The eCommerce industry has grown by leaps and bounds. With more than 7.3 million online stores worldwide, the number of online shoppers in the U.S alone is expected to reach 300 million by 2023.
Most people resort to online shopping due to the convenience it offers. Online shopping is also populated by the varieties available to shoppers in one place. However, if you aren't careful, you might find yourself walking into all sorts of scams. So in this detailed guide, we're going to walk you through everything you need to know about online shops and how to secure yourself from scams.
Let's dive straight into it!
Why is Online Shopping Rising in Popularity
It's fair to say that many people have shifted from traditional shopping to online shopping. But what's the reason behind its rising popularity? Let's shed some light on it:
Ease of Use
If you always despised the idea of wandering from shop to shop, then the era of eCommerce has most likely made shopping easier than ever for you. If you have a packed schedule, you do not have to worry about visiting the store after work or on your rest days. Online convenience shopping offers one of the main reasons it is rising in popularity with each passing day.
Determine what you're looking for, find a reliable seller, and you can get pretty much anything you need to be delivered to your doorstep.
Deals & Discounts
The frequent deals & discounts online shops offer are key factors behind the growing interest in internet shopping in the USA. Unlike traditional shopping, online shopping gives you greater control over the amount you pay before buying a product.
Additionally, you can find thousands of wholesalers on popular eCommerce websites like Amazon and AliExpress to purchase merchandise from and even start your own online business.
At the same time, due to the competition in online shopping, store owners often put up exclusive promotions. This helps them penetrate the market, and also, it captures the attention of the buyers. Buyers are also offered seasonal bonuses, and promotions like the Black Friday sales, which see lots of prices slashed reasonably low.
With online shopping, you don't have to hop from one shop to another and pay the sky-rocketing fares or fuel costs. With thousands of online shopping websites worldwide, you can find all the variety you need in the world within a few taps.
We'd go as far as to say that you're likely to find more variety in online stores than what you'd get while doing traditional shopping. And this is large because there are so many sellers, even those beyond your regular reach or market options.
Even if an item you're searching for is out of stock, you don't have to sweat it. Go to another store and place your order. You can find hundreds of online shops and their reviews, all on the same platform: US-Reviews, to further make your search easier.
How to Shop Safely from Online Stores?
The growing number of scams is a dark side of online shopping. However, with a little bit of care and knowledge, you can easily prevent them. So below are a couple of pointers to shop safely from online stores:
Don't Provide Additional Information
Online shopping often requires a bit of your personal information, such as your name, contact number, email, and home address. But that is pretty much all it takes to order from just about any store in the world, given that your payment method is cash on delivery. Before providing any additional information, think twice and determine if it's something that can potentially harm you.
Understand Refund Policies
Online shopping will always come with its fair share of scams. Therefore, always understand the refund policies of the store/the platform before making a purchase. Most people who get scammed online often do not know that they can get their money refunded. Popular eCommerce platforms like Amazon have strict policies regarding scams and often provide instant refunds to customers who complain. There are also fraudulent sites that won't mention that they do not offer a return policy. Take caution with these sites as they can be the basis of major scam sellers. This means you should take the time to read the terms and conditions attached to any site before using them.
Enable Two-Factor Authorization
You may have enabled two-factor authorization (2FA) for your social media accounts. But it's about time that you do the same for your bank account as well. 2FA gives you plenty of time to cancel any unauthorized transactions conducted from your bank account. It's also a secure way to protect your payment methods.
Only Purchase FDA Approved Products
The FDA is the regulatory body for various products, including foods, cosmetics, medicines, and health supplements. Always keep in mind that before you purchase any personal care products, make sure to double-check if they're FDA approved. Find out the regulatory body they should fall under for other products and see if they are approved.
Evaluate Site Security
Determine if a site is secure before entering it. You don't need to be tech-savvy to do that. All you have to do is check whether the site's address on your browser begins with "http" or "https." The extra "s" signify that the website is secured and your data is encrypted. You want your data encrypted primarily to avoid data theft and mining from either the site or third-party hackers.
Use a Secure Connection
Most people do not consider this, but we suggest avoiding placing online orders from public connections. Using the free Wi-Fi network of your neighbors might be tempting, but you never know what information they're stealing from you in return. This is why it is better to be safe than sorry. Get a personal network connection that is encrypted and password-protected to use for things like online shopping and payment.
Only use secure payment methods
If you have to make payment before delivery, then be sure only to use secure payment methods. Otherwise, consider third-party payment options like PayPal and Payoneer as your option for payment on delivery methods. Most of these third-party payment options also have their ways of detecting scam sales and sketch payments.
What Kind of Products and Shops Can You Find Online?
There are no limitations to what you can order online. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that online shopping offers more variety than traditional shopping. You are not even limited to products alone; several online sites now offer sales of services, virtual and in person. It's pretty much everything you want and needs at the tip of your fingers. Due to this fact, online shopping behavior has changed a lot in the past years.
Here are a few of the many products/shops that you can commonly find online:
- Personal Care Products
- Kids Toys
- Office Supplies
- Pet Shops
- Sex Shops
- Online Clothing Stores
5 Tips to Find the Best Online Stores
Now that you know more about online safety, it's time to shop. However, you can quickly get confused and not buy from the best stores with so many options. So how can you find the best online stores? Keep the following tips in mind to clear out your way:
Understand what you Need
We often make the mistake of jumping the gun too early. Before you log in to any store, always have a clear understanding of what you want to order. Preferably highlight what you want down to the last detail. Then create an alternative option, which you can accept if the primary option isn't available. For instance, if you purchase new toys for your child or newborn, then learn more about kids toys by age. Find out what toys are best and which can be offered as second best. You can also predetermine the toy you want to buy and focus on getting it as your primary motive in the stores. This will help you avoid confusion when you have hundreds of options to choose from.
Focus on Safety & Prevention
The sincerity online store owners show towards the safety of their customers' data is a great way to gauge their reliability. This includes taking some of the cautions that we mentioned above, such as creating a secure website. Along with only asking for personal information from the customers necessary for them to fulfill the order. Sites that demand extra information without offering a clear and valid reason for it should be avoided. For instance, an Adult toy shop may require an identification form to verify that you are old enough to purchase.
Evaluate Customer Service
There's one thing that all the top online stores prioritize the most, and that's effective customer service. Online shopping is based on trust, and good customer service adds an element of inclusivity for the shoppers and makes them feel like they aren't dishing out their money on a random website.
So determine how responsive and eager the customer service of a store is to help you. Determine how useful their help is and how polite or attentive they are to your concerns. The simplest way to do that is by dropping them a message and asking general questions regarding the product you're about to purchase.
Go Through Customer Reviews
Checking customer reviews is unarguably one of the most important aspects before placing an online order. While every store can have a couple of bad reviews, always focus on the majority. If too many people have had bad experiences from an online store, then re-evaluate shopping from there. And if you have to use a site with lots of bad reviews, highlight what the general complaint might be and if it's something that pertains to what you need. For instance, if the negative reviews are targeted at those who shopped on their homeware, you can not use them for any homeware shopping. However, if their negative reviews revolve around poor customer support or multiple debits on a single payment, you should stay clear completely.
Fortunately, you can learn from those bad experiences with the help of reputable review platforms like U.S-Reviews and find the best online shopping websites. Browse through various categories and hundreds of companies dealing in different niches to make sure you spend your money at the right place.
Ask your Friends
Like reviews, word of mouth can also be a great way to determine if an online store is trustworthy. If a couple of your friends or family members have already had bad experiences with a store, then it's highly likely that yours wouldn't be any different either.
Things to Keep in Mind While Shopping Online
Usually, it is easy to avoid receiving faulty products if you remember what to look out for. So here are a couple of things you need to keep in mind before ordering online:
Compare Product Prices
Control over prices is one of the biggest perks you have while shopping online. Make use of it, and before you impulsively place an order, explore the market to see if you're being ripped off. But remember that this doesn't mean you should shop from stores with prices that look too good to be true. Find the average price of what you're about to purchase, check the reviews, and only then place your order.
Verify Product Size
We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to verify the product size! This especially applies when you're purchasing clothes online. Remeasuring the size you need and, most importantly, learning more about finding the best online clothing stores can make your life all the easier. It is essential to note that sizing is a major online shopping issue, so if a seller refuses to offer a detailed size and measurement list or offers a one size fits all answer to everything, you should be wary of the site.
Know your Rights
Every eCommerce store you order from has certain policies. If you placed your order months ago and you're still waiting, then it's about time that you use your consumer rights. For starters, you don't have to accept the order delivered way past its original delivery time until and unless there's a good reason for it. Most online stores also offer compensation in vouchers, so don't forget to report it.
Understand Import Taxes
As we mentioned earlier, if the prices look too good to be true, then they probably are. Most websites that ship overseas do not include the import taxes on their listings. This can make a drastic impact on the overall price of the product. This is why before you place an order, it's worth reading their terms & policies to determine if the price is inclusive of all taxes or not.
Protect your Privacy
Have you recently started to receive too many spammy phone calls and messages? Well, the reason for that is probably because you shared your number while shopping online. Data theft has become common nowadays. And while there isn't much you can do to prevent it, we suggest registering a different number for placing online orders. At least this way, you can protect your privacy and avoid getting promotional calls and texts 100 times a day.
Whether online shopping replaces traditional shopping is still up for debate. But one cannot deny that nowadays, more and shopping behavior is shifting towards online due to the convenience, lucrative discounts, and overall variety it offers.
If you feel reluctant to shop online due to scams, then following the tips and pointers in this guide is all you need to enhance your experience. So shop online safely, and when in doubt, resort to reviews to clear your confusion.