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A beginner's guide to online shopping

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With the holidays coming and another lockdown meaning that casual retail shopping is off-limits, for those who have never ventured into online shopping, 2020 seems like the best time to start. But, for those who have never bought anything online before, or are worried about the process, it can be a daunting thing to overcome.

In this article, we offer a beginner’s guide into online shopping, just in time to get your holiday gifts in.

What to consider when online shopping

Try before you buy

One of the largest differences between online shopping and shopping in real life is the fact you can’t try the product before you buy it. Whether that means trying on a pair of trousers for fit or just seeing something close up to confirm it’s exactly what you imagine.

Laura, a blogger from A Life With Frills, has advice on a way around this: “If you are new to online shopping for clothes, shoes and accessories, the biggest change you will notice is not having that ability to try things on. My top tip is to try to buy everything from one or two retailers where you can open an account (subject to credit checks). This allows you to buy things in multiple sizes on account, then you return the ones you don’t want and pay the cost of the one that you do want off of your account balance.

“In COVID times, returns take a long time to process, so if you buy things in multiple sizes, you’ll really notice your bank account taking the hit. With an account, the retailer owes your account, i.e. themselves, back the money so it doesn’t matter how long it takes to process.”


Another thing that many people might not realise is that buying online can open the door to a wealth of discounts if you are willing to take the time to find them. Catherine from Nerd Bear told us: “Before completing a purchase from any website, type the name of the brand plus coupon or promo code into Google and see what comes up. You’d be surprised how many discounts are available out there that can make online shopping much cheaper.”

Robbie from Parental Damnation also offered this advice: “Never underestimate how much you can save with discount codes. They can be tricky to find, but browser extensions such as Honey will automatically let you know if there are available discounts to be had as you pop items into your basket. Once downloaded, it just sits in the background until you need it.”

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Something that can be trickier when online shopping is making returns or getting refunds. Although online shopping can be brilliant, there are some times when you’ll only know if the product is right for you when you have it in your hands, and as such, you’ll want to look for a return or refund.

All online retailers worth their salt should have a return policy which will clearly state how you can return an item if you are not satisfied. Before you purchase from any site you should familiarise yourself with this policy in case you need to use it. For most companies, you’ll be required to mail the item back in the condition it was received it and may need to contact the company to discuss the return.

Shipping fees

The main aspect of online shopping that is different from shopping at a brick-and-mortar shop (besides being able to do so from the comfort of your home) is that you’ll likely have to pay shipping fees, also called a delivery fee. Although some online retailers will waive this fee, many will ask for the money to cover the shipping, and for big items, this can end up being a large amount.

A retailer will always show you their shipping fees clearly and these should be added to the product price to create a total which is shown to you clearly before confirming your purchase.

Other fees you could experience are customs fees. These are placed on items coming from overseas and can add a lot to your price, they are also less likely to be advertised on the retailer’s site as you’ll be paying them manually to the postal service. They only apply to items over a certain price and are different from country to country.

If you are unsure as to whether you’ll be buying from a UK-based site and whether you’ll have to pay customs fees, it is worth contacting someone you know who may be more tech-savvy to take a look at the site for you.

Another way to avoid shipping fees if you are buying from an online store with a local brick-and-mortar location is to see if store delivery and collection are available. Yes, you’ll have to make the trip into the store but this way you might be able to save some money.

Shipping time

As well as shipping costs, you’ll also have to expect shipping times. Some websites can offer next-day delivery, but this will usually cost you more so when it comes to online shopping the best mantra is to plan ahead and not wait until the last minute. Even if you do opt for a quick delivery, as most sites use other delivery services, they may not be able to guarantee delivery by a certain date.

If the item you are buying is a high-value item, it is worth paying some more for tracked delivery, which means you should be able to track your delivery as it comes to you.

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How to stay safe whilst online shopping

One thing many are apprehensive about when starting online shopping is safety. If you find yourself in that bracket, here are a few tips that will help you to stay safe online when you are buying everything from a toothbrush to a new straight stairlift.

Make sure you see the padlock

One way to know that your payment is safe is through the website’s security certificate. In order to make this easy for all to use, whenever you are on a payment screen you should be able to see a padlock to the left side of the URL in your browser window.

Emma from Bee Money Savvy tells us:” “There are several steps you can take to stay safe when online shopping. Firstly, look for the green padlock located on the left-hand side of the website’s URL, that padlock means that the website you’re viewing has a valid security certificate.”

Use a trusted payment source

When paying for a product online you can ensure that should something go wrong, you’ll receive your rightful refund by making sure you pay through a trusted payment source.

Jupiter Hadley recently had an issue whilst shopping online which was resolved due to her ensuring she used a trusted payment source to buy with. She explains: “When it comes to online shopping, my biggest tip is to make sure you are using a trusted payment source. PayPal is always a good bet - I once purchased an item from a Facebook Advert and the item that I received wasn't what I ordered. I could not get a refund directly from the company due to them refusing to admit they sent a completely different item. Thankfully, PayPal was able to step in and get my money back through their protection schemes.”

Dee from DB Reviews seconds this, telling us: “While shopping online, check whether the online shop uses secure payment modes like Visa/Mastercard, PayPal or direct bank payment. And do not make payments outside of the shop. For example, if you are purchasing something on eBay, pay using eBay’s interface; don't pay directly to the seller via other modes. This way eBay can step in if something goes wrong with your purchase.

Check the reviews

What better way to find out what a company is like than looking at reviews? And, when online shopping you’ll likely find plenty so before you buy from a new store why not take some time out to check the feedback? You can find out a lot from other people’s stories and this can help you make a more informed decision.

Bee Money Savvy blogger Emma explained: “You should check that the website has positive online reviews from a trusted website such as Trustpilot. A quick Google search should show whether or not the website is safe and secure.”

How to stay safe online:

  • Make sure you see the padlock
  • Use a trusted payment source
  • Check the reviews

You can shop our range of stairlifts for the UK online today and find the perfect model for your home. Our selection of products can help you become more independent within your home and make sure you are ready for whatever the future throws at you.

For more advice articles, take a look at our news page.

This news article is from Companion Stairlifts. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.