E-commerce has taken a huge jump in last couple of years. While the whole of India is still not shopping Online, but majority of it is!
Their popularity is not difficult to understand. They offer a convenient place to see various products, compare prices, read opinions of people who have purchased it previously, get discounts, and with the help of minimal effort purchase something that would have previously required you to go outside and actually talk to people.
All the convenience you get is definitely great, but there are notable downsides to online shopping as well. There is a delay between purchasing something and actually getting it delivered in your hands. Then there is this major flaw of getting duped by the seller, since you don’t actually see the product before buying.
With Flipkart’s #BigBillionDays or Snapdeals Discount Days or Amazon Festive days, an average consumer is bound to make the mistake while purchasing products as one is normally gazing at the humongous discounts these online sites provide.
But if you keep a few things in mind, online shopping can be a very pleasing experience. I’ve personally switched to online shopping for practically everything and I’ve never regretted it once. Sure, there have been a few setbacks but overall it has been a good experience and maybe if you keep these ten things in mind, it would be for you as well.
1. Shop From A Trusted Source
There are a handful of major E-Commerce sites in India, namely Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, and Ebay. I personally stick to these and only these sites for any online shopping I do. If the item you want is not on one of these sites then try waiting for a few days before trying to but the item from some shady site. I’m not saying all other sites other than those four are necessarily shady but I personally don’t trust them and neither would expect anyone else to. Those are Hit and Miss sites, sometimes you’ll get exactly what is shown – sometimes you won’t.
There are instances of people getting a counterfeit product even after they are charged the actual price. One of my relatives has fallen to such scam, he decided to purchase a Tag Heuer original watch for Rs. 1,999 from some mail in his Spam box – not to mention when it arrived it was a 1st copy also, nothing could be done as there was no way to reach customer care.
Buying from a trusted Source is important for the same reasons you don’t buy an item from some random guy in shady clothes in some dark alley near your house. You only buy items from trusted shops or outlets, the same logic applies here
2. Buy From A Trusted Seller
After you have checked the source, checking the seller is the important next step. People are completely unaware of the “Seller System” on sites like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, or eBay. Most people think when they purchase something from Amazon they are getting it directly from Amazon but in most cases that’s not true at all. Most of the times, all of the sites mentioned are simply acting as a middleman to third party sellers, providing them a bigger platform to sell their products to customer. In most cases, you are buying from that seller, not Amazon.
People often put up Flipkart or Amazon as bad name and Media starts calling names to these site when a customer receives a stone or an empty box in the delivery. I do understand that as the platform, these sites are responsible for what is being sold under their brand name but at the end of the day the only reason you got a stone or a brick in your box is because you did not check the seller before purchasing.
Not all sellers are customer dumping, there’s a way to find out which sellers to avoid and from which to buy the item. Among these sellers there are some that have a higher priority than others. Amazon likes to mark them as ‘Amazon Fulfilled’ sellers with that telltale black badge next to the price. On Flipkart it’s called ‘Flipkart Advantage’ with the blue logo. Snapdeal similarly has the ‘Snapdeal Fulfilled’ text with the SD+ logo, which again only appears on product pages. eBay has a ‘Top-rated seller’ badge that appears right in the search list.
When you see these logos, it’s a sign that the seller is either the site itself (WS Retail for Flipkart, Cloudtail for Amazon) or a highly trusted seller. It also means that the site will source the product from the seller and is then in charge of packaging, and shipping it to you, which means that chances of receiving a brick is reduced to Zero.
3. Online Transactions are not Evil, Don’t fear them
When it comes to buying stuff online, most people fall into two criterias – the extremely careless and the other that is extremely paranoid. It’s not that you shouldn’t be careful when using your credit and debit cards online, but it shouldn’t be to the point where you are scared like crazy to use it all (As if Flipkart or whichever site you use is going to take all the money from your account just because you entered a PIN).
The important thing to remember that the system is designed for your protection. So no, using your card online doesn’t mean someone will steal all your money. The main thing to keep in mind while paying via Debit or Credit Card is checking the URL, the http:// will change to https:// (Very Important to check this)
If you are even more paranoid, use net banking, where instead of giving away your credit card information on the seller’s page, you are instead interacting entirely within your bank’s website and then the bank merely transfers the amount to the seller without the seller ever finding out your card or account information.
There’s help from your retailer too. If the transaction does go through but does not process for some reason then the site can sort it out for you. Most of the top E-Commerce sites have a very efficient customer care system in place to sort out all your issues. A polite tweet or email usually does the trick.
4. Discounts and Low Prices Can Be Often An Illusion
Discounts are nice. Everybody likes discounts. But some prices are too good to be true.
Always remember, If something’s too good to be true, it’s not.
If the price tag of a product starts ringing warning bells in your head – don’t buy it. The example mentioned earlier of Tag Heuer watch can be referred for this point as well. Often it’s worth spending a bit more to ensure peace of mind. Making sure the product is genuine and brand new is greater than any discount.
Also the discounting system is a Sham, if it’s one thing I hate these E-Commerce sites for, it’s their complete sham of a discount system. Most of the products on these sites are never sold at MRP. They only list it there so they can show you how much lower they are offering it to you. This is a good way to fool customers who are not aware that many products, such as mobile phones, these are never sold at MRP, it’s good to know the actual price of the product before buying it.
If we do come across a good deal, we usually Tweet about it or on our Facebook Page. Not to mention there is Deals For Geeks who does this full time. Everything else is not worth the effort, and especially not worth buying from a shady seller.
5. Always Check Reviews
This one has its ups and downs but it is still worth checking out user reviews before purchasing. Theses reviews are usually rigged or paid off by the sellers, but it’s really easy to find out the fake reviews from the genuine ones. Many a times, people leave detailed and insightful reviews of products and by using a little common sense you can make out if the review is a fake or from a genuine buyer.
6. Don’t Buy Immediately or Before Comparing Prices
It’s a good idea not to forget about the existence of offline retail, which still pretty much exists. Often an item can actually be cheaper to just buy from a store. The prices on E-Commerce sites keep fluctuating all the time. If you don’t need something urgently it’s best to wait and watch for it to hit its lowest before picking something up. Wait for some special days or Days like these when all major E-Commerce sites have huge discounts.
If you want to buy something, check the prices across multiple sites. There are sites that can help you compare prices online if you don’t want to do it manually, such as PriceBaba and MySmartPrice. Also, just make sure when you compare prices, you prioritise getting a good product over getting a cheap one.
7. Use The Refund Policy But Don’t Abuse It
You should always use the refund policy when actually needed, don’t be afraid of using the refund policy. Now, I don’t mean you should be a complete Freak and just purchase products to try them out and then use the return policy to send them back and get a refund. However, if there is a genuine issue, such as if it’s a clothing item that does not fit or a product that simply does not work or meet your expectations then you should definitely use the refund option.
Also, keep in mind, if the item is returned in good condition then you should get a full refund within a week. Make sure you don’t mess it up just because you are returning it. That doesn’t help anyone.
I have been shopping Online for years, back when Flipkart was just started, to be precise. There is nothing to be scared of Online Shopping. With just a little bit of care and vigilance it’s easy to have a great online shopping experience. Follow the points mentioned above and you should be good for almost everytime.