Ask the Expert

How to Shop Online

By Aug 31, 2011May 13th, 201221 Comments

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As part of our on-going How To series, Nia from Chic Working Moms is here today to give us the down low on how to shop online effectively. I’ve long believed there is an art to shopping, and Nia is here to prove that point!

I’ve mastered the art of how to shop online and have the receipts to prove it (much to the DH’s dismay). I know the retailers to avoid and the ones who’ve proved to be as consistent as momma’s home cooking. Many people avoid online shopping because of the perceived hassle, but shopping on the Internet can prove to be a convenient and enjoyable experience if you follow some simple guidelines.

Online shopping is more popular than ever due to technology and 24 hour access. If you’re pacing the house at 1 a.m. and decide to purchase a new pair of fab shoes, there are numerous options to view and compare all from the comfort of your own couch. Another great reason to shop online is that there’s no temptation for impulse buys. It is perfect for the weak-willed consumer (like me).  There’s an adequate amount time to rethink every purchase from the time you add it to your cart, enter the shipping/billing information and checkout, all without an overbearing sales associate breathing down your neck.

shopping online safely

Today the options to shop online are endless and there are new online stores launching every day since entrepreneurs are wisely choosing to forgo the traditional brick and mortar route to keep overhead low in these tough economic times. The bright side is that there’s something for everyone, if you’re willing to look.

Whether you’ve been hesitant to shop online or you’re a regular cyberspace customer, read my tips below to make your next virtual purchase a breeze.

1) Refer to the Sizing/Measuring Charts

Each retailer’s items differ in size. This may help to avoid a future return/exchange. If you’re unsure, you might want to skip it altogether. Also, if you’ve had negative experiences with fit from a particular designer, it’s best you head to your nearest physical retail store, if applicable.

2) Research the Return and Exchange Policy

Does it come with a return label? This may seem petty, but when you’ve paid for shipping, and now have to pay to return for the unwanted item, you’ll understand.

3) What’s the Shipping Method?

This is important because if the postman leaves a package at the door and a signature isn’t required it may not be there when you get home. If there is a “shipping instructions” box, let the retailer know if you’d prefer they leave in at a neighbor’s house or on the patio, over the fence, etc.

4) Check Out the Material(s)

If you have allergies or simply have had bad experience with jersey, for instance, it’s nice to know it before buying. Is it dry clean only? Don’t forget to zoom, zoom and zoom some more for a detailed view. Zooming in has allowed me to see a hem that was less than flattering, therefore avoiding an unpleasant experience.

5) Read the Testimonials

If there’s feedback, make sure to check out the rating and see what others have to say about the item itself, customer service and their overall experience. I’m positive this has saved me numerous returns. Sometimes you’ll luck out and find pictures that people have taken of the purchase. For example, I found a patio set online and there were several pictures which ultimately helped me make a more informed decision.

6) Avoid Unmentionables

This one is tricky and totally a personal decision. I refuse to purchase undergarments or swimsuits online. I find that it can be awkward to return some of these items so I’d just rather not bother.

There are several reasons people avoid logging in and checking out. There’s a stigma of being unsafe due to security violations although I’ve found physical stores to have just as much theft and fraudulent activity. People also dislike the inconvenience of having to return a failed purchase and lack of face to face interaction to show dissatisfaction. Hopefully, a discerning eye and a little research might just help you quell those inner doubts.

Now where’s my credit card?

About the Author

Chic Working MomsNia Hughes is a commercial real estate manager, wife, mother and new blogger trying to balance it all one day at a time. A journalist in her past life (college), she is returning to her passion as a writer on her blog Chic Working Moms where she writes on topics such as work/life balance, fashion, food and everything in between. Nia is also actively developing her career as a freelance writer. In her spare time you’ll find her balancing her daughter, Zoe, in one arm and a heap of clothes and coffee in the other.

More On How To Shop Online

If you’re looking to put these online shopping tips to use asap, then check out these posts. They’re the perfect solution to get you and your credit card moving!

If you would like to guest post as part of our “how to” post series, simply send your post to sitsspotlight@gmail.com and we’ll get you added to our queue.  All post titles need to start with the phrase…How To. In other words, your job is to teach our readers something about what you know. Your topic could be informative, serious, funny, entertaining, whatever. The choice is yours.

Let us drive more eyes to what you have to say!  Learn everything you need to know about participating in our How To series by reading this post.

About Francesca

Francesca has an extensive background in content marketing, public relations, and social outreach. She oversees all Operations at Sway Group, including our robust metrics capabilities. Prior to joining the online world, Francesca oversaw viticulture and oenology at various wineries in both California and Italy, and managed regulatory affairs and facility approvals at the biotech company, Genentech. Francesca has been featured on CBS Sacramento and Food Blogger Pro’s podcast. She has also hosted an AMA webinar and spoken at Social Media World.


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  • Michelle says:

    Great tips! I love to shop online; I really love the fact that I can take my time, and weigh out the cost of each purchase before entering my credit card info. I also like the ability, most of the time, to read reviews and such before purchasing anything.

  • Anne Galivan says:

    One tip I can offer: get on JCPenney’s e-mail list. They pretty much always have a “free shipping” promotion. I only order from them when I can use the free shipping. That way, if I get an item and I need to return it, I can return it to the STORE and pay no shipping at all. I get the full refund on the item.

    I don’t buy undergarments online because I love the sales at Dillards! But I have ordered swimsuits online from Penney’s for years (again, using the free shipping promotion). It works the same way as if you purchase a swimsuit in the store…as long as that liner is in the bottoms you will not have a problem returning. On the other hand, in years past Penney’s did not carry an assortment of suits in their stores but now they carry everything that’s online or in their catalogs so the last couple of years I have shopped in the store to buy my swimsuit.

    I love shopping online. I keep a wish list going on Amazon. I get most of my makeup from Sephora online (I’m even a “Very Important Beauty Insider!”) It’s great to be able to shop without leaving the house…and considering that where I live has only one mall – there’s a lot more variety online too!

  • I shop online, but not typically for clothes and definitely not shoes. These old dogs need to walk around in shoes before I purchase! On the other hand, I will probably do quite a bit of online shopping for Christmas as I detest shopping at the mall!

    • I’ve been fortunate in the shoe department in shopping online. I know my feet pretty well and cater it depending on the style of the shoe. Reading reviews helps with this as well since customers will often let you know how items run according to size. Thanks for commenting!

  • Myne Whitman says:

    Very informative post. I also agree that checking out reviews is very important as well keeping your details safe.

  • Marie Cole says:

    I am a touchy feely girl when it comes to clothes and shoes, I couldn’t buy those online.

  • Life As Wife says:

    Re sizing: I only shop online at stores that I frequently visit in person. I know what fits me there and have no problem getting the right size. Returning/exchanging is not that bad either. Most retailers include a return slip that you put on outside of same box and then new size can be shipped back! I really enjoy online shopping. When you live in a smaller town without a lot of options, it is the only way!

    • I couldn’t agree more. Most of the stores I shop online are ones of which I’m a repeat customer. I always make sure to save the return slip. You never know what kind of issue you’ll have even after wearing the item. Thanks for commenting!

  • Carolyn says:

    I do a lot of shopping online and think you’ve written a great article.

    One thing to mention about online shopping is COUPONS or FREE SHIPPING! (Perhaps mentioned in another article.) But if you google search the store name with the word coupon, there’s a good chance you can save some money!

  • I am trying to shop more online, but I do get nervous at times about some things. It really does save time and sometimes you can find some good deals. And hey, it comes right to your door.
    I like #2 that you mentioned, never really thought of that. Will definitely keep that in mind.
    Thanks for the great info! 🙂

  • Angie says:

    I do the vast majority of my shopping online. I have to agree that sizing can be an issue, things are all over the place. It’s one of the reasons if I am shopping for clothes, I try to find those with free return shipping. Now I just need to start reading up on the refund policy prior to purchasing. Store credit when you are unhappy with the retailer is a big pain.

    • I totally agree! Sizing is probably the biggest issues I have. If the retailer is known to have hit or miss sizing I stay away. Thanks for commenting!