It is important to do business with reputable online stores to avoid possible Internet fraud and to easily exchange or return when things go wrong. Again, shoppers often read store ratings or reviews by other customers if they are not familiar with some online stores.
Some general guidelines apply when choosing an online store
· Honesty in providing product information and availability
· Speed of orders processing
· Shipping cost and speed: online package tracking is popular today
· Return/exchange policy: the time frame customers can return/exchange; who should pay the returning shipping; if there is any restocking fee etc.
Some online stores also provide live chat with their representatives in case customer need to discuss the product
An advantage of shopping online is being able to use the power of the internet to seek out the lowest prices or the best deals available for items or services. For example if one is buying a digital camera he/she should enter "digital camera" into a search engine or a price search engine. Most price comparison services have the advantage of store ratings and reviews. Getting the lowest price is important but it is more important to make sure the merchant or store the customer is purchasing from is reputable. There are some online stores that display ridiculously low prices, but when you call them you may find out that the item you're seeking is out of stock. This is called the "bait and switch" technique. The best way to avoid backorder disappointment is to contact the online store by phone and verify that the product you're seeking is in stock. If you're told that there's only one left, then place your order by phone.
The differences between the online prices and local store prices also rely on the shipping cost and tax. A wise customer would consider the final prices instead of just product prices.
There are multiple websites (e.g. FatWallet, dealsea, Couponalbum, Memolink, etc.) that compile coupon or discount information for most online merchants. Before purchasing online, it is usually worth checking for discounts and coupons. Typing the name of the online merchant along with the word "coupon" in a search engine will provide multiple results. Some of the more popular coupon websites have forums where you can ask for help hunting down a deal if you don't have the time.
Main article: Online shopping rewards
There are at least three major shopping portals that provide members rebates or rewards for shopping via their sites. How does it work? The merchants pay the portals for the business; the portals share the proceeds with the member. Rebates usually range in the 2-5% range. Membership is free, but some portals require a higher rebate balance before payout. Some will send out a payment automatically, others wait until the member requests one. If you join, be sure to read the fine print so you understand the rebate program.
The actual steps of ordering online is simple after the preparing steps of reading reviews and finding a balance between good stores and good prices:
· Browse product categories using a web browser
· Put items into virtual shopping cart (or market basket).
Just as in a physical store viewing the contents of the cart can be done at any time.
Quantities of products can be changed or deleted.
Log in or register by choosing a username and a password. Not all online stores require registration.
Enter personal data.
Shipping address (some online stores do not permit a separate shipping address, at least not online)
E-Mail address (extremely important, as they may have no other way of contacting you if a problem arises)
Choose means of payment
Choose delivery speed and method (post, courier and logistics service, etc.)
After editing the personal data a confirmation page is displayed so that the online shopper can approve, change or abort the order.
Online shoppers commonly use their credit card for making payments, however some systems enable users to create accounts and pay by alternative means, such as
· Debit card
· Various types of electronic money
· Cash on delivery (C.O.D.) Note: Very few online stores will ship C.O.D.
· Wire transfer/delivery on payment
· Postal money order
· Google Checkout
Once a payment has been accepted the goods or services can be delivered in the following ways.
· Download: This is the method often used for digital media products such as software, music, movies, or images.
· Shipping: The product is shipped to the customer's address.
· In-store Pickup: The customer orders online, finds a local store using locator software and picks the product up at the closest store. This is the method often used in the bricks and clicks business model.
· User and payment data is encrypted by SSL when it is transferred on the Internet.
· Quality seals can be placed on the Shop webpage if it has undergone an independent assessment and meets all requirements of the company issuing the seal. The purpose of these seals is to increase the confidence of the online shoppers; the existence of many different seals foils this effort to a certain extent.
· Privacy of personal information is a big issue. In spite of Privacy Guidelines of the OECD, for example, privacy violations still occur and hamper eCommerce from developing to its full potential.
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