Online shopping has become such a natural part of the connected experience, that it is easy to forget there are still many South Africans yet to become part of the ecommerce culture. But what should first-time online shoppers be aware of? Like any technology, it can be quite intimidating. Melissa Signor, Digital Marketing Supervisor at Teljoy, looks at the dos and don’ts of online shopping.
Research your product
Even before you start buying online, it’s time to get down to basics. While it’s incredibly easy to buy a product online, the buyer beware (caveat emptor for Latin fans) principle applies. It is therefore essential to research the product you want to purchase. Read online reviews and do your research on the website you want to purchase from. Check how long the company has been in business, how professional the site looks, if there is a thriving community (think product reviews below the items), and so on. It is also important to compare different online stores to one another. It might be better to spend a few more Rands buying from a more reputable store than a relatively unknown one. Also, reach out to your friends on social media and ask whether they have had any experience dealing with the online store. Better yet, visit the online retailers’ social media pages and review ratings as well as visitor complaints or compliments.
So, when you start browsing, you will also get a feel for how much the going rate for a product is. While low-value items do not significantly differ from site to site, you will notice that electronics do. In some instances, a TV set or washing machine might be cheaper by a few hundred Rands on Site X versus Site Y. For instance, if you visit the Teljoy site, you may find the items more affordable because of their unique selling model of rent-to-own, rather than the full cost of buying a product in the usual way. Furthermore, keep in mind any upcoming sales or holiday periods that might impact on pricing. Black Friday at the end of the year is a well-known one, but subscribe to newsletters from various online stores to get a heads-up when they might be running a sale or specials. As part of this, always bear in mind what delivery fees for a product are. Sometimes, a product might look budget-friendly only to have it come with an exorbitant delivery fee. Again, a site like Teljoy offers free delivery so you do not have any hidden costs to be surprised by later.
Create a profile
Once you have found a reputable site that has the product you are looking for, it’s time to create a profile. Obviously, you must put your correct details and a valid delivery address. If these are wrong, don’t be surprised if you never get your product. Also, check the URL has a padlock in front on your browser address bar and reads “https://” before giving the Web address. This shows that the details you are submitting is done through a secure window. And while nobody loves to read the fine print, it is useful to read the Terms and Conditions on a site when it comes to delivery times and fees, return policies, and the like, to ensure it meets with your expectations.
Okay, this is the one you’ve been waiting for – what about the security of the site and the safety of your credit (or debit) card details? Fortunately, the majority of online stores have invested significantly in keeping your data and their systems safe. After all, it is in their best interest to not have a messy media scandal and give the customer peace of mind when transacting on the site.
However, keep the padlock of the previous point in mind. Ensure your laptop/computer/mobile device of choice is updated with the latest security software. It just makes it that much more difficult for your system to get hacked. Finally, sites will generally state at the checkout stage of the purchase that your details will be secure, so just keep this in mind before filling in your credit or debit card information.
The nature of our connected lives means that we have profiles and accounts on a plethora of sites, each requiring usernames and passwords. It goes without saying that the humble password presents the cornerstone of access to any account. If you have a weak one (think your child’s first name, the name of your dog or even your date of birth), the best security in the world cannot protect you. Instead invest in either a password management solution (there are some very good free ones available online as well) that generates a difficult password and saves it in an encrypted fashion online, or use a password that contains uppercase, lowercase, numerical, and special characters. And while the temptation is there to simply use one password for all your online sites, this is a big risk. If it is compromised once, your entire online profile is at risk including your online banking, social networking profiles, and the like.
Once you’ve got the security principles down, you should go out there and have fun browsing, comparing, and searching for the hottest deals for the product you are looking for. The convenience of online shopping is without equal. Be safe and enjoy it.