The internet has definitely changed the way we function as consumers, making everything much more convenient, giving us more access to information and products that we wouldn’t have been able to purchase in the past.
In fact, online markets have been propelled to unforeseen proportions in the past few years. Back in 2010, Internet Retailer reported that reported that “E-retail will influence 53% of purchases by 2014” – a figure that has more or less been proven accurate. While the internet has served as a haven for those running small home businesses, even large, international corporations have also begun focusing on online marketing.
While brands like Prada and Chanel have been adamant about keeping their brands away from the e-commerce scene, Cadbury’s launched a Facebook-powered vending machines, and Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign has begun to make the most out of its viral status on social media websites. The online retail market has become a rather powerful force, and many consumers continue to be drawn to the idea of purchasing things online – often, and frustratingly so, to the point of neglecting proper safety precautions.
Much to the chagrin of consumers, not all online retail websites are completely safe, and there’s no way to be completely sure that you’ll get what you paid for when you buy things online. Even online market giant eBay fell victim to a cyber attack last year. Wise Marketing tweeted that the attack, which compromised the data of its 145 million users, has forced the company to “redouble marketing efforts to gain back ground.”
Of course, there are some things that we, as consumers, can do to ensure that we’re protected, and that should things go south for our online shopping carts, we’ve got ourselves covered. Often, these things are much simpler than they would appear to be. Here are some of the easiest ways to ensure that you’re protected when buying things online:
1. Always use a credit card.
Gone are the days when not having a credit card meant not being able to shop online. Nowadays, online retailers and discount websites have developed ways for consumers to be able to shop without a credit card, and instead using a bank card or a debit card. However, even though debit cards can be used everywhere a credit card can, it’s generally safer to use a credit card because you aren’t technically spending your money until you’ve seen the charge and had to pay it off, giving you time to cancel and report any unauthorized charges.
2. Always do your research.
The prevalence of online shopping websites like Etsy and the now-defunct Multiply Marketplace has meant that many small home businesses have begun taking their businesses online. While this gives us the chance to access a wider variety of products, this also means having to be wary of the products we dopurchase. When accessing a new online store for the first time, it’s important to do your research and look for reviews from other consumers about the seller. Also check that the website you’re entering your personal information into is secured with a “Secure Sockets Layer” (SSL) certificate (with the URL beginning with “https” rather than the usual “http”). When possible, try to look up the website’s WHOIS registration as well.
3. Always read the fine print.
One of the most important things to remember is also, sadly, one of the things that consumers often fail to do: check the return policies on the websites they’re buying from. Purchasing a product and finding that it doesn’t fit, or that it wasn’t quite the same quality you’d expected it to be is just one of the many hazards of online shopping. Reading the return policies of the companies you’re buying your products from ensures that you’re covered in the event that you’re not quite satisfied with your purchases.