Today also presents a golden opportunity to break the cycle of long lines, savvy sales pitches, and hour-long searches for a parking spot. How? By making the leap into the Internet shopping revolution and doing your Christmas shopping and buying online.
If you’re thinking this sounds like a good idea, you’re not alone. Shoppers are expected to spend more than $61 billion this year on North American Internet sites alone an 85 percent increase over last year. However, since many of us are still beginners at purchasing items over the Internet, we share many of the same questions. Is it safe? It is reliable? How can we judge the quality of the product without seeing it in person? Answers to these questions and many more can be found below.
Advantages to Shopping Online
First of all, keep in mind that there is a difference between shopping and buying online. Shopping is essentially the act of searching for a product or item that you may be interested in purchasing. Buying is the actual completion of a financial transaction for a specific service, product or item. Although you may not be one to actually buy over the Internet, it is a good idea to at least consider shopping over the Internet. Here are some of the advantages to shopping online:
Convenience. Probably the biggest advantage of shopping online is the convenience that it provides. For example, let’s say you were interested in buying a new bicycle for your son or daughter. You might first find out some of the major bike manufacturers, and then go online to visit their Web sites. From there, you can find out specific information about the company’s bicycles, while also getting an idea of the costs. This is extremely convenient, as you can gather all this information from the comfort of your own home, without ever having to turn on your car or fight for a parking space.
Time-efficiency. Shopping online is not only convenient, but extremely time-efficient as well. Let’s say you were interested in purchasing a silverware set for your daughter and son-in-law. You could easily spend half a day running all over town comparing the brands and searching for the best price. Or, you could jump on the Internet and visit the Web sites of the stores in your area saving yourself much needed time.
Quality. The Internet is a great tool for checking the quality of a product. How can that be if you are not actually there to see, feel and hear it? For one, you can perform research on the Internet of a specific brand. For example, if you were deciding whether to buy a General Electric, Sony, or Panasonic stereo system, you could visit certain independent Web sites that judge the quality of these products, such as http://www.consumerreports.org/.
Comparison. Lastly, you can use the Internet to compare products. This is especially true given that most company and store Web sites provide specific and detailed information about their items. Hence, you can oftentimes gain much greater insight into the various products by visiting their Web pages rather than speaking with the frazzled salesperson at your local store.
Top Seven Tips for Shopping Online
Although shopping online can be a very exciting and beneficial process, it can also be nerve-wracking. For many of us, it may be the first time that we have considered buying something over the Internet. Fortunately though, the principles behind cyber-shopping are fairly similar to those we follow on a daily basis. The key is knowing how and where to shop. Here are seven tips to shopping online:
1. Compare Prices. Shop around to find the best deals. There are pricing comparison Web sites that quickly conduct the search for you. Check out http://shopper.cnet.com for computers and electronics and http://www.mysimon.com for a variety of gifts, including sports equipment, tools and toys.
2. Don’t expect speedy deliveries. Since many Web retailers don’t have all items in stock, you may pay more for overnight delivery and still not receive it until several days later.
3. Be prepared for tricky return policies. Some Web stores let you return merchandise to their physical stores, but many won’t. Always pay close attention to return, exchange and delivery policies. If no policy is stated, it’s best to shop elsewhere. And if you don’t like what you ordered from online stores without physical store locations, you generally have to pay for return shipping.
4. Sales taxes sometimes apply. While most companies don’t tax Web sales, some do. The online retailers that don’t charge a sales tax usually won’t let you return the item to their regular stores.
5. Look for watchdog approval. Some online companies don’t have good customer service. Look for logos of third parties that give their seal of approval, such as the Better Business Bureau. Before buying, visit http://www.bizrate.com, a site where consumers rate companies on such things as service and delivery time.
6. Credit cards can be your ally. Though safety is a concern of Web shoppers, credit card numbers are usually secure from theft when you buy from a reputable company. Most card issuers won’t hold you liable if you report the fraud within 24 hours.
7. Shop over the Internet, buy over the phone. If you enjoy shopping via cyberspace, but are not comfortable enough sending your credit card over the Internet, keep in mind that most companies will take purchases over the phone (and will answer further questions about specific products or items).
Searching for Specific Products & Companies Online
When you are interested in checking out a specific product or company, perform a search for them on the Internet. For example, if you are interested in possibly buying a new study desk for your house, you can do a search for such items as “office equipment,” “home office equipment,” “study desks,” etc. You can also perform searches for popular companies such as Office Depot, Ikea, Office Max, Sears, Kmart, Walmart, etc.
Another great place to start shopping and looking for specific products is at the newly expanded online shopping mall right here at http://www.e3mil.com – where you are guaranteed to have no lines and a pleasant shopping experience. To better serve your faith-based shopping needs this Christmas season, e3mil’s “e3Store” has dramatically expanded its product line from 300 products to more than 1,400. You can now browse its on-line shopping aisles for that perfect inspirational gift. Their rapidly growing selection features dozens of new Advent and Christmas gifts, as well as acclaimed books such as Jeff Cavins' just-published My Life on the Rock.
Christmas is the perfect season for sharing a “gift of faith” with your friends and family, and e3mil’s expanded e3Store is the perfect place to find that special gift.