Flick through any lifestyle magazine and you are sure to find articles on designer products versus their high street equivalent. These articles often include consumer reviews, price comparisons and ‘where to buy it’ solutions to help you, the end buyer, find great deals the next time you go shopping.
However, such useful information is almost impossible to find when it comes to tackling the world wide web and if we do find it, how do we know whether or not to trust it? Most of us these days consider ourselves to be Internet savvy (or at the very least we can get by) and we all know that great bargains are to be had – IF WE CAN FIND THEM! That’s where this article can help. Follow the 7 easy steps as a guide to shopping around and you’ll be enjoying those bargains in no time.
1. Find the product of your dreams
Whether it is from a magazine, in your favourite shop or on the internet already; the first thing you need to do is set a benchmark for your product. Whether it is a designer label or a tin beans, the same concept applies.
Take note of:
• The product name
• The product description
• Any codes or references that the product may have
• The size of the product
• The exact colour of the product
• The price!
2. Do your research
This is where you can really make the internet work for you and use it to learn about your product. Online retailers market their products by using keywords, and good sellers will use these terms in their product name and description.
Your next task:
• Identify the ‘keywords’ from the product you have already found. Pay particular
attention to words used as an industry standard, not words that you may use in everyday life. For example; The industry standard for describing a full-length mirror or bedroom dressing mirror is to call it a ‘cheval mirror’ this is certain to be one of the keywords that mirror sellers use to list this type of mirror in their online shop.
• Brainstorm. Take a scrap piece of paper and scribble down any words that you would use to describe your product.
• Once you have your list of words, prioritise them and chose the top five to ten words that you feel best describes and are most relevant to the product.
3. Start your search
Armed with your list of keywords and product reference codes, we recommend that you invest as much time as you can spare into searching the web for your product. Type different combinations of your keywords into search engines and see what results come up. You will quickly identify the keywords that don’t work for you. For example; if you are looking for flying lessons and have identified one of your keywords as flights, it is highly likely that when you search using this keyword in isolation that you will only find lists of holiday companies or airlines trying to sell you commercial flights. You would therefore look to be more descriptive in your search or not to use this term at all.
Likewise, your search results may bring up blogs or articles about the product or similar products. In some cases it is worth reading these as often people are able to assist your search and point you to online stores you might not have otherwise found, or they may often advise and feedback about buying the product. Quite regularly the best advise on the internet comes from other customers.
Don’t forget that search engines often bring up more than one page of results. Once you are confident that the keywords you are using are relevant for finding your product, try looking at pages further down the internet ranking. It is common practice for larger companies to invest a lot of time and money into ensuring they show on page one of search results, which is great if you don’t have a lot of time during your search, but you may find that some of the most competitive prices come from smaller, less well known companies who are simply unable to compete with these retail giants and so appear further down the ranking. This does not mean that they are any less able to service your needs and indeed sell you a great product at a great price.
4. I’ve found my product on multiple websites – now what?
It may be that your search discovers no, or very limited results and it is dependent on your patience as to how long you continue searching. In some instances it may be that your product is not for sale online. You may also find that the price is protected as with branded products, retailers are often forced to charge a set price.
On the flip side, you may have found multiple websites that are selling your product at competitive prices – DO NOT JUST BUY FORM THE WEBSITE THAT APPEARS TO BE THE CHEAPEST! Again you need to invest a little more time into research, ensuring that the website you are looking at is authentic.
This is especially true if you are looking at an item that is similar to the one you originally chose. Just like the product comparisons you see in magazines, it may be that your keywords have brought up search results for items that are similar but not identical to the product you want. It may look the same in the photograph, but make sure that you read all of the descriptions as quite often the cheaper replicates are made from different materials, are slightly different sizes or colours and are not the same quality as the original product. This is fine if you are searching for a designer alternative, but be conscious of it otherwise. It is really important that you know what you are buying.
As online stores have much lower overheads than conventional shops, for some products we can almost expect to find a good price on the internet. Although be cautious, more often that not if a price seems too good to be true, unfortunately it usually is.
Check list of things to look out for:
• Auction sites. Make sure that the product you have found is brand new and is not second hand or has be used before.
• Ensure the product is not listed at a discounted price because it is a slight second or has been returned. End of line or limited stock items are fine.
• Be wary of pop up or temporary shops. Where they may be able to sell you a product at a great price, if anything is wrong or you wish to return the product for any reason, you may have problems if the shop no longer exists. If you are unsure about the longevity of a website, use the contact us details and make a call or send an email asking for verification.
• Delivery costs! Find out what the delivery costs for your item are. Your product may look like a great price initially, but by the time delivery costs have been added it may be that you are actually paying more for your product than if you had brought it else where.
• Delivery times! As online shops are not tangible, it is not unusual for them to sell items that are not currently in stock. Therefore before buying online, if it is not stated in their product description, always contact the seller and ask for an estimated delivery time. It is all very well bagging yourself a bargain, but if you have to wait months for your item, you have to question if the few pounds saved is really worth it.
• That the website uses a verified payment gateway. Ensure that you feel confident in the security of the website before entering any personal or financial details. If anything during the process seems unusual or a bit suspicious then cancel your transaction.
5. If in doubt ask!
If you are unsure about anything during your shopping process do not be afraid to contact the seller and ask questions. Whether it is for answers about the product itself, the integrity of the website or payment, if an online retailer is worth buying from then they will be more than happy to help.
6. Look at the positives
It is very easy for us to always look out for the negatives when shopping online and although we should be cautious, there are also many positive things to look for.
• Dedicated websites. It is not unusual to find websites that sell just one type of product. This is extremely positive for a consumer as 9 times out of 10 it means that the seller is an expert in what they do, increasing trust levels enormously.
• Use your credit card and rest assured that if anything does go wrong during the sales process, that the majority of credit card issuers will protect your payment and will give you your money back.
• Customer reviews. Good quality websites have real and honest reviews and not just five-star all singing and dancing reviews either. Retailers know that they can’t please all people all the time and so good reviews should show a range of feedback. If reviews are available make sure you read them and learn what real people have experienced with this product and company and not just the sales pitch from the seller!
7. Price promises – golden in finding a bargain.
Now that you have done your research and have shopped around, you will know the cheapest places to buy your product. What you may not know is that many online retailers are happy to price match. This means that if you find the product cheaper else where but are not 100% confident in buying from them or if you simply like the feel of another website, that they will adjust their prices if you can prove it is being sold else where at a more competitive price.
Just ask. If a website does not promote a price promise but you would rather buy from them, then don’t be afraid to ask for a discount or a price match. This is also true if you are buying multiple products; ask for a multi purchase discount. The World wide web is an extremely competitive selling platform and once they have you on their website, online retails will do all they can to convert you into a sale.
So overall, there is no doubt that if you shop around online you can most certainly find a good deal. As with all transactions there are elements that deserve caution, but if you shop sensibly there is a whole world of bargain shopping out there.
Some people are nervous of buying over the internet, especially if the item they are buying is of high value or a large investment to them. They may also like to touch and feel items before they buy. It would be such a shame to pay more than is necessary. Either they can actually visit a physical shop and see the item in real life and then verify that a product is exactly the same before purchasing online. This would also mean that they do not loose the shopping experience. Alternatively, they can take advantage of their customer rights. As with all shop purchases, when buying online customers reserve their statutory rights and are completely within their rights to cancel their order at any time or return their item after purchase if they are not satisfied with their order or if they simply change their mind. If you are unsure about entering your payment details online, many any Internet based stores also offer the opportunity to purchase over the telephone. That way you can talk to the company, verify any questions you may have and achieve the best price at the same time.