almost everybody does. This is partly because it has become easier, with online sellers developing a better understanding of what customers want, and partly because it has become more secure, though you should still make sure you only use payment methods that insure you against fraud or the theft of your details. Online marketplaces have grown more like real world shops in many ways, but you still need to account for the fact that you can’t touch, smell or taste the things they sell. They’ve also made shopping a more solitary experience, though of course you can share links with your friends if you want their opinions.
Looking further afield
Most people still do the bulk of their online shopping through big, established sites like Amazon and eBay. This is certainly convenient but it can mean missing out on a lot of the variety that’s out there, especially when it comes to art and artisan products, including designer clothes. A lot of new inventions can also be found only via individual websites or small trader sites like Etsy, including those useful products that moms under pressure come up with when trying to solve the day-to-day problems we all know too well. This means it’s always worth exploring, and a simple Google search can often bring up useful results.
Finding the best deals
There are lots of sites out there that offer to save you money by comparing prices but unless time is short and you really need help to find what you’re after, they’re usually not worthwhile, as most only compare sites that have paid to be included. A better bet are sites like As Seen on TV, which makes it easy to go from seeing a product on television to buying it at the lowest available price. You can also find bargains by identifying the manufacturer or designer of a product you like and searching for them online, which sometimes makes it possible to cut out the middleman. Whenever you come across a product in passing, on a site like Amazon, it’s worth doing a quick search on the product name to see where it might turn up cheaper.
Just as on the high street, prices online rise and fall seasonally according to demand, with toys costing more before Christmas, flowers costing more around Valentine’s Day, and so on. There are two ways to get around this. One is to plan ahead and shop out of season – not just for special occasions but also by doing things like finding new beachwear in winter – while the other is to take advantage of the fact that the world isn’t culturally homogenous and you may be able to pick up what you want from a company in a country where nobody is thinking about that special occasion, or where the weather is quite different.
Discounts and vouchers
Another way to save money online is to look out for vouchers and discounts. You’ll find whole sites devoted to vouchers. Usually, you will have to part with some of your personal data in order to access them, and this can result in you being sent a lot of spam email, but one way around the problem is simply to keep an additional, free email account that you only use for things of this sort, so your main inbox avoids trouble. You can also search on a product name plus the term discount, special offer or money off in order to be directed straight to places where you won’t have to pay full price.
Using these simple tricks makes it much easier to find what you want online while saving money. It also makes it easier to find interesting new places to explore, so you can discover useful or beautiful things for the first time. You don’t need technical prowess to be good at online shopping, just techniques like these and a nose for a bargain.