Whether we like it or not this is the way most of us are buying at the moment, and if the experts are to be believed, this way of shopping is only set to expand.
I love and loathe online shopping all at the same time. I can see the benefits of being able to access brands I wouldn’t have come across before, and the convenience of not having to fight the crowds and have it delivered to my door. But I do like to touch and feel items and miss the interaction that goes along with shopping in person. My family used to joke that I sent back more than I kept, which I can’t deny, but it’s like anything, the more you do it the better you get at it. I have learnt from mistakes, and now send back a lot less than I used to.
Here are my top tips for a successful online shopping experience:
1. Don’t get drawn in by the reduced section and sales. The same mantra that you should only buy it if you would have loved it at full-price applies to online shopping in exactly the same way that it does to in-store shopping. It’s so easy to get carried away online because you don’t see it physically piling-up in the same way you do if you’re lugging it around a shop.
2. Make sure that the website is secure (look for the padlock symbol in the address bar) and that the retailer is reputable.
3. Filter, lots. If you use the filter function to reduce the amount you’re faced with it feels less daunting. If I get 20 pages of results I will often only look at the first few and give up, whereas if I filter the choices down to only 4 or 5 pages, I usually go through them all. You can always filter again to see what different items come up. Most sites will let you filter by gender, then a broad category such as ‘knitwear’ or ‘accessories’. Some will let you go further, for example sleeve length on tops or colour.
4. Look at the ‘New In’ section if there is one. If you have browsed the site before you don’t need to see the same old items again.
5. Add things to your bag if you are unsure. I often get to the end of a browsing session with hundreds of pounds worth of clothes in my virtual bag, and then have a second look at those items and cull them down again (a lot). If you don’t add something that you later want to take a second look at then you have to find it again which can be a pain.
6. Use the size charts provided and measure your own body to see which size you should be ordering. If in doubt order more than one size but check whether returns are free first because you know you will have to send at least one of them back.
7. Read the reviews – this is often a good way to find out how true to size an item is – if everyone is saying it comes up small you can take this into account when you order.
8. If there is information about heel heights or dimensions of a bag compare them to something you own to get a better idea of how this translates.
9. Some sites have videos of models moving in the clothes which can give you an idea of the weight and drape of a fabric. Similarly some will tell you the height of the model and what size she is wearing – this can be particularly helpful in determining how long a hemline is likely to be.
10. Many retailers will offer introductory offers such as 10% off with your first order. I have set up a second email address and use this to sign up to these so that my regular email address is not flooded with marketing emails and future offers.
11. I keep a folder in my email inbox with all my online order receipts for clothing so that I can find them again easily.
12. Be prepared to RETURN items if they arrive and aren’t the right colour or style. The great thing about online shopping is that you can look at the item alongside your other clothes, try it on with different shoes and accessories and combinations – BUT – if you are having to try hard to make it work, then don’t keep it.
13. Keep the packaging and any documents enclosed safe until you are sure you aren’t going to return the item and check how long you have got to return. Once you have sent the item keep the proof of postage and write what the item was on the reverse in case you need to chase where your refund’s got to.
Of course, knowing your colours and style helps with all of this as you are filtering before you even start looking online. If you have a wardrobe edit you can identify those items you need and those you don't which is a great way of starting in a focused way.
Happy (online) shopping x
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