Tips for online shoppers

Posted on Oct. 08, 2015 by CPO in Living

Online shopping gives customers around-the-clock access to different retailers, and allows them to easily compare prices. Many sites also provide informed, unbiased opinions on a wide range of products, while flexible payment apps can make billing and checkout a breeze.

Still, successful online shopping requires a little savvy, too. When you’re not able to physically examine an item before you buy, it’s essential to be certain you’re getting exactly what you want. Equally important is having a good understanding of issues such as security, shipping costs and return policies.

If you’re planning on shopping online this holiday season, here are some tips to help you get the most out of the experience.

Stay secure

Before entering your credit card information to complete any online sale, make sure you look for the lock. Trusted, reliable websites typically use something called SSL encryption, or Secure Sockets Layer. You’ll know it’s there if you see an icon of a closed padlock, either on the left hand side of the address bar at the top of your browser, or in the status bar along the bottom.

Control the risk of data theft by using a digital wallet app to pay for your purchases. Services such as PayPal store your credit card information, meaning you don’t have to enter it with each new purchase.

Price-comparison websites and apps

Holiday shopping bills can add up fast, but price-comparison websites and apps are great tools to help you find the best deals and stick to your budget. Surf them when buying from home, and install one on your smartphone for when you’re out visiting stores. Type in a brand name product, or scan its barcode with your smartphone camera if you’re at the store, and find out which local business has the best price on the item. Some stores will match competitor’s prices, which can help streamline your shopping into fewer locations.

Read the fine print

Make sure that the online deal that looked so good doesn’t turn out as “too good to be true”. Before you click the “buy” button, check that you’re comfortable with the terms of the sale. Shipping, handling and processing fees can run up the cost of your purchase and erode anticipated savings, so look out for extra charges. Some retailers may ship for free if you spend enough money or buy a certain number of items.

It’s also wise to take a good look at the return policy. How long do you have to make up your mind? If the business has a retail outlet, can you return an unwanted or defective item there? If not, who covers the cost of sending back returns?

Flexible delivery options

It can be frustrating to miss a delivery that arrives while you’re out at work or running errands. Instead, sign up for FlexDelivery™ and you can have online purchases delivered to a convenient post office location of your choice, whether it’s one near your workplace, or almost anywhere you may be travelling to visit friends and family across Canada this holiday season.

If your chosen online retailer ships to PO Box addresses, simply provide them with your unique FlexDelivery address during the checkout process (instead of your regular mailing address). You’ll be notified by email whenever a package arrives.

Use online technology to follow your packages and make sure nothing goes astray. Go to canadapost.ca, use the Canada Post mobile app or use Google Now to track any online purchases you’re waiting for. Google Now is a virtual assistant service that provides timely, practical information in a single platform. It’s available on mobile devices, tablets, desktops and even wearables. Canada Post’s parcel tracking services have been integrated with Google Now, enabling users to receive notifications on packages delivered by Canada Post.

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