Online Shopping Trends

Online shopping―what was once frowned upon has now managed to gain acceptance with open wallets! Yes, while in the past we hesitated ordering things online, and most importantly questioned the safety of letting out our credit/debit card details on the Internet, now due to the safe and secure online market, the skepticism has vanished to a great extent. A recent study done by eMarketer confirms the truth of this statement. Their analysis predicts the growth of online sales in the United States to USD 434.2 billion by 2017, from USD 225.5 billion in 2012.

The year 2009 saw an extraordinary trend. While most industries suffered significant losses due to recession, the U.S. saw a significant rise in online retail of 11%, according to a report by Forrester Research published in March 2010. This just shows the popularity of the trend of online shopping in the past few years.

Online Shopping: From a Luxury to a Trend to a Necessity

The 90s proved to be historical for Internet shopping when the world was introduced to the ‘World Wide Web’. The pioneering online shopping sites such as Amazon and eBay were launched in 1995, and they still continue to reign the kingdom of online retail market. Among the initial steps in Internet selling was the selling of books. What started as a trial-and-error strategy―with many people wondering the feasibility of the success of web shopping―today, has become a revolutionary industry worth billions!

With the consumer population becoming more and more tech-savvy, and with the technological excellence that has led to safe, secure, reliable, and satisfactory online transactions in the recent past, most people prefer to avoid the chaotic crowd of shopping malls, and opt for shopping from the comfort of their homes.

The Internet was once an option, and is now a necessity. Likewise, the virtual market has become more than a facility; it is now, in fact, a necessity. With irresistible advantages such as 24X7 access to shopping, free shipment, and home delivery, the online retailers have managed to acquire some loyal customers. Forrester Research state that the United States online retail industry is likely to be worth USD 279 billion in 2015.

Factors That Have Made Online Shopping a Trend

From the 90s till now, gradually people have accepted virtual shopping to be an easy and affordable way to get hold of things ranging from luxury items such as smartphones and laptops, to everyday items such as grocery and stationery. More and more stores are opening their own websites to enable consumers to shop online. There are various external factors that have contributed to the rising inclination towards virtual shopping.

The Social Media: While browsing through social network sites such as Facebook, have you noticed the ads that are displayed on the right hand corner of the webpage … attracting you towards the trendy branded clothes, jewelry, scents, and footwear? With sellers joining the social networking sites and creating their own pages, a study shows that almost 60% of online buyers used social media to discover, like, and follow retail sites in the past year. This strategy definitely helps increase the pace of product exposure with features such as like, share, recommend a friend, reviews, and more.

Smartphones and Tablets: With the increasing user base of smartphones and tablets, online shopping is not just confined to sitting in front of a PC. If you know what you want, shopping can be done while eating your lunch, while traveling to your work … while on the move! Another survey depicts that almost 10-15% of Internet traffic comes through mobile devices. A trend known as “show rooming” has been on the up lately. The buyers visit the physical retail stores to check out the products, browse the products online, compare prices, check the reviews on the websites, and buy the same product from an online retailer offering the best deal. Mobile apps of these retail stores also help the consumers know about the latest stock and sale going on, subsequently increasing the customer database and sales.

Crowded Shopping Destinations: While researching on shopping trends during Black Fridays, I came across various consumers who preferred shopping online rather than going out in the crowd with no parking spaces! This just shows that customers not only find it more comfortable, but also less chaotic to shop online rather than traveling all the way to the rushed shopping destinations, especially during sales. This drift has encouraged physical stores to focus more towards their service and hospitality to make customers’ shopping experience more comfortable and satisfactory.

Tech-savvy Users: Another contributing factor towards the hype in online shopping, is the majority of population becoming increasingly tech savvy. A fair amount of credit goes to the effort of sellers making online shopping not only a comfortable, but an overall safe and fun experience with alluring features such as cash on delivery, free home delivery, replacement plans, low price guarantee, gift cards, customer reviews, and more. In fact, many online retailers also give consumers an option to try their selected clothes, apparels, and footwear at home, and offer to do the necessary changes. There are also customer service numbers which enable the consumers to contact these retailers to clarify their queries. With all these features, online shopping has made the experience less complicated and tiresome for the users.

No Geographical Limitations: The one factor that has worked the most in favor of virtual shopping is the fact that users have multiple options that are not confined to any geographical boundaries, as is the case with physical stores. For example, if a book you need is not available in your city, you have no other option but to wait. In case of online shopping, if one website doesn’t have that book in stock, you will definitely get it on other websites. Also, online retail stores give you an option to set an e-mail alert when the product is in stock, so that you may complete your purchase.

What Lies Ahead …

By analyzing the aforementioned factors, it is evident that the virtual trend of shopping would only flourish in the near future. Unless the bricks-and-mortar stores don’t adapt to recent trends in e-commerce, and prepare themselves for the competitive strategies to attract online buyers, the future of traditional shopping seems to be under a potential threat. It is inevitable that online stores will have to become a compulsory feature of each and every traditional store that wants to be in the competition. In fact, a business website―which was an “added feature” till the recent past―has now become a prerequisite. Each and every business, other than retail stores is launching user-friendly and attractive websites to enable their customers to ask queries, make appointments, sales, cancellations, and the like, all through the website. With these strategic changes, buying and selling online is transforming from a luxury to a necessity.

Considering online shopping to be a solution for all shopping-related hassles would not be right. Like any other area, virtual market has its own cons, the most important one being the lack of a “physical presence”. At the end of the day, we humans are social beings, and shopping is considered by many, a means to socialize. It is normal for us to want the presence of someone who would approve with our choices, or help us make the right choice among the many options before us. Virtual shopping makes us “physically” more isolated.

Who would’ve thought, a few years ago, that the Internet would evolve from being something physically non-existent, to something that has now become an integral part of all the dominating aspects of our physical lives? The unlimited access that the Internet has provided to its users has made them more aware about the market. When it comes to online shopping, the most powerful marketing tool―the word of mouth―is what works the best. With social media, mobile apps, review sites, and sharing features, online buyers have become significant contributors in the total sales revenue. The target of the market is to find buyers and follow them where they are. Promotional ads and coupons are sent to consumers online; while offline, mobile messages are steadily delivered to their inbox, keeping them aware about what is “in store” for them. The world is functioning the quick and smart way, and e-commerce is a perfect example for reaching out to consumers even while they are busy and on the move.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Internet Shopping

You open the latest edition of Vogue on your way to office and browse through all those eligible wardrobe additions. Suddenly, you land on these awesome pair of Gucci pumps that you immediately fall in love with. You check for the code and the item number, and surf the Internet with it. You like them better in the color blue. You check the price and it seems just perfect for those perfect pumps. You check the stores in your city and hope just one store would sell these. To your disappoint and the brands’ as well, there is no store that would help you. However, there is one store in the next state that would still have them in stock. What do you do now? You shop for them via the Internet. Simple! Since it’s so simple, there are more and more people shopping on the Internet. The increase in these online shopping trends brings us to the advantages and disadvantages mentioned below. As you continue reading, you will come across some problems you must have experienced on your own. It is these problems that need a solution to make Internet shopping one of the best ways to shop.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Shopping

There is nothing that could ever put an end to Internet shopping, and there is just one reason that people will continue shopping via the Internet, irrespective of the drawbacks. The human need to satisfy a want is stronger than we think. Just like those Gucci pumps made you buy them, there are many others too. When you want something and know you can have it through the Internet, if nothing else, so be it!

Advantages:

Yes, it is an absolute relief to shop sans those irritating vendors. I have nothing against vendors, but they need to understand that they can’t disturb women when they are shopping. You somehow just lose the focus! However, apart from the riddance from vendors, there are more advantages of Internet shopping, as follows

– The best part about Internet shopping is the convenience it provides to the person shopping. Usually, you need to visit a few malls before you find what you have been looking for. On the Internet, you just have to sit in one place and search for what you want until you find it. You get what you want, delivered right to your doorstep. You save money of fuel, the problem of parking your car somewhere, and various other issues. When you shop on the Internet, you don’t have to actually plan your shopping trip as such. If it’s something urgent, you can order it when you’re in office itself!
– When you visit a particular store during your shopping trip, you see the amount of clothes that are possibly going to fit in that store. Any store, selling any number of brands, can sell so only for a limited number. On the Internet, you have unlimited variety and unlimited number of those items too. There is no such thing as ‘out of stock’ on the Internet. If it is shown on the website, it’s available. There is no limited shelf space as such and thus, there is no disappointment.
– When we talk about the advantages and disadvantages of Internet shopping, we have to talk about this one particular advantage. If you have to buy a pair of pants, you will go to the mall and check out a few stores. When you visit the first store, you like what they have to offer but you think you can get better. So you travel some more and visit a few more stores. In the end, you realize that you have to buy from the first shop itself as those were indeed the best out of the lot. This advantage of easy comparison is possible only when you’re shopping online.
– Agreed that you can exchange and return your clothes if you shop from a mall and even if you shop online, if obviously the policies allow so. However, there is no way you can exchange or return what you buy on the days when the stores are closed. This again, you don’t have to worry about with Internet shopping. The exchanging and returning can be done almost anytime you wish to.

Disadvantages:

While talking about these advantages and disadvantages from a customer’s perspective, it’s very important for you to know that there isn’t any grave drawback of Internet shopping. Yes, it does get boring when you shop alone, and have no opinions when you just need them. Or the fact that you will always need a computer to shop online.

– The first thing we need to talk about here is the disclosure of private information. It is very difficult to convince people when it comes to this. You have to shop with your debit or credit card, and have to provide your card details when you shop online. This information is available to the company from whom you buy. Though hardly any companies are frauds, it’s still some valuable information.
– The next drawback of Internet shopping (only in respect to clothes) is that of the fitting. There is no way you can be absolutely sure about how a particular dress or shirt will look on you in reality. There are virtual models on almost each website, but you just can’t ever be sure. This problem doesn’t come in the picture when you talk about shopping other stuff on the Internet, such as airline tickets (which also happen to be one of the hottest selling items on the Internet as of today.)
– It is said that Internet shopping has just started affecting the employment of people at malls and individual stores as well. The problem here is that the forecast says this effect will increase in impact in a few more years. There will be high unemployment in this sector due to Internet shopping. You don’t need people to show you around or to help you select a particular item you need to buy.
– Another drawback here is that people have to pay extra costs for ordering items from another state of country. These include shipping costs too. In most eastern countries, not all the luxury brands are available. People have to pay extra to order them from abroad. Sometimes, there are taxes applicable on these transactions as well.

These were some of the advantages and disadvantages of Internet shopping, that tell you how it isn’t very unsafe to shop on the web. Problems prevail everywhere, even when you shop personally at a store. The convenience and the variety are the two biggest advantages you need to focus on. After all, if you don’t get your stuff anywhere but from the Internet, you surely can’t let go of it, can you?

How to Shop for Clothes Online

All of us have come across those beautiful dresses which are displayed in advertisements on websites on the Internet, haven’t we? The prices listed below the dresses not only amuse us, but also tempt us to buy them as soon as possible. These clothes are indeed one of the hottest selling items on the Internet, aren’t they? However, before temptation takes over, there are a few things you need to educate yourself with. There are a million websites all over the world that sell clothes online, so how do we choose the best? It’ll take us years to list all the websites that are considered authentic and diverse in their collection. The good news here is that you don’t need to look at so many websites. You can look at one website and judge it for its authenticity. Only and only if you think it’s not worth it, you can move on to finding another. The tips mentioned below will tell you how to shop for clothes online without risking your money and your expectations out of the bargain. Let’s check them out!

What to Keep in Mind While Shopping Online

Prerequisites
Buying clothes on the Internet has its prerequisites such as the knowledge of your physical statistics. You cannot possibly buy clothes off websites without knowing these. This is the basic information you should possess while shopping for clothes online. Again, it’s advisable for you to ask somebody else to take these measurements as that is how they are normally taken. If you take your measurements yourself, chances are they won’t be perfect as you would have to twist your body a few times to check the exact number of the tape.

Choosing
Choosing the right website should be your next task. Like I’ve mentioned before, there are so many websites that are involved in online shopping, it gets difficult to zero in on a few. Choose a website that has a record of selling a particularly good number of garments. Every website is going to show you beautifully clicked clothes but you also have to search for a website that provides you a lot of other information such as the name of the designer, the type of cloth used and more details regarding the styling.

Authenticity
Another great way in knowing how to shop for clothes online is by contacting the customer care center of that particular website you’re looking at. If the number is working and the customer support executives seem to be really well educated, you can bank on the authenticity of these websites to a larger extent. These executives will be able to guide you better than anyone else as the guidelines to be followed for shopping are different for different websites.

Additional Tools
A lot of people complain about the practicality of shopping on the Internet because according to them, these clothes can’t be touched, tried or even looked at in reality, as we do when we window shop! However, technology has advanced so much today that you can actually see how the dress of your choice looks virtually. There are websites that offer virtual model technology where you can customize the clothes you select according to your personal physical statistics. Some websites also allow you to customize the garments itself!

Suggestions
Ask/search for as many suggestions as possible so that you’re on a safer side before you actually start shopping. For example, choose websites that keep the identity and banking details of their customers hidden. Talk to people who shop for clothes on the Internet all the time or those who know people who do. Check enough reviews about the website you’re choosing. To reduce shipping costs and avail as many discounts as possible, order more items at one given time. Also, don’t forget to read the payment, return and grievances policy properly. If there are any conversions for currency, check those properly as well.

Now that know how to shop for clothes online, you can start looking at a few websites and implement these safe online shopping tips to keep your shopping secure. Try to check the authenticity of the websites you shop from, as many times as possible. Shopping on the Internet is slowly taking the idea of shopping to a completely different level. It’s always better to keep yourself updated with the latest trends in that case, isn’t it?

Hottest Selling Items on the Internet

It was not long ago when the concept of eCommerce websites came into existence and it created a new legacy of its own in the seemingly infinite world of cyber space. Internet advertising, marketing, and most importantly, Internet shopping, redefined the fundamentals of Internet surfing. Nowadays, website analytic statistics show millions of netizens glued to their computers, purchasing products online. Internet biggies like Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist have created a legacy, for sure.

If you read about the history of Amazon and eBay, the topmost online retailers, you’ll realize that it just began with the concept of selling something on the Internet. The idea was simple, and comfort in selling and buying without having to go out seemed amazing. This simple idea of Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder), has now transformed into a huge company, Amazon.

Books
Millions of books are sold online every year, and it is one of the most sold items online. Books have been among the top selling products on the Internet for as long as online transactions have been going on.

Computer Hardware and Software
Computers are purchased and sold daily, in bulk, in the US. Even someone who has used a computer or a laptop for sometime, auctions it on the Internet, and believe me, buyers are always there.

Fashion Apparels
The online apparel industry gained a major boost in the recent years, and people have started buying items on the Internet. Women have been especially more active in online shopping than men, when it comes to fashion apparels.

Video DVD Movies
One of the most positive aspects of making money online through Internet shopping is that if you capture the right market and can continue to target the right audience, you can make good money. For instance, generally, it’s not an easy task to find old movies and classic books in every music or book store. Hence, if you target a website for such really specific categories, you can make good money. Nonetheless, it depends on market and various other parameters.

Ticket Bookings
In recent years, airline reservations, online booking of tickets, and hotel bookings have become a reality. This has given sellers of these services a niche market. It has become very popular, and that’s why, it is said that if you’re offering things to sell online, you must target a market that is very specific.

Others

Numerous types of tickets
Various toys
Coins, currency and collectibles
Cosmetics and health products
Flowers and festive gift items.
Computer related items
Used books
Domestic and small consumer electronic appliances
Environment friendly items
Realty
Home based services
Seasonal wares
Office supplies and equipment/Office furniture
Home decorating items and linen
Art items
Bizarre Things and Miscellaneous
Used Cars
Clothes and apparel
Comics
Leather Goods
Dolls and bears
Jewelry
Motorcycles Accessories and bikes
Musical instruments
DVDs and home videos
Showbiz and sports memorabilia
Flowers
Sporting goods
Shoes/footwear
Apparel/designer clothes/handbags
Video games

This was just a glimpse of the various things that are sold over the Internet, in mind-boggling numbers. In fact, owing to the popularity of Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist, people have made it a business to sell products online. However, unawareness of intricacies of selling the product has made many people vulnerable to financial losses. The process of selling products online requires a good understanding of online business, and hence, ensure that you gain sufficient experience in this or hire professionals for this work, before you invest millions in this business.

Where to Buy Cheap Stuff Online

In this economic turmoil, almost every single person in the US is apprehensive about taking out the big bucks for shopping. The economic recession was treated more like a lesson, and less like a disaster, which has made the average American smart and cautious about spending his dollars. Rather than going to shops and buying products on MRP, using the Internet for shopping is a much better and cheaper option. This article talks about online shopping, and also tells you the best sites to shop.

How to Buy Cheap Stuff Online

Every day we get at least one headline in the newspapers which tells us how bad the economic condition of the country is. Times are tough and the economy is stagnant. In such tough times, you have to cut down on your expenses to make ends meet. So, the most common question arising in everyone’s mind is, where to buy cheap stuff? There are two ways that you can buy cheap stuff, run from store to store in search of a sale, or shop online.

Most of us know that we can buy certain items cheaper online, and also have stuff delivered at our doorstep. When you browse through the Internet, you will find a number of online retailers who are selling all your favorite products; this makes the selling more competitive and prices are slashed even more. There are several ways where you can shop online for low prices. Log on to Google and you find a list of retailers who are offering your favorite products at the cheapest rates.

Where Can I Buy Cheap Stuff Online

The Internet is a wonderful way to explore the world. It not only gives you information on various topics from all around the world, but also saves your money by offering you the best deals on your favorite products.

Amazon
Most Americans who prefer shopping online choose Amazon as their favorite store. It was the first online retailer and is still a preferred website for most people in the world. It’s the best site for buying books and music at a cheaper rate.

Ebay
Called the Wal-Mart of the Internet, Ebay is something that you just cannot miss. Just keep your eyes open for any shopping that you do. Some retailers might over charge you for packing and shipping, while others are very reasonable.

Newegg
The best site to buy computer parts cheap is Newegg. They have a fantastic range of computer parts, and all are very reasonably priced. For free shipping codes have a look at the various computer magazines.

Bestbuy
Their prices, along with free shipping, makes Bestbuy a more preferred site than Amazon. They also offer the same range in computer parts as Newegg.

Geeks
To find the most unusual items for nerds and geeks, it’s better to visit the Geeks website. They also carry the most obscure computer software which you can find nowhere else. They could charge you more for shipping prices, so make sure you get a deal that includes the shipping price. The best way to get the best deal on geeks is to buy more than a piece. This way you get heavy discounts and if your lucky your shipping charges would be waived, which makes a good deal into a great deal.

There’s no doubt in the fact that you can get cheap stuff online, but you always have to be careful of the various scams that surround the concept of online shopping. Before buying from any website, don’t forget to read some safe online shopping tips to ensure a safe purchase.

Best Selling Online Products

When we speak of the best selling products, it is important to remember that not all of these can fetch you large amounts of money. By studying most online shopping trends and auction sites, you will find that books and DVDs are probably the bestsellers, but the chance to make a lot of money through these is virtually impossible. The reason for this is that the buyer may have limited choices for these when he is searching for it online, so he would rather go to a bookstore or a music store and pick out a new item of his choice. He ends up spending a few extra dollars but for him it is worth it. Why then, are these items still the most selling products on the web? Simply because they are easy to sell and ship. And no matter how illogical it is to carry out Internet shopping sometimes, there will always be a buyer. The volumes are extremely large doubtlessly, but the revenues are minimal.

List of Top Selling Products

Here are some of the most popular items that regularly change hands over the Internet. The buyers get these things to sell online cheaper than they would in the market, but the disadvantage is that there are no assurances about the quality and the state of the item in question.

1. Books and magazines
2. Computer hardware
3. Computer software
4. Apparel and designer clothes
5. Video games and toys
6. Cosmetics and health-related items
7. Consumer electronics
8. Music DVDs and CDs
9. Jewelry items
10. Office supplies and equipment
11. Home decorating items and linen
12. Flowers
13. Sporting goods and items
14. Shoes and footwear
15. Small electronic appliances
16. Tools and garden items
17. Gifts and other items

If you wish to make some easy money over the Internet, or are simply interested in making some trades for the sake of it through online auctions, you should certainly consider dealing with the stuff mentioned here along with a few more.

Some Statistics

Here are some interesting points and numbers.

– Total sales of all online trading was close to USD 3 billion for the year 2009.
– Books, music, software and videos comprised about 26% of this total. This roughly means that these items fetched around USD 710 million.
– Travel reservations, car bookings, airline tickets and hotel reservations comprised 21% of this total. Total sales were around USD 580 million.
– Computer related hardware and software, consumer electronics and office supplies sold about USD 450 million, and comprised 16% of total sales.
– Shoes, clothes, home decorations and jewelry got sold for around USD 350 million and comprised about 13% of total sales.
– Food and beverages and health products constituted about 8% of total sales, and their overall transactions were around USD 220 million.
– Sporting goods, video games and toys comprised 7% of the total and were sold for about USD 200 million.
– Other items like furniture, tools and small appliances were sold for about USD 95 million, and this made up approximately 3% of total online sales.

Now, if you’re looking to increase your volume of sales over the Internet, then, you need to offer something that either fits into one of these categories, or you need to offer something that is completely original and ingenious. If you can manage to offer something that is useful, economical, and not available at any retail stores, you can be assured of tremendous amounts of volume. Simply knowing how to sell stuff on the web is not enough. You need to find your niche, and then attack it by ensuring that everyone knows about your product and its availability.

Marketing the top selling items is not a difficult task, and the Internet is a great place for people to spread positive word of mouth. If even a single person is satisfied with what you are offering, and offers his/her approval, it will benefit you greatly. With a little bit of analysis, you can achieve success at a fairly rapid rate.

From a buyers point of view, all these high selling items are easily available, and you can purchase them at your convenience. The Internet has truly changed the face of trade, and it has made the process easier for many people. So, the next time you are in need of buying something, do give these components a second thought.

Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Not just the trend of buying goods and availing services online, but even the frauds associated with it are on rise. Technological advancement has given a major boost to e-commerce and other similar concepts, which revolve around computers and, more importantly, the Internet. The concept of online shopping is no more alien to anybody in the world.

Millions of people log onto shopping websites in order to make shopping a convenient affair. What they fail to understand though, is the fact that they are compromising on their security by not abiding by the rules that they need to follow. With so many cases of online frauds coming to light every other day, it is surprising to see people go on an online shopping spree without paying heed to their security.

Online Shopping Safety Tips

Online shopping fraud is a broad concept, which includes a range of activities, right from hidden charges and phishing to credit card scams and identity theft. Given below are some simple precautions that you can take to keep yourself safe.

Carry out your transactions from a secured PC: You need to make sure that the PC you are using for shopping online and related transactions is up-to-date with security measures, like anti-virus software and firewall. Being one of the most important advice as far as safe online shopping is concerned, this will help you keep those malicious programs out of your transactions.

Be well-versed with the website you use: You need to make sure that the website from which you are buying goods or availing services is authentic. Never go to random sites that feature in search engine results, or ones that you have never heard of before. Always go for popular websites, as the chances of you getting caught in any sort of web of deceit on such websites are negligent.

Never give away your personal information: You will have to provide some information while shopping online, however, you need to make sure that this is just the general information, like your name or contact number. Never give out confidential information, like your social security number, on online shopping websites. More importantly, never fill in any sort of information in pop-up windows, even if you trust the website. Maintaining privacy while shopping online is a must, as giving away confidential information can make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Go through the privacy policy of the company: A trusted website is bound to have its privacy policy covering all the points whereby the website would be legally bound to keep your personal details confidential and giving away the same to the third party would mean breach of contract with possible legal implications. If any website doesn’t have their privacy policy in place, it is better off to stay away from it.

Paying by credit card is wiser: Always resort to credit card for payment options. Though many of us prefer to use debit cards for shopping online, they don’t have all the security features that credit cards do. More importantly, if your debit card number gets stolen, it will give hackers total access to your account and result in even more difficult situations for you.

Before you order the product: You need to make sure that the transactions are secured and the shipping policy of the company is in the place. Cross checking the actual price of the product and the shipping charges with other companies can help you get the best deal. Make sure that there are no hidden costs in the shipping charges. You will have to take into consideration the actual price of the item as well as shipping charges, handling fees, and sales tax.

After you order the product: Never reply to confirmation mails which ask for your personal details. Make sure that you take the print outs of all the online transaction records, which you can eventually use as proof. Other than all your transactions with the company, it is wise to save the product description as well. Lastly, you will have to monitor the time required for shipping. It is very important to get well-versed with terms and conditions before you buy any product online.

If, by chance, you do end up having a bad experience, you can report the company to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the consumer protection agency in your area of jurisdiction. Considering that there are a number of phishing websites out there in the guise of shopping websites, it will take efforts from all of us to come together and make online shopping safe and secure.
Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/safe-online-shopping-tips.html

Maintaining Privacy While Shopping Online

You may not be aware of it, but there is currently no legislation that requires website owners and sellers to maintain the privacy of site visitors who shop online or order merchandise from them. Because there are no laws preventing it, sellers are free to collect your name, address, information about the websites and site pages you visit, what types of products or services you buy, what time of day you shop online, the address you ship items to, what shipping service you use, and even how much you typically spend on an online purchase. Sellers may use the information they collect about purchasers by selling it to other companies or sharing it with affiliates. As a result of losing this private information, you will most likely receive more direct-mail marketing, spam e-mails, and/or telemarketer calls.

Losing privacy is a major concern that consumers are worried about in terms of shopping online. In response to these concerns, government regulators are encouraging website sellers to clearly state on their websites what their privacy policies are, and how they will use information gathered from buyers. If you visit a site that does not have a posted privacy policy, you should think twice before placing an order with that site. A privacy policy should include the type of information the seller will gather based on your transaction, and how the seller is planning to use the information gathered. A privacy policy should offer you the option to decline acceptance (‘opt out’) of these policies. If you want to opt out, you should read the privacy policy thoroughly and look for instructions about how to opt out of accepting the policies.

But having a privacy policy posted online doesn’t necessarily protect you and keep your information private. Although you may be reassured by seeing a logo or seal of an independent monitoring agency that seemingly promises a private, secure transaction, you should also read the policy. Monitoring organizations may not dictate the privacy policy site owners must follow; they may only require the seller to abide by the privacy policy they have in place, whether or not it is a good policy. These organizations are usually not liable for anything if a seller does not follow the terms of its posted privacy policy. So if you see a monitoring organization’s logo on a website, you may want to visit the website of that agency to see how trustworthy they are and what kind of monitoring they do.

Many online sites contain programming codes that insert small files―’cookies’―onto your computer’s hard drive. Some websites require cookies for visitors to use the site or make purchases; some are used simply to identify site visitors; and some cookies are useful because they keep you from having to re-enter the same personal information every time you visit the site. But other ‘invisible’ cookies can actually keep track of the various websites you visit, the searches you do, the amount of time you spend on certain sites, and some can even obtain your e-mail address by the transactions you do online. Marketers can use this information to specifically tailor advertisements they send you. These cookies are typically referred to as ‘adware’. Another type of invisible cookie, ‘spyware’, is added to your computer when you go to download certain free programs or spend time on certain websites. These programs are not as harmless as regular cookies; although they can keep track of your online activities, they can also be used by marketers to track what you actually type, including personal information, without you knowing it.

Your web browser has preference settings to allow you to limit, or prevent, sites from installing cookies on your computer. There are also good software or even freeware programs that you can install, and they can warn you about any website that attempts to install cookies, spyware, or adware on your computer. You can choose to accept, refuse, or control these installations using the tools contained in the software. Some anti-virus packages contain these programs, and some ISPs offer them along with their service packages. For ultimate protection, you may want to install a ‘firewall’ to prevent unwanted intrusions on your computer.

When you purchase an item from an online seller, often they will offer to send you a confirmation e-mail detailing the transaction. Before agreeing to this confirmation e-mail, be sure to read the seller’s privacy policy so you will know how their procedure is handled. You do not necessarily need a confirmation e-mail as proof of purchase or proof of payment; usually you can simply print the final screen that appears at the end of your transaction, so you will have a record of the purchase.

Keeping a grip on personal information related to your activities online is just as important as keeping a grip on financial information you enter when making an online purchase. There are always unscrupulous people and companies watching every move website visitors make, and the information they collect can totally ruin your Internet experiences as well as risk ruining your identity offline. So before you click that Pay Now button to get a great deal, take a few minutes to read the site’s privacy policies and be sure you know what you’re signing up for.