GN Focus | Online Shopping

Buy safe, buy smart

The world of online shopping is rewarding if you can shop sharp. Here is how the latest international trends will impact how you shop

  • By Shalini Seth | Specialist Writer
  • Published: 00:00 July 31, 2012

  • Image Credit: Supplied

The smart online shopper is one who can shop safely and comfortably, while still bagging the best deals. While parts of the world have moved to discussions on an addiction to online shopping, the UAE is in the early stages of discovering the charm of spending money from the armchair.

According to a MasterCard survey released in April on online shopping behaviour (which revealed that 42 per cent of UAE shoppers accessed the internet for online shopping in 2011) the greatest proportion of online spend is occurring on airline sites, with 78 per cent of UAE respondents preferring to purchase tickets online rather than at traditional outlets. Other leading categories include apps (76 per cent), coupon/deal sites (68 per cent) and music download sites (64 per cent). But there is much more available online. Here are six ways in which you can make the most of it:

Your favourite store, online: Retailers, both online and offline, are packing a lot into their websites. If you know what you want and where it is available, check the site to see if you can book and collect from the store. In-store pickup, free delivery and comparison shopping are all available today. In more mature markets, shops even deliver to the car or your home.

Trying and trusting: Many online shopping websites in the UAE offer the option of cash on delivery. If you are not shopping from a secure location, always use this option. Even if you are buying from the site for the first time, it's a good idea to try first. Check on how secure a site is - secure retailers take the trouble of telling you how secure they are. Verify.

Wait for the deal: Online shopping sites have ongoing promotions, often offering the best price guarantee. Selectively sign up for your favourite products so you know when they are available cheap or at a discount. Some smartphone apps allow for price comparisons or send out coupons. Mature markets are even producing deal aggregator websites which function on the basis of putting together the best deals almost hourly.

Share, review: Reviewing can sometimes be its own reward. But some retailers even offer freebies for consumers who try their products and write about them. Being a reviewing customer allows one to contribute to the good of all consumers. When shopping, don't just read, watch user-generated videos on retail sites. Many retailers allow consumers to upload video clips modelling new accessories or using a new purchase.

Be alert: Check the returns policy on the items - many online retailers have a 15-day return policy. Also, ensure you install security software if you are going to use your mobile for shopping and payments.

Be the first: If you are the type who queues up all night waiting for your product to hit the shelves, you will like this. International and cross-border e-commerce is growing. You can discover small, niche online retailers who are happy to do business online outside of their country.