An Introduction to Buying Online

A recent report released by Internet E-Commerce analysts Verdict Research indicates that online retail spending is growing 15 times faster than traditional retail spending. And there a good reason for all of that growth.

Nearly 75% of all U.S. households have Internet access and 45.15% of those households have broadband or high-speed Internet access through DSL or their cable television providers. This means that a majority of consumers has the capability of shopping on the Internet.

Online Shopping Advantages

The #1 benefit of shopping online is the ability to search across a number of online stores to check product availability and compare prices. Driving to various stores can take up a whole day, but you can easily visit ten or more online stores in less than an hour.

The second most important advantage of shopping online is the availability of in-depth product information. When shopping for many products, you are limited to whatever product information the retailer makes available. This is typically a few bullet points listing major features. Worse, most retail salespeople don't know much more.

When you shop online you can search for complete product specifications which are usually available directly from the manufacturer.

Online Shopping Disadvantages

You can't touch, taste or smell anything that you're buying on the Internet, and this can be a serious setback if you're buying perfume, jewelry, or other products that require tactile senses when making a buying decision.

The lack of "take it home with you" capabilities can also be a drawback. And worse, often times the shipping costs involved in getting a product from the online retailer to you can eat up the savings when compared to buying at a retail store.

Online Shopping Safety Tips

Here's some security and safety tips to keep in mind before you punch your credit card number into a strange web site:

  • Look for an icon depicting an unbroken key or closed lock in your browser window. This means that your sensitive financial and personal information is being encrypted for safety.

  • Make sure that the checkout page where you enter your personal and financial information has a URL that begins with https:// and not just http://. The "S" stands for "secure".

  • Never shop at a web site that does not have an Online Privacy Statement available to read. The privacy should include these details:

    - What information is being collected from you
    - How the seller plans to use this information
    - How you can "opt out" from future contact.

  • Never shop at any online store that does not have a working customer service telephone number posted.

  • Never shop at an online store that does not post its return policy.

  • Always verify shipping charges before you buy!

Online shopping can be a safe and fun experience that can save you both time and money. With the price of gas going nowhere but up, it's the best way to "visit the store" without ever leaving home.

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