November 15th, 2015

10 Tips to Be an Online Shopping Pro

As you have probably gathered from the abundance of haul posts here on my blog, I kind of like online shopping. In fact, I do so much online shopping, I consider myself a bit of a pro on the subject. Practice makes perfect, right?

Through talking with friends about the subject, I came to realize that some of the online shopping tips I’ve gathered aren’t exactly common knowledge. So why not share them with all of you? If there’s something I’ve missed that you’ve learned on your online shopping voyages, please, share it with all of us in the comments.

My Tips for Online Shopping

  1. Before placing any order online, check for coupon codes (also called promo codes).
    Some sites are great and actually let you see what promotions they currently have on, while others are more exclusive about them. There third-party sites like Retail Me Not (which I love) that aggregate currently active coupon codes for a wide variety of online retailers. Sometimes these codes will work, sometimes they won’t – but they’re always worth a try. Generally I’ll just google “[Store name] coupon code” and click on the first one or two results.
  2. Always comparison shop.
    Just like in bricks-and-mortar stores, many online retailers will be selling the exact same product, at different price points. I spend a lot of time window shopping online, and I’ve often noticed the same dress available at 5 or 6 different stores, with slightly different product names and prices. It’s worth checking out the competition to see if you can save a bit of money before placing your order. (Doing a reverse google image search can sometimes help.) I once found an identical marble cheese board for $14 that was over $100 at Anthropologie.
  3. Try to shop from online retailers based in your country. 
    I know a lot of my readers live in the U.S., and you guys definitely have the sweet end of the deal on this. Most of the stores I love to shop at are based in the U.S., but as a Canadian, I have to be aware of international shipping costs and outrageous duties fees. Some stores, like Forever 21 and Zara, have a separate e-commerce site for those of us living in different countries, that ships from a warehouse within your country. This means that a) your stuff will ship to you faster, and b) you won’t be charged duties because it doesn’t cross a border.
  4. There is hope if you fall in love with a product that won’t ship outside of the U.S.
    There are services to work around this, for a price. My U.S. is a popular one, that essentially gives you a U.S. address to online shop with. They’ll ship your package there, and then My U.S. will pick it up and forward it to your real address. Like I said, it’s pricey, but if you found that must-have item and there’s no other way of getting it, it’s a saviour!
  5. Read reviews.
    This one is kind of a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people don’t bother. Sometimes, even I forget to, and it almost always comes back to bite me. Reviews and ratings are so helpful, because they can often lend a more honest perspective than the retailer itself. From reviews you can learn about the actual quality of the product, how it fits, how effectively it works, what the actual colour of the item turns out to be, and more. With that said, sometimes companies write fake glowing product reviews, so be a little wary. It can also help to google image search the product to see if there are any photos of it taken by other people, worn by bloggers, etc.
  6. Compare the colour in the photo to the colour description.
    Unfortunately, some online retailers go overboard when it comes to photoshopping their products to make them look better than they are. As a result of this, sometimes the colour of the item you get in person doesn’t match what was shown on the site. Oddly enough, I’ve noticed that the colour description is often more true to life than the colour is in the photo. For example, if the dress appears to be bright red, but the colour description says “burgundy” – it’s probably burgundy. Keep an eye out for that. (I’ve had this problem with ASOS a few times, and as a result stopped shopping from them.)
  7. Sign up to their mailing list to get 10% off your first order.
    Listen, stores are DESPERATE to get your email address, so they can keep sending you promotional material. As such, they provide incentives for you to sign up. Almost every store will give 10% off your first order if you sign up to their emails. So do it. Sign up, get your code, go shopping at a discount, and then unsubscribe as soon as you’re done, if you don’t want their junk mail. But if you think you’ll be shopping at that store again and again, it can be worth it to stay on the mailing list, since often that’s how coupon codes and special deals are sent out. If you’ve never gotten a pop-up on a site saying “Sign up for 10% off your first purchase”, try clearing your browser’s cookies and refreshing the page. Or visit the site on your phone or tablet to see if you’ll get that pop-up there.
  8. Don’t pay for shipping!!!!!! (Unless you absolutely must.)
    I feel personally victimized when I pay for shipping. I feel like it’s just burning money. Most stores have a minimum purchase amount for free shipping, and I think that’s a much better route – sure you have to spend a bit more, but at least that money is actually getting you something tangible that you can enjoy later. And if you scour the whole site, I’m sure you’ll find something you’d have needed to buy anyway, even if it were from a different store. (Socks, anyone?)
  9. Zooooooooom. In. Always.
    The downside of online shopping vs shopping in person is that you can’t actually see or touch the thing, you have to rely on photos on the site. So make sure you’re paying attention. Look closely at every photo available of the item at every angle – and particularly with clothing, always zoom in. This can give you a better idea of texture that you might not have noticed otherwise. It can also reveal poorly made garments, by showing frayed threads or badly done hems. ZOOM IN.
  10. Don’t like it? Say so.
    So maybe you already know about all of these online shopping tips, and you already use them. But what if the item that’s sent to you still isn’t what was promised? I once was sent an umbrella I bought WITH HOLES IN THE TOP. Like, you had one job, umbrella. One job. So instead of packing it up and mailing it back (who has the time, honestly – and what even is a post office!?) I left a review on the product page explaining what had happened. Within hours, a customer service person got in touch with me, apologized, and sent me a new one, at no extra charge. I didn’t even need to mail the first back! Again, this doesn’t always work like this, but it’s worth a try.

I hope some of you found this helpful. Have any other tips to share? Leave them below! x

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