Online shopping is a phenomenon that has changed the way we shop for the things we use and need in our day to day lives. An informal survey of web users who frequent an Internet bulletin board that is geared to online shopping reveals that over 90 percent buy products and services online at least once a month, and many of these people make it a habit to shop online several times a week. What is it about this practice that makes them keep going back for more?
If you are one of those people who have yet to shop online, or if you have perhaps completed only one or two transactions online, you don’t know what you are missing! Not only have you not experienced the fun of hunting down a good online deal, but you haven’t had the satisfaction of saving a bundle of cash on the things you would be buying anyway, online or in a brick and mortar store. Everything that you buy offline can more than likely be found online – from groceries to prescription drugs.
“Sure,” you may be thinking. “Online shopping is probably a good thing for people who live miles away from a store. It would almost be a necessity for them in order to have a good selection. But I have all sorts of stores really close to my home. It’s more convenient for me to shop the way I always have.”
That depends entirely on how you define convenience. Is this really easy?
• You get into your car and drive to the store of your choice, then drive around the parking lot a few times looking for a parking space.
• Entering the store, you walk the aisles looking for the things on your list, only to find that they are out of the two most important things you need.
• You go back out to your car and drive to your second choice store.
• Finally locating the items you need, you stand in an extremely long check-out line behind a woman with a set of 2 year old twins who are screaming for candy.
• The cashier is cranky, and acts as if she would rather be doing anything other than her job.
• You start back out to your car with your packages, and discover that it is pouring rain. You have no umbrella, and your car is parked way in the back of the lot – the only empty space you could find.
• You brave the elements, and make a run for your car, only dropping your packages once. Dripping wet, you turn on the ignition and head for home. It’s late afternoon, and the traffic is horrendous. As you inch along, you hear a suspicious little taptaptap on your windshield. A closer look, and you groan aloud. The rain has turned into ice.
Meanwhile, your next door neighbor has decided that she is in need of a few health and beauty products. She sits down at her computer in the comfort of her nice, cozy den. A few clicks of her mouse, and her web browser has taken her to an online drugstore that actually offers more of a product variety than the local drugstore that is only a mile from her house. She smiles when she discovers that several of the items on her list are on sale.
As she reaches the screen where she is to finalize her order, she remembers an email she received from this website yesterday. It contained a coupon code that will give her free shipping when she purchases a certain dollar amount. Scanning her order, she sees that she needs to spend $1 more to take advantage of this code. Another few clicks, and she has added a toothbrush to her virtual shopping cart.
As she clicks the “Place Order Now” icon button, she smiles. That one little code has saved her $8.00! Hearing a sound from outside, she rises and steps over to the window. Pulling back the curtain, she looks outside. It has begun to sleet!
She smiles again as she thinks how nice it is not to have to brave the cold and instead be able to shop from home and have the order delivered right to her front door.
Which scenario would you rather find yourself in? The answer should be obvious. Internet shopping can be a much easier alternative for you, especially if you –
• Work long or odd hours and have trouble finding the time to shop after work
• Lack reliable transportation
• Have small children that are difficult to handle on a shopping trip
• Have any sort of physical disability which limits your mobility
• Are looking for items not readily available in your area, such as ethnic foods, classic fragrances, or large shoe and clothing sizes.
Shopping online can save you more time than you could imagine. As is illustrated in the scenario above, it is much less of a hassle to make purchases from home, from your office, or anywhere you happen to find a computer than it is to physically shop at the mall or the grocery store. Plus, if you want to shop at 2 AM while wearing your pajamas, you can do that, too!
Online shopping is a lifesaver for Christmas shopping. While everyone else is fighting the crowds, you are greeting the UPS or FedEx driver as your boxes are delivered. You can easily purchase items for gifts without others knowing what you’re buying, which comes in very handy when you need to buy gifts for people who live in your home with you. Or maybe you are in need of something that you would rather not have other people know that you use. Online shopping can save you the embarrassment of having nosy strangers or even family members observe your buying habits.
Comparison shopping is a breeze on the Internet. Instead of having to make phone call after phone call, or walk/drive from store to store in search of a product you need, you can do a search on Google or another search engine in order to locate the best price for an item. Once you locate what you’re looking for at a price you want to pay, you are ready to order!
Now, imagine how much more difficult this would have been if you were doing it all the old fashioned way. Let’s say you had to visit 10 web sites in order to find the exact product you wanted at a reasonable price. Transpose this shopping equation to real life. By the time you got done with searching 10 brick and mortar stores, you’d be exhausted, and you might even cut your search short and buy the product at a higher price than you had expected to pay in order to finish your shopping and go home! With online shopping, you won’t have this problem.
“But I need an item TODAY,” you might say. “I don’t want to have to wait until an online store can ship my purchase to me!” If you are in a hurry for an item, you can sometimes order it online and then pick it up at the store, as long as there is a store available in your area. Office supply stores and department stores with a web presence usually offer this feature to their online customers. It can be a real time saver as all you need to do is go to the Customer Service desk to pick up your order.
You can also choose to pay an extra shipping fee when ordering online in order to have your items sent to you sooner, even overnight, but the cost of this could very well negate any savings you may have realized by using a coupon code.
Here is where you have to sit down and decide what your priorities are. Is the hassle of navigating your way through crowded stores and having to search for the items you want to buy, plus the chore of standing in long check out lines to pay for the items better than the convenience of ordering the items online and having to wait a few days before you receive your order?
For most people, the convenience of online shopping far outweighs the minor inconvenience of not being able to take possession of their purchase immediately. Try both scenarios, and then make your decision. I’ll bet you choose online shopping!
This is probably why online shopping has become one of the most popular ways to shop. You have so many choices, and can custom tailor your shopping habits to suit yourself.
Let’s walk through the steps that a shopper takes when they want to purchase a product online. Of course, online shopping is exactly what the term implies, but for anyone who is not familiar with exactly what to do, the following information should be helpful.
•Decide what you are looking for. Yes, they sell almost anything you can imagine online, so the chances are good that you will be able to find exactly what you need.
•Using a good search engine like Google, find several web sites that sell the item you want. Don’t just stop at the first site you come across. You want to find both the best quality and also the best price you can.
•If you are unsure as to the brand name or style you are seeking, you can also Google product reviews for the item you are seeking to get recommendations from others.
•You may also want to take the time to browse one of several product comparison sites that are available on the web to help shoppers in their quest to find just what they are looking for.
•Once you have settled upon a web site that sells the product you are looking for, browse the site until you decide which size, color or variety you want.
•Look for an icon button that says “Add to Cart” or a similar phrase.
•Choose how many you want of the item. If there are any other choices such as size or color, this is the point where you select them.
•Your items will be added to your virtual online cart. There should also be an icon button that you can use to edit your shopping cart if you have made a mistake.
•If you want to continue shopping, there will be an icon button to click that says “Continue Shopping” or something similar, and it will take you back to the section of the web site where you can select another item.
•If you are done shopping, look for an icon button that says “Checkout” or something similar. This will take you to another page where you will fill out a form with your name and the address where you want the item sent. You’ll also need to input your email address and telephone number.
•Are you are sending this item to someone as a gift? You will need to look for a box to check that specifies this. Look for “Is This Item a Gift?” or something similar. Check it off, and if you like, select a gift wrap option either for free or for a small fee.
•There will be a space for your credit card information. Many people get very nervous about entering their credit card info on a web site. This is a needless worry, for all reputable merchant web sites are designed to be secure.
•Look down at the bottom of your browser. Do you see a small icon that looks like a padlock? If it is in the locked position, your info is quite safe. If the icon shows an open lock, you might want to think twice about placing your card number on this site. You should call this to the attention of the webmaster for the web site.
•Not only will you enter your card number and expiration date, but also the 3 or 4 digit code from the back of your credit card. This is an attempt by online merchants to control credit card fraud. By requiring this code, no one can get your card number off of your restaurant check or credit card receipt and fraudulently use it online to purchase goods and services.
•Usually, there is a space on the form for a coupon or gift card code. This will be explained in more detail later in this report.
•Once you have filled in all of this information, your web browser will go to the next page. This will be your order confirmation page. Look over this page carefully, perhaps double checking your credit card number for accuracy. Then, confirm your order by clicking the button icon that says “Place Your Order” or something similar.
•You’ll now see a page thanking you for your order. There will be an order confirmation number among the information given here, so it’s a good idea to print this entire page for your records. You should also get an email copy of this page.
•Sit back, relax, and wait for your order to arrive! You should receive an email when your package ships that contains a tracking number. You can track the whereabouts of your package and also find out when it is scheduled for delivery by going to the UPS or FedEx web site.
When she got to the web page to finalize her order, she remembered a coupon code that would give her free shipping on her order. Online retailers provide these codes to their customers as a form of advertising. They know that a good coupon code will bring the following three types of traffic to their site.
•New customer traffic – consumers who may not have ever shopped with them before.
•Previous customer traffic – consumers that came back to shop again because of the coupon code discount.
•Repeat business traffic – consumers who are so pleased with the items they purchased at a discount that they come back to purchase other items, possibly at full price. This is considered the best type of traffic.
Coupon codes are a win-win promotion both for the shopper and the retailer who offers them. You get a good deal, and the retailer gets an increase in traffic. Unlike coupons that you cut out of the newspaper or magazines, online coupon codes can’t be lost or replaced. You can use the code once, then pass it along to a friend or family member so that they can get a good online deal, too. Many a convert to online shopping has been made with the sharing of just one good coupon code!
Be aware that some coupon codes expire very quickly, while others can be valid for quite some time. When you enter the code, whatever discount it represents is immediately taken off of the total of your order. It’s a good idea to check your total on the checkout page once you refresh it to make sure the code went through.
Occasionally, coupon codes are removed without notice by the retailer. And, sometimes a coupon code is so popular that the web site where you use it is jammed with customers! If this happens, you might have to try your code more than one time to get it to go through. If you’ve done this, and your coupon code still does not work, a call to the Customer Service department of the retailer might be in order. Usually, the telephone number to call if you have any questions is listed somewhere on the web site.
Some web sites also have live help where you can actually chat with a customer representative in an instant-message type setting. They are quick to answer any questions you might have, as they realize that a happy customer is usually a repeat customer. Or, look for the store’s email address. This is just one of the many neat things about shopping on the Internet – most of the time, help is but a mouse click away.
Make sure you understand the terms of the coupon code. If it states that you must spend $25 to get that 10% off, don’t think you can squeak by with spending $24.98! You have to spend the stated amount down to the last cent. Luckily, most online stores will have items for sale that are quite cheap – in the case of Amazon.com. 5 cents or even less! This makes it easy to add another item to your shopping cart to bring up your total.
Also, don’t confuse coupon codes with rebates! Unlike a manufacturer’s mail in rebate, an online coupon code saves you money the instant you use it.