Why Not . . . Shop Online?

Nov 20, 2013


The big shopping weekend of the year is nearly upon us, and with more than 140 million shoppers expected to shop online for Black Friday through Cyber Monday deals, I wanted to share a few tips for taking advantage of the benefits of online shopping whether it’s during the holidays or throughout the year.

Personally, as someone who lives in rural Oregon, online shopping is a life-saver. While I would prefer to shop in person for many items from clothing to decor, when this option isn’t available, shopping online can work just as easily, and often better. Let me explain:

Benefits of Shopping Online:

1. Endless Options – often online shops have more selection than what is found in stores which enables you to get exactly what you want in the proper size, color or style that you desire.

2. Buyers’ Market – with the endless options, you can compare prices and make sure you are getting the best deal on the precise item you want.

3. Save Time – While there are some days I love perusing and trying on clothes, there are others when I know what I want and I just want to get it and move on with my day. Online shopping is perfect for busy schedules and anyone who typically would have a long commute to their favorite shops.

4. Save Money – there are numerous ways to save money. After all, with it being a buyers’ market, brands have to come up with even more creative ways to bring you to their website, and savings is always at the top of the list.

How to Save Money:

  • Google It to Find the Lowest Price – Often depending upon the website that is selling the item, there will be semi-annual sales that other sites don’t offer, so be sure to search the entire web before purchasing the top, dress or pair of shoes you had your eye on. Simply type in the name of your item (brand and description) and press search. You’ll be amazed at what pops up.
  • Bookmark Your Favorites and Have Patience – I am a fan of using the bookmarklet Hukkster. If you know exactly what you want, but don’t want to pay full price and are willing to wait, simply click the Hukk It button that you will need to drag to your toolbar, and you will be emailed when your item goes on sale.
  • Follow Favorite Fashion, Decor and Shopping BlogsMizHattan is one of my go-to fashion websites to keep on top of all of the latest sales on women’s clothing. And while TSLL isn’t strictly a fashion website, I will often alert you to sales at the sites I frequent as well. So stay tuned!
  • Find Promo Codes and Coupon Savings – before clicking “Purchase”, scour the web for extra potential savings. Here are a few of the top coupon sites: retailmenot.commycoupons.comsmartsource.com, and coupons.com. And when in doubt, do a quick Google search for “brand” & “promo code”. I have found more savings doing the latter and saved myself more than a few bucks.
  • Wait for the Semi-Annual Sales – Most labels, shops and department stores have semi-annual sales at the tail end of the two major shopping seasons (fall and spring). Significant savings can be found in December/January as well as June/July.
  • Sign up for Newsletter Alerts – I have signed up for many newsletters from my favorite brands, and by knowing when the sales begin and being able to stop by on the first day of the sale, more sizes are available on the most popular products that consumers will flock to. So many designers are offering flash sales in the middle of the week throughout the year, that you don’t want to miss out.
  • Purchase Prime Memberships – If you are a frequent shopper at a certain site (Amazon for example is my monthly stop), purchase the membership savings option that is available. Amazon offers a Prime Membership of $79/year which provides free 2-day shipping (did you know they are going to ship on Sundays nationwide beginning in January – NYC and LA already have this luxury through the holidays). A certain savings if you are shipping items often.
  • Sample Sales – If you are lucky enough to live in a metropolis that offers sample sales at your favorite designer shops, these sales are gold-mines and worth the effort to work your way through the crowds.

But just as there are a multitude of happy customers who have found their deals and treasures on the web, there are always horror stories. With anything, knowledge is power, so here are a few ways to reduce those unnecessary headaches:

How to Reduce Unnecessary Headaches

Check the Return Policies – check the window (number of days) you have to return your item. Often small labels will have a very tight return policy – 10-15 days, so be careful and quick in your decisions if you choose to buy. Also, note if sale items can be returned. Sometimes, sales on reduced items are final.

Check the Size Guidelines – Sizes vary depending upon the brand, designer and country, so look at the actual measurements of each size instead.

Shipping CostsZappos and Nordstrom both offer free shipping on delivery and returns and many other retailers are learning that this is a deal-maker or deal-breaker if they don’t offer their customers savings. Often, they won’t automatically calculate the savings in, but will instead mention a promo code at the top of their site which means it is up to you find it, so look closely. If the shipping is excessive, it may not be that much of deal, but more often than not, the shipping is very slight.

Only Shop on Trusted Websites – there are too many websites that want to take advantage of the uninformed customer. A simple piece of advice is that if it looks too good to be true and it’s on a website you’ve never shopped on or heard of, don’t do business. Instead, shop only on sites that you know to be trusted.

Do In-Store Research if Possible – One of the reasons I’ve become more confident when I shop online and do it more frequently is that I’m buying brands that I am familiar with. For example, I understand what a 27 is for J.Brand jeans and how that same 27 differs for MiH jeans. Why? Because I’ve tried them on. Same with shoes.  While in Paris a few years ago, I wanted to try on a pair of Lanvin ballet flats. I wasn’t in the market to buy a pair, but I knew I wouldn’t have the opportunity to try them on in person any time soon. Turns out, I need a size larger than I expected because they run small. For future purchases, this will save me a headache.

Read Customer Reviews – I don’t suggest you take all reviewer’s comments at face value, but do read through them. After all, you don’t know their body type or experience with clothes in general. However, if a similar comments pops up frequently, it may be something to consider before buying.

Now with these tips and strategies in your arsenal I am confident you will have a successful and money-saving holiday shopping season this year. Be sure to stop by TSLL next Thursday (November 28) and Sunday (December 1) to discover all of the sales, deals and promo codes that you’ll want to take advantage of this bustling shopping season. Happy holidays everyone!

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11 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Shop Online?

  1. Great post Shannon, especially since I do more shopping online than in brick and mortar stores these days. One more thing that I do is try and shop through ebates.com. It isn’t a gimmick, it really works. Basically you sign up for free, check to see if your shopping site participates, click through ebates and you automatically get cash back on your purchases. You actually get real cash, not store credit, etc.
    Not to spam your comments, but here is a link where you can sign up:
    http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=SHHSpRw8SePIsBPeZNPEkg%3D%3D

    (feel free to delete/not post this, but I still wanted to share the wealth 🙂 )
    Cheers, Carrie

  2. Thanks for the great tips, Shannon. You might also check out Priceblink which shows you available coupons for the site you’re shopping on and the lowest price available for the product you want to purchase. Also, I use Ebates, and it’s just as Carrie said.

  3. Shannon, while I appreciate all the tips, I want to point out that the trend toward online shopping is really killing small business in this country. Small retailers often can’t manage an online presence because they can’t meet the demand of the global marketplace. If everyone is busy searching for a deal from mass retailers, we are going to see a serious decline in the number of small, solely owned, and often uniquely stocked boutiques, food, and service providers. Next weekend, after Black Friday, I urge you and all your readers to support Small Business Saturday and visit your local boutiques for special gifts, personalized services, and made-from-scratch yummies that support a local economy. Have a happy holiday!

    Kelly (in Portland – holla!)

    1. Kelly,
      Thank you for reminding readers about the importance of shopping locally and supporting small businesses – during Small Business Saturday and year round. Some of the most unique and cherished items I have found are from small businesses and I couldn’t agree with you more.

  4. Great post! I know many people who just love the crowds during the holidays and enjoy the challenge. However, I’m not one of them! I prefer to shop online and just about every seller offers great sales and deals on shipping. I get the benefit of finding great gifts while enjoying a warm beverage in my fuzzy slippers!

  5. As someone who works in high-end, commission based retail, my biggest pet peeve is someone who comes in , tries on a bunch of stuff, and then buys it online. You’re already in the store, you already found your size, you can take it home right now. I don’t get it! You wasted your own time, you wasted my time. It’s pretty well-known that most retailers price-match.

    1. I can completely sympathize with this frustration. I have never been an advocate of this. What I was inferring regarding knowledge of brands, is that when I had purchased a specific brand in-store in the past, it allows me to make a confident decision in the future should I not be able to come into the store or if they don’t carry my size, etc.

      Thank you for allowing shoppers to see all sides of online shopping – who it helps and who it hinders.

  6. Shopping online is great. I am a big fan of NotOnTheHighStreet.com and Etsy.com where you can buy beautiful, handmade and unique products that would be hard to find in a conventional shop.

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