After almost four years managing our two online toy stores, our mom, Joan, has helped thousands of our customers select, purchase and receive their perfect toy. She is an expert in helping customers have a smooth, simple online shopping experience.
Shopping online can be easy and enjoyable. But knowing a few tricks of the trade can definitely ensure that your experience is the best possible!
I asked Joan what she wished every customer knew about how to shop online.
So here it is — an e-commerce store owner’s insider tips for shopping online.
Top Ten Tips for Shopping Online
- Shop at small business web sites to get better personal service. Read customer comments or reviews.
- Only shop at web sites that display evidence they are secure shopping sites.
- Make sure the web site you choose lists a customer service phone number.
Never shop at a site where the only method of contact is through email.
If the site doesn’t give hours of operation and you are concerned, try calling the phone number to make sure you can get in touch with a live person.
- For excellent customer service, always enter your phone number when placing an order.
There is no excuse for a web site not to give you personal service if you have given them your phone number and they need to reach you. Not everyone is on top of their email all the time so, if you don’t respond to an email, they should call you.
Make sure you are easily reachable at the phone number you give. It may be wise to enter a second number in a note field.
- Make sure the billing address you enter when placing your order is the same address the credit company has on file for you – the address they use on your statements.
Well run web sites have their banking software set to carefully match the address you enter to the address the credit card company uses. This process helps to prevent fraud.
- If, for some reason, your order “fails” when you submit it, do not keep trying.
Of course, if you are sure you know why it failed the first time, you might want to try a second time. But, do not keep trying.
There is a high possibility that your credit card company is “holding” the funds each time you try and fail. Those “holds” will disappear in a few days but, in the meantime, it is like you spent all that money – your credit card could be temporarily maxed out or your bank account temporarily drained.
Pick up the phone and call that web site. You will find out right then how helpful they are!
- Shop early – ground shipping is never guaranteed. You want to avoid having to expedite shipments.
But, if you find yourself in a hurry – don’t give up! Call the store.
Depending on your location and where your item is shipping from, you might be pleasantly surprised how quickly it could arrive.
- If you have shipping time restrictions, don’t just ask vague questions. It will slow down the process. If the web site doesn’t have the option to choose expedited shipping and give you real-time shipping quotes, you should phone or, at least, email to arrange it.
At the high cost of shipping these days, you do not want any nasty surprises. For example, most people have no idea that shipping a ride-on-toy like a pedal car from one side of the country to the other can cost about $60 for ground, $180 for 3-day, well over $200 for 2-day, and a huge amount for overnight shipping. So, check you options carefully.
- If you find that your options are paying a huge amount of money for expedited shipping or receiving the item a few days late – don’t panic! Having your package arrive “after the big day” is often not as serious as you first think.
a. For example, many parents and grandparents think they absolutely must have the “big” birthday present arrive in time for the party. Once they realize that can’t happen, they often then realize it could even be better this way. There are so many presents and so much excitement on party day, the thrill of the “big” present is lost in the midst of the activity.
Customers often go with our idea of receiving the “big” present a couple of days later and having a special little celebration when it arrives – maybe even a small birthday cake just for that special day! THEN all attention will be on the “big” present which is a wonderful way for the child to enjoy it as well as the parents and grandparents.
b. For baby showers or other special occasions, a nice color picture often works well – a lot better than a $200 shipping bill! People appreciate getting that special gift you chose for them even if it is late rather than you changing to something less perfect than your first choice.
- If the web site offers Free Shipping in the lower 48 states and you live outside the lower 48 states, contact the store to arrange shipping.
Do not assume the order will ship with free shipping just because the order went through. The product will not end up being shipped so you need to contact the website to get a shipping quote.
So, there you have some of the best tips out there! If you follow these ten guidelines, you should have a great shopping experience.
Remember though, shopping from small, family owned stores gets you the kind of customer service Joan talked about in her list.
As great as the big stores offers may seem, I have wasted hours and finally given up on a number of occasions when I couldn’t find adequate information about the products online and then couldn’t contact anyone for help.