Broker Check

5 Ways to be a Smarter Online Shopper

November 20, 2017
Share |

The trend of online consumerism is fascinating. We do everything online these days. We shop for cars, electronics, clothing, even groceries can be ordered online! In fact, roughly 80% of consumers shop for things online.

With e-commerce growing so rapidly, it is clear to see that this is not simply a passing trend, online consumerism is here to stay, and with that comes a shift in mentality for the consumer. Here are 5 ways to shop smarter online.

1. Look for a specific trend in the negative user reviews

As companies figure out ways to manipulate online rating systems, user reviews are becoming less and less reliable. How do you know that review wasn’t written by an employee? Or by someone hired to manage that company’s online reputation?

One way around this is to look for specific trends in the negative user reviews of that product. I tend to trust negative reviews more than positive reviews because, after all, what company would write a negative review on itself? Thus, by looking at the negative reviews and finding a recurring theme such as bad customer service, slow shipping times, poor quality, etc., you can better determine if the claim is true, or if the negative review came from an isolated experience.

When looking at a product online, I typically read the ad, allow the company to highlight the features of product for me, and then I’ll crosscheck these claims in the negative reviews below.

2. See related items

Amazon, and most other major online retailers, have an option to see other related items to the one you are viewing. Maybe you thought you wanted that exact 50” plasma, but when you look at the related items, you see a 60” plasma, same brand that happens to be the same price!

We are browsing online less than we do in the store. In the store, you might wander around the electronic section looking at all the TVs and talking to the sales associates to ensure you are getting the best deal. When shopping online, viewing the related items can be the equivalent of this.

3. Double check your final charges

Some retailers love to advertise an item at a price to get you to put it in your virtual shopping cart. Yet, when you go to finalize the purchase, they tack on all sorts of extras (i.e. shipping, taxes, processing fees, etc.). Other retailers may be advertising the final cost from the beginning. Before you finalize a sale, thinking you are getting a great deal, double check the list of charges. You may find that it is cheaper to purchase the item elsewhere.

4. Make sure the seller is reputable

Always know who you are buying from. I find this especially important with electronics, there are hundreds and hundreds of sites to choose from to purchase a laptop. However, not all of them are reputable, in which case you wouldn’t want to be giving them your credit card number. Sometimes manufacture warranties are not honored if purchased through a trusted third-party vendor. 

You can tell if a seller is reputable by running a quick Google search on the company if you’ve never heard of them. You can look at BBB’s site to see if there has ever been a claim filed against the company. You can read forums of other user experiences.

As a general rule, I tend to only purchase items from online retailers I’m familiar with. However, sometimes a deal is too good to pass up, in which case, you need to do a little research so you don’t get burned.

5. Use Google to quickly cost compare

To demonstrate how this works, pull up Google and type in the name of a product like “iPad Mini 4 128GB”. Then click on the “Shopping” tab on the top of the search results. Here you will find a giant list of every online store selling iPad Mini 4s and you can quickly cost compare to see who is selling it the cheapest.

Google uses advanced algorithms which go a long way in filtering out the shady businesses so you can feel more comfortable as a consumer, knowing that Google has done most of the dirty work for you.

Do you have any tips for how to shop online smarter? Please let us know, we’d love to hear!