It’s that time of the year again – the holiday season! No matter how you spend it, the wonderful tradition of exchanging gifts with the ones you love is sure to occur. Sadly, some of us will not be able to spend this time with our family and friends. That does not make gift-giving impossible thanks to the wonders of online shopping! The idea of online shopping may be intimidating for some, but there is no need to worry! This beginner’s guide on how to shop online will take you through step by step to make your first online purchase!
All we hear in internet news nowadays is scammers this and hackers that. In reality, that is so not the case, and it starts with only shopping on reliable websites. So, how can you tell if a website is trustworthy? Firstly, most online stores’ websites have a similar appearance. This includes an obvious company logo, a sleek colour scheme, and a consistent font. Choose your websites like you would choose a restaurant. Would you want to go to a restaurant with dirty floors and uncaring staff? Or would you rather go into a beautiful, clean restaurant, met with the utmost hospitality? Easy decision, right? If anything about the way the website looks makes it hard to follow or uneasy on the eye, it is probably unreliable.
The next point of interest is the website URL, which is the online location of a webpage. This is always at the top, centre of the screen inside a long, white rectangle. If you click on this space, you will be able to see the entire URL. Take this Retirement Now webpage, for example. The URL has been clicked at the top of the screen as outlined in yellow:
Note that we are only looking at the URL from after “https://”, until we reach a forward slash “/” if one is present. Now we can breakdown the URL into parts. If the URL contains anything other than “www.” at the beginning, this website may be unreliable. Also, if the end phrase of the URL is not something like “.com”, “.au”, “.gov”, “.net”, “.edu”, or a combination of these like “.com.au”, this website may be unreliable. If you are shopping from an overseas store, the ending could be different, but let’s stick to what we know for now!
Next, look at the words between “www.” and the end phrase. Do they have a strong connection to the brand or consist of a phrase connected to the brand? If this is not the case, or there are any out of place letters, numbers or dashes, the website may be unreliable. For example, the Retirement Now URL, “www.retirementnow.com.au”, meets all of the above criteria. This means we can assume the website is reliable. However, something like “ww.retire23-mentc0aching.abc” would be one to steer clear from.
If the website has passed the appearance and URL tests but you remain unsure, there are a few more things you can try. Try searching for the store in Google Maps and see what appears. A lot of online stores have physical shops too. So if it is listed on the map, then you know that the brand’s real. You can even call the store and ask for that extra confirmation. Now you know how to shop online safely.
This All Looks Overwhelming. Where Do I Begin?
If you are unfamiliar with online shopping, and you click on a website, it can appear to be quite daunting at first. But once you get the hang of it, you will realise it is even simpler than shopping in person. The first step is to look for the menu bar. The menu bar shows the available categories and is rather straightforward. If no menu bar is present, it will be hiding within a button. These menu buttons will be located somewhere at the top of the screen as either stacked lines or as the word ‘menu’. Clicking on these will reveal the different categories to choose from. Here is an example of what the menu buttons may look like:
Once you have found something you like, click on it. This will take you to the product’s unique page where its specifications and price are listed. There will also be a quantity selection option for you to indicate how many units you want of this product. If you decide you want the product, there will be a button somewhere on the screen to add the item to your virtual ‘cart’. Clicking this does not mean you have to buy it. Like shopping in real life, you are allowed to remove items you no longer want to buy from your cart. To view your virtual cart, click on the shopping trolley or basket symbol somewhere at the top of the screen. There may also be a button that says ‘view cart/basket.’ Here is an example of what the view cart buttons may look like:
Clicking this allows you to review the items in your basket and remove any you wish. Furthermore, this button usually has an option for you to proceed to the checkout. Click this when you are ready to buy. You’ll then automatically move to the payment page. The payment will not be processed until you confirm the order, so you can close the website and leave at any time.
The payment page will ask for personal details such as address and name, as well as financial details (this will be discussed shortly). Fill out these details carefully. If you want to send the package to someone else, fill out their name and home address instead of your own. Keep your own email address to receive the order confirmation. It is important to keep the confirmation email in case there are shipping issues, or you want to return the item.
The last thing to watch out for when going through the checkout is shipping costs. Some online stores will have incentives encouraging you to buy more items so that you can qualify for free shipping. There will usually be two shipping options – express and standard. You will be given an idea of the postage time, so decide which option you prefer based on this and the shipping cost.
Although there are many different ways to pay online, the most common ones are VISA debit cards, MasterCards, and PayPal. Have a look at your card for a symbol that says either “VISA” or “MasterCard”. If you cannot find one of these symbols, you may need to consider transitioning to one through your bank. You can always call your bank if you are unsure as well.
When buying an item online using a debit card, don’t worry if you are asked for your card number, CVC, name, and expiry date. If they ask for your PIN, leave the site immediately – this is a true sign of scammers. Never give out your PIN.
The other method mentioned was PayPal, which is an online payments system. What makes PayPal great is its reliability and ease of use. When creating an account on PayPal, you will be asked to enter your card details and personal details. You will also have to create a password to log in with your phone number or email.
Now, instead of having to type that long card number out each time you buy something online, you can instead use your PayPal account. How is this safe and reliable, you ask? If you use PayPal to purchase something, the online store you are buying from will not have access to your financial details. Finally, whenever you purchase something using PayPal, a scheme called PayPal Purchase Protection will cover you if there are any issues.
Learning how to shop online includes how to refund or exchange with an online store. Every single online store has a return policy, but some are better than others. This is definitely a great thing to check before you buy an item online, especially if it is clothes or shoes. The return policies are hidden at the bottom of the page in relatively small writing. Once you have found it and have clicked on the link, read through and decide for yourself if it is worth it.
Some places have a very strict time limit on their returns whilst others give you months. Some clothing stores may say that the item must remain in its original packaging for returns. This means you cannot even try the piece on! But, most online clothing stores will let you try the piece on and return it if it’s not right. On the same returns page, the store will explain how you go about returning the piece. This will usually just be through posting it yourself to a company address.
It is important to note that if you return a package, the reimbursement will usually be in the form of store credit. This is instead of a direct refund. So, decide whether you would be happy to buy something different from the store if things do not go as planned.
So, learning how to shop online is simple if you follow the above steps. Remember to stay safe, and ask a trusted family or friend if you’re unsure about the legitimacy of a site. And that’s our guide to how to shop online. Now, get busy and have fun shopping! To get you started, an Amazon eGift Card from Amazon.com.au is a great present idea leading up to Christmas.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission.
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