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Nowadays, festival shopping in Bengaluru is no longer about rushing to crowded malls and grabbing that last piece of discounted product off the counter. One cannot think of a single product that cannot be bought over the internet. Sitting at the comfort of your home, you can order just about anything, ranging from electronics, clothes, cosmetics, jewellery, medicines, home needs, toys, books to even pets and plants.
The online shopping fever hasn’t spared anyone. As payment and replacement guarantee are in place for most products, even kids buy what they like with the ‘Cash on Delivery’ mode. Sudha, a resident of Malleshwaram says that her 14-year-old son once ordered a video game online and she did not know about it till the product was actually delivered.
Well, is online shopping as simple as it is made out to be? Not always. An online shopper who bought two LED lights from an e-commerce website shares his experience on MouthShut.com. He says he got junk delivered to his doorstep. When he raised the issue with customer care, he was promised a refund of Rs 100, as opposed to the Rs 670 he had paid for the product. When he questioned them, he was offered a replacement which he did not receive for a long time. This example calls for a deeper understanding of online shopping and extra care to be taken on the part of the buyer.
Why opt for online shopping?
- Online shopping is convenient. You no longer need to wait in queues, or worry about parking, or battle through the traffic on the roads.
- Easy and multiple payment options are available.
- Cashless transactions are possible too.
- Guarantee on the product quality and replacement—reputed websites typically promise delivery of original products and give 100% replacement guarantee.
- Many shopping websites offer attractive deals, discounts and offers on specific products.
- Online shopping helps save time and money.
- There are many international brands which have ventured into Indian markets the online way.
- For families staying in different cities, gifting is convenient through online shopping. Your relatives could be at any part of the country and you can send them presents—wrapped and customised.
People typically choose to purchase books, electronics and clothes online. Shopping for groceries is also increasingly becoming common, especially for working executives who might be short on time.
Here are some tips that will help you out if you opt to shop online.
Purchasing electronics online
There is a huge demand for electronics on online shopping websites—laptops, mobiles, pen drives, headsets, home appliances and accessories—there’s plenty available. Some new products even get launched online before they hit the retail stores. Some others are exclusively sold online.
Amazon, Flipkart, Jabong, HomeShop18, Snapdeal, Junglee and eBay are some of the leading online portals that act as one stop destinations for all electronics. Free shipping, cash on delivery and exchange/replacement are some of the benefits they offer.
- One of the biggest advantages of buying electronics online is the cost and convenience. Products are usually priced lesser than those available at retail stores. The offers provided online are also better than retail stores.
- The burden of carrying a heavy TV or refrigerator home and getting it installed is eliminated.
- With only a few clicks, one can compare prices effectively, place an order for the product and have them functionally installed as well. Price and model comparison too has never been so easy. With consumer reviews, the decision to buy is more informed.
- A useful website service that allows you to compare products and prices for electronics is FindYogi. it also connects you with expert bloggers for personalised advice.
So what could be the risk in buying electronics online? To give an example, Ashwin, a resident of Malleshwaram, bought an expensive phone online when it was being sold at a throwaway price. He was happy that he had saved Rs 7,000. A month later, he dropped the phone in water and it got damaged. The service shop refused to replace it, and asked him to pay Rs 4,000 to get it repaired. “My regular offline mobile shop would have given me insurance against damage caused by water, which I will not get from a shopping website. Never again will I buy a mobile online,” he repents.
Some risks and tips
- Check the terms and conditions before placing the order. Do not miss reading the starred (*) terms and conditions.
- Compare prices offline and online, and check what is on offer.
- Find out what repair and exchange policies are in place.
- In websites that offer a marketplace for various sellers, the seller details are sometimes not given completely. The invoice shows your billing details, address, and the product and portal details. The online portal here is just a dealer and not the manufacturer. A manufacturer is the company that made the product and the dealer is the person responsible for selling the same. The dealer may even be from your city or neighbourhood. Knowing this kind of information is helpful in case of repair or exchange requirements. One can search for the seller details on the website, if it is not directly mentioned.
- You can use credit cards (over net banking and debit card options) for online payment, as they have fraud coverage.
Shopping for clothing online
An area that is picking up off late is the sale of clothing and accessories online. There are many fashion brands from India and abroad, that are selling their merchandise online. Some of the reputed ones are Flipkart, Amazon, Myntra, Jabong, Yebhi, Koovs and Zivame.
- Exposure to eclectic brands and collections from across the world, which was otherwise inaccessible.
- Opportunity for new designers to sell their products through the online marketplace.
- Size matters. The grouse most people have with online shopping for clothes is that sizes vary from brand to brand. A size “S” in one brand could mean size “M” in another.
- What the buyer finally receives may be different from the image shown on the site. It is vital for a buyer to crosscheck the credibility of a shopping website.
- Even though exchange policies are in place, the buyer ends up getting frustrated on receipt of the wrong item—different colour, wrong size, etc. The exchange process too is rather cumbersome.
- It is difficult to differentiate between original brands and fake ones.
- Look out for starred marks on display pages that might have hidden terms and conditions.
In this case many people still prefer trying out the clothes or seeing the product for real before buying it. Radhika Srinivasan, a counsellor from Yelahanka, admits that she gets confused as to which size to pick, as her size varies from brand to brand and therefore, prefers going to a shop.
- If the website has the ‘home trial’ option, opt for it. This enables you to try out the selected clothes at your home before you pay for them.
- Go through the size chart mentioned for each item before buying. Check the measurements for each size to ensure what you buy fits you well.
Buying groceries online
Working professionals are the biggest beneficiaries of websites that allow for online grocery shopping. All forms of household needs, fruits, vegetables and other such items can be bought over the internet. Some of the trending websites here are BigBasket and ZopNow.
- The tendency to overspend on groceries reduces. Customers will generally have a list and buy accordingly.
- Comparing prices of the various brands of oils, pulses, juices etc is easier as against going to a supermarket and physically examining them.
- Searching for an item no longer means running through various sections of the supermarket. It is only a few clicks away.
- Long billing queues can be avoided, and so can parking issues.
- During peak hours, getting a delivery slot becomes difficult. One has to plan in advance to obtain the desired delivery slot.
- Once an order has been finalised, it is not possible to add more items to it. The customer will need to place a new order.
- Extra delivery charges could be application in case the minimum order requirement is not met.
- The quality and freshness of perishable items like fruits, vegetables, meat and so on may not always be up to the mark. There is a risk of ending up with expired groceries.
- Order via popular websites which have good customer service.
- Once the goods are delivered, consumers must check each item on the bill and the expiry date carefully.
- Be prompt in returning the items which are not of acceptable quality.
- If some items ordered are not delivered, make sure the final amount to be paid is adjusted.
- The best way to shop for groceries online is to set a budget and not cross it.
- It is better to opt for cash on delivery option for groceries, as price adjustment for items returned or replaced can be done effectively. This may take a few more days if the customer has already paid via online banking, as the seller has to credit the amount back and the process takes time.
While online shopping has certainly made life much simpler, shoppers need to take care that they do not overspend. The marketing strategies employed by shopping websites are sometimes so appealing, that customers may end up buying much more than they need. It can be addictive. This can be true especially with low cost items like groceries, discounted clothes and electronic accessories and combo offers. While offers like ‘deal of the day’ might appear economical, there are chances the product cost has been hiked up and then discounted; the product may even be defective or fake.
- Here are some general guidelines for you to follow when you shop online.
- Ensure that the website address bar reads “https:” for a safe financial transaction.
- Compare the prices of the same product on various websites. Real user reviews on review websites like Mouthshut.com or on social media pages of the websites are reliable.
- Do a bit of research to see if the product is really worth the money.
- There are some sellers who insist that once the seal is broken or packet is opened, the product cannot be taken back. So next time you shop online, take special care to familiarise yourself with the rules, policies and legal terms of the seller’s items.
- Review the return, refund, and shipping and handling policies.
- Check about the minimum amount of purchase for door delivery, and calculate the cost including delivery charges to make sure it works out right.
- Check with customer support if you will get any solution if you discover a problem or if you are not completely satisfied with the product.
- Ensure there is someone to collect the order in case you are not present at the time of delivery.
- Examine your purchase for any defects as soon as you receive it, before the courier staff moves out.
- Ensure the warranty card is activated.
- Always remember: When something seems too good to be true, it probably is not!
With trusted websites, shopping can be done any time, anywhere. Today there are attractive Easy Monthly Instalment options too. While all this may online shopping seem easy, convenient and reasonable even, it is important to not get carried away. Read the fine print, place the order safely and start exploring the massive world of online purchases. Happy shopping!
Updated 27th March 2015 with reference to FindYogi.