How many times have you clicked “check-out” over the last 12 months or so?
Probably a lot more than pre-March 2020.
According to McKinsey 10 years of e-commerce adoption took place in the 3 months after the pandemic caused a global lockdown and based on my e-shopping experience and all the new Apps I now have loaded on my phone, I believe them.
While it’s enjoyable and dare I say fun, to get cosy in your favourite spot and browse the web for potential purchases from the comfort of your own home, to be really successful, strategically uncovering the best deal, dodging the hackers and saving time and money, you have to be a tech savvy shopper and as with any skill there are rules and techniques to learn to build your expertise.
Rule 1: Security
This is the biggie, more internet use means more opportunity for hackers and fraudsters to do what they do best, steal stuff! Only now they can also do it from the comfort of their own homes.
Digital Info World has written an excellent article on this and highlight the key things to look out for;
- Only use websites with https. This designation in my non tech understanding means the website encrypts your information so that the connections are secure. Irrespective of this, it’s still a good idea to avoid public networks even if using https websites.
- Try and stick to retailers you know, such as those you can physically visit and those online only retailers that you have researched and checked reviews on to ensure they are legitimate.
- Don’t be quick to share your personal information and first check the website is secure and has the little padlock in the website URL to prove it. That being said if the checkout or registration process seems to be requiring a lot more information than seems reasonably necessary take this is a big red danger signal.
- Keep tabs on your credit score and credit report to make sure no one has your details and is happily racking up debt in your name. It’s good practice to check your credit report each quarter and the 3 official credit agencies, Experian, Equifax and Transunion will let you do so for free once per year.
- Use your credit card instead of your debit card as your credit card provider insures your credit card against fraudulent transactions and if you are spending between £100 and £30,000 on an item, your credit card provider and the supplier are jointly liable for faulty or sub-standard purchases. In addition, by not using a debit card you protect your bank account from potentially being cleaned out. But remember to repay your credit card in full every month to avoid high interest charges.
Rule 2: Don’t click links in emails to access websites
An increase in online shopping also unfortunately means an increase in spam and based on my experience you will get a whole lot of emails from the websites you visit. Digital Info World suggests shopping in incognito mode to avoid some of this unwanted spam but some still somehow finds its way in.
I know this sounds a bit of a hindrance to the ease of online shopping but don’t access the website from the links on the email, rather type in the website address you know into the browser.
Hackers are apparently creating fake websites which are basically clones of the legitimate ones thereby getting your details and your money.
Rule 3: Read the fine print.
Know your rights; what is the shipping policy and how long will it take to receive your item, how do you got about returning items and how long do you have to return them, is the return fully refunded or are you liable for delivery costs and do you get the amount credited to your credit card or by way of site vouchers? Is there a clearly accessible help function and how responsive is the site to queries.
These are not always front of mind when you find that dream item you have been surfing for, but having been caught on the wrong end of both refunds and shipping I can tell you to avoid much frustration and time wastage this is not an area to be skipped.
Rule 4: Password Protect
The security of the sites you use and put your payment details on is only as strong as the key to get to them – your password.
The best approach is to have strong passwords but this creates the challenge to remember them.
I have been known to use the same password on multiple sites, I’m not confirming or denying that I still do but as I have started to understand how risky this is I have migrated to a password manager, LastPass which is heavily encrypted and automatically generates and stores hugely complex passwords for the websites I use. The biggest challenge I now face is remembering the one password to the passport manager.
There are other managers besides LastPass, such as 1Password, Dashlane and Keeper so do your research and see which works for you. Some people use their browsers password storing facilities but many tech websites have expressed concerns about how secure browsers are as website managers. So I would suggest erring on the side of caution and not using these.
Rule 5: The ease of comparison
And finally the beauty of online shopping is the universe of things available to buy without having to visit a shopping mall or two or three to get access to a small percentage of this. Although of course this embarrassment of riches has its positives and negatives.
One of the positives is that you can easily price compare and shop for the best deal. A huge, ugly disadvantage though is the temptation to overspend created by the access to an almost limitless universe of goodies all designed to stimulate our want buttons. And of course when we are caught up in the “I wants” we may not be as vigilant about fraudulent sites as we may otherwise have been.
The point is all the money savvy’s you have cultivated in the physical world are just as relevant in the digital one, the trick is simply to incorporate the new rules and techniques into all you know and to use this in your arsenal of money management tools.