Clued up: learning how to shop effectively online is vital CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
When more than 50 per cent of all shopping is done online, learning how to shop effectively is vital. Learning how to shop online is a war on waste – plus, it will save you money in the long term.
The UK is one of the leading online retail markets in Europe, and online sales were up 16 per cent from 2015, hitting a huge £133bn in 2016.
So how can you become an online shopping pro? How can you make sure you don’t get caught out by scams or find yourself stuck with ill-fitting clothes? Here, retail experts share their top tips to make the most of online shopping.
1 Don’t jump the gun
Natasha Rachel Smith, consumer affairs editor for TopCashback.co.uksays: “Find the item you want, add it to your shopping basket and sit on your hands for a couple of days. Retailers see shoppers’ activity, so many will nudge you with an email, including a discount code, typically of between five and 50 per cent, to motivate you to commit to the purchases. It makes the wait well worth it.”
2 Try second-hand marketplaces
Sarah Parsons is founder of Bamboo Global, a website dedicated to promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle. She says that all the things that would remain true offline – such as scouring second-hand bookstores – apply online too.
“The simplest way to introduce eco-shopping is to search online second-hand bookstores such as Waterstones marketplace, or charity shops before thinking about buying new. It’s easy and you’ll find plenty of bargains – Oxfam even sells wedding dresses.” Browsing all these different sites doesn’t take an age, either – nine out of 10 UK homes can get superfast broadband, thanks to BT, so trawling through second-hand online shops is a breeze.
3 Embrace voucher codes
Using voucher codes can make shopping seriously cheaper. Imagine having 20 per cent off all your purchases just because you signed up for a site.
“Online shopping is hugely convenient and usually less expensive. However, there are many tips and tricks that can be utilised to make it more enjoyable and even cheaper. With retailers desperately competing for your custom, you can often take full advantage of cashback sites, voucher codes and price comparisons”, says Mike Meade, founder of 360VoucherCodes.co.uk.
Save time by gathering a host of codes and discounts together in one place. Ben Corrigan, co-founder and marketing director of Pouch, explains: “Pouch is a free browser extension that saves you time and money. It automatically finds and displays the best voucher codes as you shop online on more than 3,000 UK stores. Once you download Pouch you will never need to visit a voucher code website again.”
4 Be safe
Thanks to BT’s more than five million secure and convenient Wi-Fi hotspots all around the country, any fears you have about the security of using public Wi-Fi when you are out and about is not an issue.
5 Shop around
Don’t feel scared to shop around for the best price. Keith White, head of PR at Dobell Menswear, suggests: “Buy cheap: buy twice. Don’t be led by price alone. Do your research and add a few items in a few shopping baskets on different sites. You don’t need to buy everything you need from the same shop; don’t be led by convenience. You are in charge of what you want to buy.”
6 Do your research
So many people end up buying unflattering clothes that looked great on stick-thin models. Keith White advises: “Look through the company’s Instagram feed, especially if they have shoppable Instagram on their site, and try and find a similar-shaped customer wearing the item you want.”
7 Use social media
“Follow blogs and your favourite retailers online via social media,” says Keith White, “and sign up to emails to keep up to date with what your favourite brands are pitching as the top trends of the season and new product releases.” And with BT’s nationwide web of Wi-Fi hotspots, you’ll be able to do this wherever you are when you’re out and about.
8 Look for cashback
“Some sites even offer cashback, which is a great way of topping up the funds. For purchases made through these sites, you can earn a percentage back, which quickly adds up. Don’t forget to use those points too – many retailers now offer points redemption when you spend money with them, meaning you can quickly get something back for all that shopping,” advises Tom Goode, head of marketing at M and M Direct.