Tag Archives: Online shopping

Retail stores need more inventory to stay relevant

hiking boots 2Stores are working hard to prevent showrooming, where a customer goes into the store to touch and feel a product and then returns home to buy it cheaper online. Some retailers are price matching online prices hoping you’ll buy in the store rather than online. While it hurts local business owners when you buy online, I find it’s hard to avoid. Recently, two in-store experiences left me no choice but to purchase the products I wanted from online retailers.

My husband and I are taking a vacation to New Zealand this spring, and we need hiking boots. I’m not used to hiking boots so I wanted to try them out for fit and comfort. I walked into Dick’s Sporting Goods, and found just a few options. Of the three I liked, the store didn’t have any in my size. So, I took a picture and went home to search online.

hiking bootsI waited to purchase the boots until my husband was ready. A few weeks later, my husband and I went to the same sporting goods store in another town. This store had even fewer choices. There was only one boot that fit my needs, and once again it wasn’t in my size.

My husband tried two pairs, and again neither one was in his size.

Why bother driving to a store to try on shoes? They obviously don’t have a good selection of inventory. Dick’s Sporting Goods even offers free shipping and returns on its shoes. There is no incentive to go into the store anymore.

Buying shoes online is tricky if there’s not free shipping both ways. You have to weigh the costs and benefits just in case that shoe doesn’t fit properly. Many retailers are beginning to offer free return shipping including Amazon on certain Prime purchases that are fulfilled through Amazon. If you are looking for a specific shoe, it may not fit these specifications for free returns. I recently bought a pair of boots that did not have free return shipping, and it cost me $15 in postage to send them back. I still saved $55 buying through Amazon compared to other e-retailers, so sometimes it’s worth the cost of return shipping to buy online.

Courtesy Apple

Courtesy Apple

I had a similar experience with electronics. We needed two phones, and only one was in stock in the store. We went to the store thinking it would be easier than online since we had to port our phone numbers and open an account with a new cell phone carrier. It was another wasted trip. The store was no help, and couldn’t even place our order online for us.

We went home and ordered the items we needed. With this, I will admit the online systems was not perfect. The online ordering system told us we could only ship the smartphones to a nearby store (not the one we visited). I placed the order, and then got an email ten minutes later telling me the items were not available and we needed to call customer service. It took two more calls to customer service before they found the phones we needed. The option of home shipment wasn’t available previously, but the second customer service got it to work.

It took a few phone calls, but it still took less time than it would to drive to the store. Plus, I didn’t have to pay for gas.

I try to find reasons to shop in stores knowing local owners are dependent on my business. However, without adequate inventory and customer service it’s hard to argue with the ease of online shopping.

Share your experience by clicking comment below.

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Consider Facebook to buy that perfect gift this holiday

Facebook GiftsStill undecided about a gift? Look beyond the traditional retailers and online shops. Consider the social network, Facebook, to find that perfect present. The company is adding a “gift” section, and you don’t even need the receiver’s address. The return policy is unique too.

Here’s how it works. You pick out the gift, and your friend is notified. Then, they enter their shipping information. If they don’t like the gift, they can trade it for a gift they’d rather enjoy. That’s perfect for the person who doesn’t give you any clues about what they might like for the holidays.

Before you can see the gift options, you need to enter your friend’s name. You can send everything from whoopie pies to whiskey rocks. There’s a lot of food and beverage options, but also a magazine subscription, fun quirky items like a harmonica necklace, gifts for the home or kitchen, bath and body products, kids items, fashionable things, kids products, and items that give back. You can give actual products or some are simply for gift cards.  The majority of products appear to be under $50, and the sender is charged for shipping if applicable.

It’s shopping for the lazy person who already is spending a lot of time on Facebook. It’s also a way for Facebook to make even more money, and get you to stay on its site longer.

Will you try Facebook Gifts? Click comment below.

Saving on holiday shopping depends on the “day” you shop

Black Friday shoppers rush into Best Buy 2010

The holiday shopping season has arrived, and retailers will have all sorts of gimmicks to get you to save. Here’s a look at some of the important dates this holiday that will help procrastinators and early birds save money.

November 23 – Black Friday
If you have no interest in the crowds, there are many other days to save.

November 24 – Small business Saturday
Support your local business and save.

November 26 – Cyber Monday
During the entire holiday season last year, online sales were up 17%. This year, the numbers are expected to jump 20% over last year. On the Monday after Black Friday, shoppers spend their work day shopping for deals online.

December 10 – Green Monday
Ebay came up with this term in 2007 to describe their best sales day in December. It’s the second Monday of the month, and now billions are spent on this online shopping holiday.

December 14 – Post office deadline
Deadline for parcel post mail deliveries to arrive on time for the holidays.

December 15 – Busy shopping day
ShopperTrak calls this the third busiest shopping day of the season aside from Black Friday and Super Saturday which is the last Saturday before the Christmas holiday.

December 17 – Free Shipping Day
Thousands of retailers join together and offer free shipping to shoppers. Some have restrictions on your order total to qualify for the promotion, but may don’t.

December 20 – First class  mail deadline

December 22 – Super Saturday
Lots of procrastinators will fill the malls and take advantage of last minute deals.

December 23 – e-Gift card Day
Once again procrastinators are in luck. This day allows you to get a last minute gift card online and you can send it electronically to your loved one.

Amazon “Add-on” – add low-priced items to your cart for free shipping

Courtesy: Amazon

We’re bombarded by products at stores from the moment we walk in until the moment we leave. There are items everywhere because consumers tend to impulse buy. Now, it’s spreading to the online world. Make an impulse buy and you may get free shipping.

Amazon offers free shipping if you spend $25 on items it ships. Now, getting to that threshold will be easier with its “Add-on” program. I see it as a way to get you to impulse buy or spend more so you can save on shipping.

The retailer wants you to see this as a treat because it’s add-on products are ones it normally wouldn’t sell you. These are small-sized items that are low-priced. Normally, Amazon doesn’t sell or ship these items because it is cost prohibitive. Some of the items include Diamond chopped pecans for $3.42, an exfoliating towel for $5 and The Body Shop mini hairbrush for $5. Now, you can “add-on” these items to your order. So, if the product you want is $12, you can $13 worth of “add-on” products to your order and you’ll get free shipping as long as Amazon ships the items. Your other option is to pile several small and low-priced items into your cart to meet the $25 free shipping threshold without a higher priced item.

Many of the featured items in the add-on program are grocery, pet or health and beauty products. Before this program; Amazon sold grocery items in bulk and you couldn’t buy just one bag of nuts. Look for the Add-on Item icon and subsequent blue box next to qualifying items.

                                 

If you have add-on items and your order is not over $25, you can save them for a future purchase.

Some consumers are complaining on Amazon’s site about the $25 minimum order. Some say they only want one $5 item and wish they could just pay the shipping costs. This program requires you to spend more if you want free shipping.

This also brings into question the value of Amazon Prime. I’m a Prime user and love it for the free shipping. Why pay the money for membership if you can get free shipping by adding on items? The problem right now is the product offerings appear limited. However, Amazon said it’s adding more items every day to its Add on program. Plus, I can spend whatever I want with Prime and still get free shipping on most products. The shipping will still be faster than Add-on free shipping. With Prime, you also get other benefits if you stream video or read e-books. Still, I’ll be watching closely as Prime may have passed its prime for me.

Google Trusted Stores: online retailers reviewed and service guaranteed

I love to shop online, and I’m willing to buy from a site outside my comfort zone. I did this a lot while shopping for wedding supplies, hoping to find the item for the cheapest price possible. Thanks to reviews and gut instincts about the site, I never had any trouble. However, you just don’t know how reputable a company is based on their website. Anyone can make a website look good. It doesn’t answer the basic questions — will the company deliver quality products and on time? It’s hard to know. Google is trying to make this guessing game a little easier with their Trusted partner sites.

While buying rose petals for the wedding aisle, which ended up just blowing away (it was a good thought), I noticed the website promoting its a Google Trusted partner. I didn’t really know what it was, and I was already going to buy from this site. I will admit having the backing of Google did affirm my decision to purchase from this company even if I didn’t fully understand the program.

Google allows companies who meet certain shipping and customer service guidelines to participate in the Google Trusted Store program for free. The products must ship within the specified timeframe, and it must be quick. Issues must be resolved, and a low number of customers may receive help. Look for the logo on websites. Hover over that badge to see key stats on the merchant’s shipping and customer service. You’ll also see how many transactions that data is based on.

In the case of the rose petals, the store got an A based on 50,000 transactions. That’s good data for the consumer available at your fingertips. You don’t have to read reviews or search online for other customer feedback. It’s right on the front page of the website.

Of course, soon there will be imposters. Google has a “Verify” link that allows you to make sure that’s a legitimate badge and reliability data.

You not only have confidence making that order, if there is a problem Google will back you up under certain conditions.  Google offers purchase protection for these trusted stores. You must opt in to this free protection. It protects you if there is a problem with your order and you can’t resolve it with the company. You may be eligible for a refund in the amount you paid during purchase minus any refunds you receive. There is a lifetime maximum of $1,000. Only purchases shipping with the United States are eligible for this protection.

When you opt into this protection, understand the merchant will share your order information and email address with Google. Then, you’ll get an email from Google with your order details, contact information for the merchant, and a link to Google if there is a problem you can’t resolve.  Certain items are restricted. Click here to read about these (prescriptions, miracle cures, online gaming, etc.).

 

E-retailers offer discounts and deals when you abandon your shopping cart

When I shop online, I always check for a promotional code or free shipping before I place the order. I’ve walked away from purchases if I felt I could get the product cheaper somewhere else.If you don’t like the price you’re paying, browsing away from the deal may be the best thing you can do to get a discount.

Reuters reports some e-retailers are sending coupons and promotions to customers who abandon their online shopping cart. I can vouch that it’s not everyone as I often abandon my shopping cart. I did it recently with a wedding gift and my own gift registry. I wanted to clear off my registry with all the gift cards I received for our wedding, and buy another gift for another friend. The store wanted to charge me $10 in shipping charges per order. I refused to pay it and went in the store to save myself $20. I never got a coupon in my email Inbox. I guess I’m not shopping the right stores.

According to Reuters, I should be shopping Land’s End, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Zappos. They all send emails offering discounts if you complete your order.

Shoppers at Reddit add even more companies including Lids, Overstock, AllPosters, Hanes, Avis, HobbyKing, and Crocs.

Often you have to be logged into your account with this company for it to work. Some companies track you with cookies just like they track you for ads. Ever browse a website and later see ads for it on a different browsing session? The same thing happens when you’re shopping and abandon your cart. If they have your email address on file for your computer, they may email you.

It’s a new way of getting deals. It will take more time as you may have to wait a few days to get the discount in your email. If it can save you money, it might be worth it.

Returning a daily deal

Ever had buyer’s remorse? I’m always looking for a good massage or spa service — even just a manicure and pedicure. Daily deals are always tempting making it easy to second guess your decision later. If you know the rules of the game, you can easily get your money back.

Deal buying is a spur of the moment decision. I usually check out the business to see if they are offering a lot of other deals at the same time. I’ve noticed a trend where lesser known companies shop the daily deal sites. It’s probably more the daily deal sites are selling to them, but one day the business will be on LivingSocial, and a few days later on Groupon. I think this sends the wrong message to the consumer. It makes me nervous to invest in a business that sells a lot of daily deals all at once. Who knows if they’ll be around long enough for me to cash in on that deal.

If I don’t see the company shopping daily deal sites, I check out their website and customer reviews. Those are not always available, so sometimes I just have to take a risk. Recently, I got so caught up in the process that I forgot to read the fine print. I thought I’d have the standard six months or a year to redeem the offer. Apparently, that standard doesn’t exist any longer. I got an email confirming my purchase, and minutes later I got a reminder email telling me I had until the end of the month to use the deal. I couldn’t believe it. The deal only lasted three weeks? To make matters worse, it was a service industry. It seemed unrealistic I’d be able to get an appointment in that short time.

I never tried to make an appointment, because that timeframe simply wasn’t going to work with my schedule. I looked at the return policy not expecting much. After all it was my fault for not reading the fine print, but I was pleasantly surprised. I knew there was no way I could use the deal within the next three weeks, and thought I was just going to be out the money.

There is a 3 day cooling off policy that allows for refunds in many transactions, but I never thought it would apply here because it was sold at such a discount. However, I was surprised to learn these sites have great return and refund policies.

There’s “The Groupon Promise” which offers to make it right if you are let down by your Groupon experience.  The promise says if you want to return a purchase for any reason, Customer Service will work with you to make it right.

With LivingSocial, you can get a refund within five days of purchasing the Voucher.  You can also get your money back if you don’t get a chance to use your discount before the business goes out of business.

I got my money back right away, so now I’m more inclined to invest in a lesser known business. I still follow my gut, though, and when it just doesn’t feel worth it I don’t take the risk. To protect your money, always know the rules of the game before you spend money.

Zappos customers on alert after cyber attack – the lesson for all of us

Cyberfraud is always rampant, but what’s next this week? Online shoe retailer, Zappos, is warning customers that their personal data may have been accessed including your email address, name, billing and shipping address, phone number, and the last four digits of your credit card number, and maybe even a scrambled version of your password. Yikes!

The email sent to customers tells you to change your password. The company discontinued the passwords that were stolen in their scrambled form so accounts can no longer be accessed without a new password.

To reset your password on Zappos, you simply submit your email address and they send you a new password. Be warned – the new password doesn’t arrive in your email right away. Zappos says it’s had a large number of requests, obviously, and it may take up to 30 minutes.

Password management
Here’s the problem – if you use your Zappos password on other websites you may be vulnerable on other sites. The thieves dig for more information when they get a few pieces. Sometimes those pieces are enough to steal your identity or at least commit more fraud.

That’s why you are always told not to use the same password on multiple sites, but just like you I am guilty of that. It’s hard to create a different password for every site and remember it. That’s why some security consultants recommend a password management program like KeePass. It’s free software that manages all your passwords so you can use different ones on different sites, and it recommends more complicated passwords so your accounts are more difficult to hack.

Finally, don’t use public computers. There may be software installed on it that can steal your keystrokes. Think it can’t happen to you, think again. Click here to see that story. It will make you resist the urge the next time you are on vacation.

Damage control
At this point, the damage is done. The thieves hopefully won’t be able to unscramble the passwords they got, but who knows.  These attacks are very sophisticated and their capabilities seem limitless sometimes. With the last four digits of your credit card and address it may make it easier for thieves to hack into your another accounts.

Change the passwords on other accounts especially your bank and popular ones like Facebook and Twitter if you think they are similar to your Zappos account.

Also, be on alert and don’t fall for spam or phone calls that ask you to verify personal information.

Related links you may like:
Facebook and Twitter security
Erasing your digital footprint
Online hacking schemes – email and Facebook accounts exposed

Free Shipping Day is Friday

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping, why not wait a little longer and save on shipping. Friday, December 16th, is Free Shipping Day. More than 2,000 merchants will offer free shipping and guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve.

During the holidays, whether you buy on the designated Free Shipping Day, or when it’s convenient for you — shipping is something you should try to avoid. If one store won’t offer it to you, go to one that will. I’ve bought some gifts valued at $30 and $75 this holiday, and haven’t paid for shipping yet.

I always google the company I’m using to make a purchase and the words “free shipping” and “promotional code” to find more ways to save money. There are often promotional codes that will take 10-20% off your order floating around on the Internet. There are entire websites, like Free Shipping, that give you the inside scoop on the promotional codes you need to enter at checkout for free shipping.

You can also earn money to do your holiday shopping online. Simply, sign up for an account through Ebates. When it’s time to shop, find the store through Ebates and if they participate in the cash back program you’ll earn 5-20% cash back on your order. I’m an infrequent shopper and this year I got a check for more than $50 since I earned a percentage back everytime I shopped.

Click here to see if your favorite retailer is participating in free shipping day

Cyber Monday shopping options – Facebook or earn cash back

If you skipped the Black Midnight mania, today might be your day because it’s Cyber Monday. Shoppers will have more places to shop online including Facebook.

Retailers like Express are offering their online store on their Facebook fan page. You can share the item, which of course the store wants you to do, or simply buy it.

I think this is going to take off. Facebook news feeds used to be filled with gamers playing Farmville. Now, you can see the news stories your friends read on Yahoo. As shopping on Facebook takes off, you’ll be able to see the new accessories your friends are buying. For someone who hates to shop, maybe I’ll let someone else do the hard work for me.

Retailers are also trying to get you to shop online at the mall. According to Daily Finance, Walmart launched pop-up stores in some California malls. It’s hardly the only retailer doing this. Daily Finance says Sears, Kmart, and eBay are offering shoppers similar experiences. There are even ads in subways and airports that have QR or quick response codes on them that allow you to get more information about the toys or products you saw in the ad you just passed.

Technology is driving a lot of these changes. I wonder if malls will even be around in 10 years. While these are unique experiences that are hardly mainstream, there are mainstream ways to cash in that few people know about.

Earn cash back to shop online
I do most of my holiday shopping online, and make money doing it courtesy of Ebates. If I want to buy something at Macy’s or Amazon, I go to Ebates and log in. I enter the store I’m looking for like Macy’s and click on the provided link to earn a set percentage back on my order. During the holidays, there are often promotions that will earn you more than the traditional 3-6% cash back.

It takes seconds to link through Ebates, and in this case I think the time is really worth the money. Last year, I earned more than $50 cash back. That’s $50 I didn’t have before.

To earn the money, obviously my order is tracked. However, what isn’t tracked online these days? Soon we’ll be sharing our finds on Facebook as that becomes a mainstream way to shop.