Coronavirus Update: Our response to COVID 19


A beginner's guide to online shopping

Small trolley and packages on a laptop

Online shopping is one of the most useful things to come out of the internet, but for those who haven’t tried it before and are wondering ‘what is online shopping?’ and how to shop online, it can be a daunting prospect. From knowing what you need to consider when online shopping to making sure you stay away from potential scams, it’s no wonder those who aren’t well-versed in online shopping opt not to do it, often asking more tech-savvy family members to do it on their behalf instead.

However, online shopping is incredibly useful for all people and is a part of modern-day life that isn’t going away. There is no better time to take the leap and order online – trust us, once you start, you’ll find it hard to stop, knowing just how easy it is!

In this article, we offer a beginner’s guide to online shopping, sharing the benefits and things to consider, how to make sure you stay safe and what you need to get started.

Browse this article:

Older couple online shopping in the kitchen

The benefits of online shopping

  • You can order pretty much anything online
  • You can browse multiple stores at once
  • You can enjoy a wealth of discounts
  • You can shop at any time of the day

You can order pretty much anything online

There are very few things that can’t be bought online today. You can order a takeaway for dinner, buy a stairlift, purchase a gift for a loved one on the other side of the world, get your whole weeks shopping and much, much more. Whatever products or services you’re looking for, somewhere on the internet will likely sell it. This can be especially useful for those who don’t live in big cities with a wealth of stores. If you’re looking for a niche item or just want a bit more choice, online shopping can help.

Something that’s incredibly popular is online food shopping. All big UK retailers now offer online food shopping, allowing you to get your weekly groceries delivered to your home. You’ll be able to pick a date and time for delivery or a collection slot if you’d rather pick it up from the store. For those whose mobility makes shopping a difficult task, being able to browse the supermarket from your sofa and have all of your items delivered to your door can make life a lot easier.

You can browse multiple stores at once

Don’t you hate it when you buy something from one store, then the next store you enter is selling that same product only cheaper? With online shopping, you’ll be able to browse multiple stores at once, letting you compare things like price. If you’re looking for a particularly expensive product, this can result in great savings.

This can also be useful for comparing items. Say you’re looking for a new red top. Instead of only having one clothing store to browse, you’ve got thousands, all with different prices, different styles and different tops, so you have more choices and don’t need to settle for the best a single store has to offer.

You can enjoy a wealth of discounts

As well as being able to find the best price on offer, something 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.”

READ MORE: The best over 60s discounts in the UK

You can shop at any time of day

Whether you’re a late-night shopper or looking to shop first thing in the morning, the internet is open 24 hours a day, and you’ll be able to shop at any time you desire. Of course, in most cases you’ll have to wait for the item to be delivered, but for those with commitments during standard store opening hours, online shopping can be a useful way to shop without having to make allowances.

Woman looking at newly delivered t-shirt

Things to remember when online shopping

  • It’s hard to try before you buy
  • Returns and refunds might be trickier
  • You’ll need to account for shipping fees
  • You’ll need to account for shipping times
  • You’ll have to remember internet safety rules

It’s hard to 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 ones that you do want off of your account balance.

“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.”

Returns and refunds might be trickier

Something that can be trickier when online shopping is making returns or getting refunds. Although online shopping can be brilliant, there are times when you’ll only know if the product is right for you when you have it in your hands, and as such, occasionally, 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 in and may need to contact the company to discuss the return. For companies with a brick-and-mortar store, you might be able to conduct a refund or return if you take your item into your local store.

You’ll need to account for 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. Sometimes, stores will offer free in-store collections but charge for home delivery. You’ll have to make the trip to the store, but this way, you might be able to save some money.

You’ll need to account for shipping times

As well as shipping costs, you’ll also have to account for shipping times. Depending on where the item is coming from, this can be a day or two to weeks or even months (especially if the item is being custom-made or coming from overseas).

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.

You’ll have to remember internet safety rules

Although the internet can be incredibly useful, there are certain safety rules you’ll need to follow to ensure you’re protected. As is life, there are times when something might not be as it seems and you might think you’re buying and item but actually be sending money somewhere unsafe, so it’s important to be vigilant.

We share top tips for keeping safe whilst internet shopping next, so read on to learn more.

Close-up of a woman entering card information into laptop

How to stay safe whilst online shopping

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

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 website address 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.”

On popular online marketplaces like Amazon, you’ll also be able to check the reviews for a specific item, letting you know whether it’s worth purchasing. Whether you’re looking at a book and want to know what others thought of the story or are buying an electronic and want to ensure it’s not going to be faulty, these can help guide your purchase.

Packages outside a home painted orange

What you need to start online shopping

Shopping online is simple; all you need is access to the internet and a payment method. If you haven’t already, you’ll likely need to set up an email account, as many online retailers require an email address to checkout (this is also where they’ll send your receipt).

 If you’ve never shopped online before, we recommend starting with a store you know and love already; this could be a clothes store or a supermarket, or a major online marketplace like Amazon. As these online stores are incredibly popular, they’re very user-friendly, and you’ll be able to access help should you need it.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand online shopping and why it’s so popular. If you’re shopping for mobility aids, you can browse our range of stairlifts online, including straight stairlifts and curved stairlifts.

For more articles like this, be sure to browse our blog.

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