Let's face it, as much as we love the excitement of adding a new item to our wardrobe, we don't always enjoy the hassle of trying to find the nearest parking space to the mall entrance, or even standing in long queues at the checkout counter. Thankfully, the technological era we exist in today allows us the convenience of shopping online.
For many of us fashionistas here in the Caribbean, going to the mall is not an option. Don't get me wrong, there are many perks to living in the Caribbean and not having large shopping malls but at the same time, it can be very depressing, especially when there is a trend that is totally up your alley. Here is the Cayman Islands we have a handful of boutiques, and that in itself poses a number of challenges. So, what do we do? We shop online or if patient enough, we wait until we travel to shop. We also have the option of freight forwarders or friends and family who can send us items from overseas.
Apart from 'is your hair real?', one of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, 'where do you shop?' The answer to that question is, EVERYWHERE. I literally shop everywhere online. Here is a link to quite a few sites that I browse frequently.
TRIAL AND ERROR
As a well-seasoned online shopper, I have fully accepted that trial and error is all a part of the luxury of shopping online. The mere thought of online shopping is a daunting one for many, and trial and error definitely doesn't make it more appealing. Delayed or lost packages, incorrect orders, wrong sizes and even damaged items are all a part of what makes the convenience such an interesting experience.
To minimize your 'error' experience, do your research! What do I mean by research? If you are purchasing from a company for the first time, there are a few things you should look for. 1- shipping rates, 2- estimated delivery time for your location, 3- return and refund policies, 4- customer reviews (these are solely subjective but oh so helpful) and 5- size charts. Lastly, consider your country's Customs tariffs. Between the cost of your items, shipping rates and your country's Customs tariffs, this should give you a really good idea of how much you're spending and if your purchase is really worth it.
When it comes to online shopping, discount codes are your best friend. I recently discovered RetailMeNot.com. RetailMeNot, Inc. operates the world's largest digital coupon marketplace. The company enables consumers across the globe to find hundreds of thousands of digital coupons from retailers and brands [source: RetailMeNot.com]
Just before completing your purchase, be sure to check RetailMeNot for any discounts. After all, who doesn't love scoring items for less than the retail price?
SHOP AROUND/ COMPARE PRICES
Just like in-store shopping, online shopping offers the convenience of shopping around and if not, better options than in-store shopping. Many of the affordable (non high-end) brands offer generic items which can be found on numerous sites. Sometimes even high-end brands offer the same items that affordable brands do, but the buck lies in the labeling. I am a die-hard fan of a particular high-end brand, but have come to learn that the buck lies in the labeling for some of the items. I mean, even designers run out of ideas at times don't they? While some people are quite comfortable existing in the world of high-end name brands, some of us smarter shoppers know that the price is really just because of the brand.
BUY IN BULK
Before you become a little too excited, let me explain exactly what I mean when I say 'buy in bulk'. Some sites offer a flat rate for international shipping while other sites charge based on your in-basket total. Pay attention to these rates. If the site offers a flat rate, pack that cart /basket/ shopping bag! Instead of purchasing one item for $5 with a shipping fee of $35, purchase 10 items totaling $100 with the same shipping fee of $35. Maximize on the shipping fee because majority of the time, this 'convenience charge' is exactly what causes your overall total to be a little higher than you intended it to be.
KNOW THE SITE (KTS)
Knowing the site that you shop from is very important. Whereas some sites restock and add new items daily, some sites update once per week and others....ehh, at some point. For the sites that update at ehh some point, I rarely ever go to those sites unless I just happen to remember about them. To me, that is not a good e-Commerce strategy but to each their own. Knowing when the site updates is so very important because it reduces the amount of time you spend browsing when you could very well be browsing elsewhere. (Words of a true shopaholic).
Take full advance of signing up for newsletters on sites. Although some sites flood your inbox with updates, these newsletters can be useful sources of information for offers, events and discounts.
PAYPAL vs. CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS
We all know how important it is to protect our personal information nowadays and although the internet has made it so very possible and convenient for a lot of good things to happen, it has also made it too easy for dishonest scammers to steal your life from right under your nose. Where ever and whenever possible, I try to use PayPal to make purchases online versus using my credit card. PayPal is the faster, safer way to pay and get paid. The service gives people simpler ways to send money without sharing financial information, and with the flexibility to pay using their account balances, bank accounts, credit cards or promotional financing. [source: PayPal.com]