Online shopping is becoming more and more popular and is a great way to support small businesses. Never has that been more important than it is today, but how can you be sure you’re shopping with a legitimate business?
During the pandemic, we discovered, more than ever, that shopping online can be convenient. A lot of businesses who have been used to operating in their local neighborhoods were suddenly forced online when they were temporarily prevented from selling products in person. Supporting local businesses is both important for local people and families and essential for your local economy. Your home internet connection is more secure.
Please share in the comments any great experiences you’ve had shopping with online businesses. Bonus points if that business is local to you OR it allows you to purchase products you otherwise wouldn’t be able to find in your hometown!
Online Shopping Is Fantastic!
Here are some of the benefits of shopping online:
Convenience: Shop when it’s convenient for you. If you’re busy during the day, shop in your pajamas at night.
Door-to-door delivery: Have your purchases delivered straight to you or pick up curbside, saving time and effort. Click and collect groceries, anyone? Why fight your way through the store?
Gift delivery: Get your gifts delivered straight to the recipient, rather than go shopping and mail them yourself.
Discover new stores: Find some gems that are not available in your hometown. Supporting local business is so important but what if you need that particular item that is not sold in your local malls? There are cool businesses everywhere.
Easy package tracking: Who doesn’t love getting parcels delivered? Why should this be restricted to the holiday season or your Birthday? The Shop app is a digital shopping assistant that helps you manage your online purchases from Shopify stores in one place. Get tracking and delivery information and save your favorite stores!
Support small businesses: Shop local and/or small. You will know your money is supporting a hardworking, entrepreneur or family rather than a big corporation during a time that has been rough for in-person retailers.
Support creators & makers: Order directly from the creator! Support the people who created the product directly.
Buy from anywhere in the world: Live where you want to live and still be able to buy what you need! You shouldn’t be forced to live in the city for shopping convenience if you’re more relaxed in a rural setting.
Is the business you’re considering shopping with legitimate? Here are some of the ways you can tell:
Does the website look professional?Does it have too many popups?
Look for stores that have a simplified and appealing customer experience. When a business takes your shopping experience into consideration with their website, this will tell you that they’ve done some research to help make your shopping efficient and pleasant without more than 1 popup interfering with your browsing.
Pricing clues: Is it too good to be true? Is everything on sale? A good business knows how to price in order to give you a good deal, but also stay in business. Watch out for stores that have prices slashed significantly lower than competitors or stores that don’t use discount codes for sales.
Do the product photos look polished? Can you clearly see the product you’re thinking of purchasing? Legitimate businesses will take the time to create clear unique product photos. Be sure that what you see isn’t a picture stolen from another site. The clearer the picture the better, you’ll want to make sure that you have a good view of the product.
Is it possible to contact the business and receive a timely response? Can you email them easily, is there a physical address? Do they seem to genuinely care about providing customer support?
If they aren’t responsive to your inquiries, it’s not a good idea to part with your cash. Furthermore, an address or a method to contact them is key to feeling safe in knowing that they won’t disappear overnight. If you check their social media, you’ll want to know that they engage with their followers in the comments.
Look for policies posted on the site and the checkout. Is there a shipping policy? Is it possible to find out how long shipping is likely to take to your country?
Clear policies are an indication that the business has legal terms and both you and the business have responsibilities to ensure a successful transaction. Shipping and refund policies are important as well so that you have a clear picture of the written proof of when you could expect your order and what to do if it didn’t fit or work out for you when you received it. Remember that not all businesses are required to have a full refund option, and may offer an exchange or store credit instead.
How long has the store been around?
There are lots of incredible businesses launching but if they are new, look for other clues they are genuine. Look for an indication of who they are on their About Us or Story page. Check social media and how long they’ve been on there. Check if they’ve got a history of doing business in person. Many businesses have migrated online and now offer online shopping as a new feature to their business, this can be tough to gauge, in this case, so you’ll want to check other factors to be sure that you’re safe.
Are other consumers following them already? You should be able to see social media links on the footer of their website. Are they engaged with their audience on those accounts? What are people saying about them?
Social Proof is important for getting a good feel for a business. Consumers tend to be honest about their experiences. Good businesses will engage with their followers on social media or in blog comments; this is an indication of a business that values their customer.
General Online Safety Tips
Make sure you’re browsing safely, to begin with. We live in the age of quickly advancing technology. Aside from watching for unsafe sites, you’ll want to take precautions to protect your information on your device and with your bank.
Using fraud prevention software like Norton, Avast or other software can help you spot reported scam sites or unsecured checkouts as well as protect your device from harmful malware or intruders.
Maintain good security practices. Don’t use the same password on all websites, make sure you’re using a strong password and change it frequently. Ideally, every 60 days is good practice. If you share accounts with someone else, it’s best if you both have your own cards with individual pin numbers or separate login credentials. Don’t share card pins or passwords.
It’s not advisable to use public WIFI for online shopping. Public WiFi connections have a higher risk of interference and intrusion into your device. Your home internet connection is more secure, especially if it’s password protected.
Pay using either a credit card or Paypal, rather than a debit card or prepaid card. You’ll have more protection this way. Banks and PayPal have policies in place that protect customers from legitimate claims. Be aware that most of these protections will require you to wait at least 30 days from the day the product ships in order to ensure delivery before you’re able to file any claims of undelivered orders. That said, you’ll also want to be patient while the bank or PayPal conducts a fair review and investigation before ruling on either side.
Pay close attention to the web address. Don’t shop on a site where the address looks strange, has spelling mistakes and numbers among other things.
There are a lot of websites. How can you tell if they are secure before you spend money with them?
Here are a few things you should look for on your browser:
A padlock symbol should appear in the address bar to the left of the web address.
The website address should start with https://. This is an indication of SSL certification, the S stands for secure. If it just says http://, it would be best to avoid providing your information.
You can check to ensure there is a valid certificate - if you click the padlock symbol in the address bar, you should see the information on the site certificate. Avoid the website if it gives you a warning.
What To Do If You’ve Bought From An Illegitimate Source
So, you have made an online purchase and things didn’t go as expected. The order didn’t turn up and the store is not responding to your communication. What should you do? Be sure to check this post about the next steps as soon as you can and then dive into the tips below!
Use any details you can find on their website to contact them first. Give them a chance to put it right. Most times it might be an honest mistake or a postal company delay.
Check for store policies. You may be expecting to receive your parcel within a couple of days but the website may state where products are shipping from and how long it is likely to take. Keep in mind, there are a lot of factors that can cause shipping delays. There has been a significant increase in online shopping during the pandemic and that has led to delays with most carriers. It may be shipping from overseas and have to clear customs. Remember that many postal companies are also implementing extra safety measures to ensure the deliveries are made safe for the postal workers and you.
Credit cards come with protection. We mentioned this earlier in this post. Reach out to your card issuer to let them know what is happening.
If you paid by Paypal, file a dispute in their Resolutions Centre. It is there to protect consumers. Follow the guidelines set out by Paypal or your card issuer. Make sure a reasonable amount of time has gone by and you’ve made reasonable efforts to reach out to the business for support. When you open a dispute in the Paypal Resolution Centre, you have 20 days to file a claim with Paypal in the event you can’t reach an agreement with the store.
Communicate clearly with either Paypal or your card issuer. Provide as much evidence as you can to support your case, including screenshots of any conversations you’ve had with the store.
In the case of products that are not as described, you can contact your card issuer or Paypal straight away if the store is refusing to resolve the problem for you. In the case of your product not turning up, it’s best to be sure how long shipping is likely to take.
Throughout all of this, please keep in mind what is within the store’s control and what is not. They have control over the quality and description of the products as well as shipping orders in a timely manner. They are responsible for ensuring that they send the same product you ordered and that it’s packaged securely.
However, they don’t have control over how long shipping takes after the carrier accepts the package, any damage caused to the package during shipping, or the behavior of staff hired by the carrier. Keeping realistic expectations of what is and what is not in the store’s control will help both you and the store come to an amenable and reasonable resolution.
Who doesn’t need a shopping spree from time to time! It’s one of life’s great pleasures to receive a gift from yourself in the mail. No need to fight crowds in stores or malls and you can support the businesses that align with your values anytime! With great convenience comes great responsibility!
Remember to also trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t spend time on that site and move on. This will help you stay safe and support businesses that you feel more comfortable with, in the long run!
What are some of your tips to help fellow shoppers stay safe online? Share them in the comments below!