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Copyright 2007

Online Shopping Simplified

When someone mentioned the concept of supermarkets, many people threw up their arms in disgust and swore they’d never take over from the general store.

More people threw up their arms when petrol station first introduced self service, too.

Then scanning bar codes instead of manually entering prices into a cash register stirred up some feathers.

The largest change to shopping in recent times has been the introduction of online shopping options. This is a big step for many people to take, for a number of reasons.

A certain amount of familiarity with computers and the Internet is required to be able to shop online. However, it is not a large amount of technical knowledge that is necessary and much of it can be learned quickly with a bit of trial and error. Knowing how to enter an internet browser and then key in a url is really the basis of all online activity.

The following list of points can be used to assess any given online retailer before choosing to order goods or give over any information.

Recommendations

Obviously, an unknown site has to be judged on its apparent merits. However, if you can go to a retailer with a recommendation from a friend or other trusted source, you can already have some confidence in the site’s credibility.

Links from a trusted site can also be counted as a recommendation – reputable sites do not want to be associated with disreputable business practices.

If you use a site from a recommendation and receive any problems, make sure you pass this back to whoever recommended to you so they can change their approach in future.

Contact Details

A site that has nothing to hide will always include the means by which you can directly contact them. Each site should, as a minimum, provide you with an email address and phone number; many sites also provide a postal address and fax number as alternative means of contact.

Security of Information

There are different types of security processes available to internet sites.

Before providing information to a site, be it a retailer or otherwise, it is wise to check their privacy policy. In simple terms, the policy will state how they will use your information; the main clause in web policies is the confidentiality of your email address and other details. Unless you like to receive many unsolicited emails, don’t give your email address unless their policy protects it from distribution.

When purchasing online, there are methods of protecting your financial details as well.

* Never send credit card details via email as this is not secure.

* Don’t send card details if the site is not clearly secure

* Request postal or fax contact details for forwarding card details

* Use outside parties such as paymate or clickbank

* Request their account details and do a direct deposit via net banking

Stated guarantees and provisions

Check what guarantees and refund policies the retailer offers.

Due to the nature of buying without seeing, many online retailers have full refund policies within certain time frames. Of course, normal standards apply – the product must be as it was and certain products can’t be returned for health and hygiene reasons.

Check also on back order and ‘lost in the mail’ policies. Particularly for more expensive items or orders, it may be worth enquiring about insurance for the order as well – some sites include or offer this with every order.

Openness and Clarity of costs

It is to be expected that ordering of products online will incur a delivery charge.

Some points on costs are:

* Do they use regular mail or a courier?

* Does the package need to be signed for?

* Are packaging costs based on a sliding scale, weight or a set cost per order?

*
Are such costs clearly listed and easily found?

* Be aware of extra costs – special delivery costs may only apply in certain circumstances

Ease of navigation

Generally speaking, a site that is easy to navigate and find information from is interested in providing customer service. They present their stock and their policies openly to give the purchaser a fair representation of the business.

Consider the difference between a clean, well-set out friendly shop and a dingy, crowded shop. Which would you prefer to buy from? The same principles and reactions apply to online retailers.

Branding

Although it is not a guarantee by itself, the fact that you easily recognise the site or product name increases the credibility of the site you are considering. For instance, in judging between site X and Coles Online purely by name, you would assume that Coles Online is a reputable site to use whereas site X is unknown and other factors would be considered.

Ranking

When you look for a retailer on a search engine such as Google or yahoo, the top ranked sites will be listed first.

A high ranking site is likely to have been around a bit longer than other sites and has a certain amount of credibility.

Low ranking sites, however, are not necessarily bad sites in any way.


Tash Hughes is a Mum of two in Melbourne. She is also a writer and owner of Word Constructions. Tash is available to write articles and profiles for any business, as well as doing other business documentation projects. You can see her site and services at www.wordconstructions.com


 

 

 

 

 

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