Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Online Shopper's Tuesday Tip of the Week: Top Five Tips to Get the Goods

Tuesday's Tip of the Week is a guide for navigating the vast world of e-commerce.  Tips and Tricks from The Online Shopper for Online Shoppers!

Lego Tips & Tricks Contest Entry by Final Crisis
Lego Tips & Tricks Contest Entry, a photo by Final Crisis on Flickr.
 The World Wide Web… now isn’t that the truth?  Online stores like http://www.ebay.com/, blogs like http://theonlineshopper.blogspot.com, news sites like http://www.cnn.com/, and well …all the nonsense (The Online Shopper will withhold the links to protect the guilty).  How can shoppers surfing the web find the next great outfit, house ware, or special gift? 

To begin the discussion, here are The Online Shopper’s top five tips for getting to the goods. 

1. Search Engines: This is a bit of a no brainer, but start off broad by using search engines such as www.google.com and www.bing.com to get a sense of what is out there.  Search for particular stores, designers, or item descriptions.  Popular sites pop up first, which may give you a sense of where the web traffic is driving.  For instance, The Online Shopper only learned about Nordstrom Rack through a search engine site.  You never know what you will find, so do not be afraid to look.

2. Comparison Shop: Shopping online is nothing, if it is not the best opportunity to comparison shop!  The Online Shopper’s trick is hands-down, http://www.shopstyle.com/.  Shop Style is an amazing one-stop-shop that brings you all the options from various sites in one location. 

Comparison shopping goes beyond simply looking for like items at different sites.  If you find a great sale at one site, but they are out of your size or color choice, price matching may be an option.  For instance, According to the Neiman Marcus chat feature  http://www.neimanmarcus.com/store/service/nmSiteMap.jhtml (chat link on left-hand column), Neiman Marcus “will match a price shown on Vendor/Designer websites and other competitor websites provided the item is an exact match and the competitor’s price is a current (not past) regular or sale price.”  To get an adjustment online you can initiate a customer service chat (link above) and provide a current URL, or fax a copy of the advertisement and you are good to go.

3. E-Mail List: If you have not already, sign up for the e-mail lists at your favorite stores.  Often sites will give you a percentage off your first purchase just for signing up!  Not only is there this initial deal to be had, but the retailers will email you with special offer codes and key information on upcoming sales and new merchandise.  This is a great way to stay in tune with sites that interest you!   

4. Use the Tools:  Just because you are not dealing directly with a clerk, behind a counter in a store does not mean that you do not have amazing customer service options. According to http://www.internetretailer.com/trends/surveys/ the top two features for online shoppers are (1) tracking delivery and (2) online chat or instant messaging.  These are both amazing features.  The Online Shopper is not afraid to chat it up or call a customer service representative to ask questions about the specs of the product, and inquire about return policies (including whether the store will accept an in-store return).  The Online Shopper also pays particular attention to online reviews of the product.  Certain sites, like www.nordstrom.com lets consumers post their review right on the page, and The Online Shopper likes getting the review straight from the horse's mouth.

5. Don’t Click Away Your Common Sense:  You know this rule…we all know this rule…if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  The Online Shopper tends to stick with major retailers, and even beyond that likes to shop online at stores that were actually visited in person.  A great example of applying your common sense to the utility of e-commerce is particularly appropriate with major purchases such as electronics, home appliances and furniture.  The Online Shopper always does her homework!  Go to various pages to see what is out there and soak up those consumer reviews.  Print up the useful screens, call your local store, see if the product is in stock and go and check it out and test it out before making your purchase.    

These are The Online Shopper’s first five Tuesday tips…what are yours?