Online shops, including those hosted on Blogger and LiveJournals, are springing up like flowers after the spring rain, thanks to the widespread availability of the internet. Off-line shops have also found it de rigeur to have an online presence. While the internet opens up to shoppers a wonderful array of choice and styles at our fingertips, there are also cases whereby shoppers are cheated by scam websites.
Here are 10 tips to help you establish the reliability of online shops that you are not familiar with:
#1. Do not be anxious to purchase from the online store if you are not sure if it is safe. Observe its online activities for a while. Does the store update new items regularly? For fast paced consumer goods like ladies fashion, the updates are usually made weekly, if not every few days. If the shop has no updates for months on end, then, probably nobody is manning it.
#2. Sign Up to be on the store’s mailing list. A legitimate store will want to garner potential customers to be on their mailing list. After signing up for the shop’s mailing list, you should receive updates from the store. If all seems quiet, then I may have some question marks on the store.
#3. A good way to check if the store is ‘legitimate’ is to send an email to the customer service to test their response. Did you receive any reply from the store? Was the reply prompt or did it take, say 2 weeks to get to you? A prompt response of between 1 to 3 days (maximum) is usually the expected response time.
#4. Another good way to reduce the risks of online clothes shopping is to purchase from shops with positive feedback. Testimonials are a way of finding out if the customers are generally happy with their purchase. Usually the stores will publish the testimonials online.
#5. Google the name of the shop and see if the store is discussed by forums and websites / blogs. Such discussions may be helpful in finding out if there are any complaints and problems the store may have.
#6. Check for reviews and ratings of the shop. Some online shops are reviewed by online shopping directories, which is likely to show up when you Google for the shop (see Tip#5). Follow the links of these online directories that the store is listed on to see if there are any reviews made.
#7. Look at the merchandise of the store. Are there sufficient details provided to help you make an informed selection? Serious stores should provide the necessary information to help their customers select their merchandise. For example, does a fashion store provide specific measurements of the clothes made? Are there efforts taken to ensure that the shopper knows what he/she is getting?
#8. Read the payment details.What kind of payment methods are available? Does the shop accept PayPal or even better, are they PayPal Verified? PayPal Verified means that PayPal has conducted a verification process on the reliability of the PayPal account that you are paying to. If you are not sure about the store, avoid paying via direct wire transfer. Paying via a secured means like PayPal allows you the opportunity to dispute the charges if indeed there were problems with your purchase.
#9. Does the shop venture beyond its online shopfront to the social networking sites like Facebook? Social networking sites are another means of garnering customers, so legitimate shops would want to be part of it. With the many ‘Friends’ of the shops out there, it is hard for an online store to be of dubious standard.
#10. Last, but not the least, check if the shop is registered with any local authorities. For example, in Singapore, stores are required to be registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) and as a consumer, you can request for the details of the shop from the ACRA.
Armed with these tips, it shouldn’t be difficult to choose the reliable stores from which to purchase. Just be alert to the above, and you’ll enjoy a safe online shopping experience!