A Beginners Guide To Online Shopping

Oh my goodness where has the time gone!! I’ve really been MIA haven’t I…I do apologise life got real, deadlines appeared out of nowhere merp!

Ok ok enough of that. I think I should start off by saying…Hello my name is Stephanie and I am an online shopping addict. I need to go to OSA (Online Shopping Anonymous) like seriously I feel for my bank account lol. But hey lets turn a negative well is it really a negative, if it is we’ll make it positive by myself giving you some hints and tips to online shopping. Kind of like a beginners guide for those who haven’t tried it out and are hesitant. This can be a part 1 so just the guidelines and then maybe ill do another post with my favourite sites to shop on and which sites ship internationally and so on, sound good? Ok let’s get straight into it!

1. Use familiar Websites

You may be reading this and saying but Steph if I’ve never online shopped before how do I know which is a familiar website. Easy a site for a store or brand that is well-known, so shopping on Mr Price Clothing, MAC, Takealot or Amazon. Basically the big names that most people throw around. I’d say start by using a local site first to get a feel for how it works (payment methods, shipping fees, delivery times etc). You’d rather learn what you are doing simply because international is a whole nother ball game, I mean foreign currency, taxes, duty etc. So if you’re hesitant start small and see how you like it.

2. Read and understand the website policies

You want to go to the info page on the website or the FAQ section, this is where they will answer some of the most common questions with regards to return policies, shipping, duty and taxes and so on. You would rather find out first that the website doesn’t ship to your country rather than fill your cart with lovely things then head to checkout and you only then find out you wasted your time because they don’t ship to your country. (HINT: On Amazon there is a filter button on the left hand side of the screen which helps you to filter the products on whether they can be shipped to your country). (HINT: If the FAQ section is not specific on whether they ship to your country  pick one item check it out then go to the checkout window and in the information section you will see an area where you have to pick your country and if your country is not there then they don’t ship there and vice versa).

3. International Shipping

This is the bane of my online shopping existence!! So many beautiful things and some of them just don’t ship to South Africa…why oh why!!! Ok I will admit over the last 2 years or so its gotten much better, before you would struggle to find items that you want that actually ship to you but now more and more places are shipping to almost everywhere and even if the parent company website doesn’t there are other websites that carry their brands that do! Just remember my checkout, filter button and FAQ hints above =). Also something important to be aware of is the shipping costs, if you are lucky you can get free shipping. Some websites run promos where you can get free shipping if you spend over a certain amount, some offer a fixed shipping amount irregardless of how much you order and others vary the shipping depending on how many items you have bought or the weight of those items. So make sure you are aware of the fees because you don’t want to get a shipping fee that’s more expensive than all the items you’ve bought.

4. Signing up vs guest checkout

Most websites will require you to sign up in order to checkout, this will mean that they will always have your details saved to your profile in case you wish to order again then you don’t need to re type all of your details. If you sign up this will also keep track of all of your orders and you can normally track your orders through this page as well as reorder products you’ve previously ordered. If you checkout as a guest you will fill in your details once and that’s it you wont have a profile, sounds simple but if you wish to track your order you wont be able to so my suggestion just create the profile you’d rather have your details there for future use as well as the need to track your orders so you know by when you should be expecting them.

5. Checking Out

You’ve added all of your items to the cart and you are ready to pay, great! This is where you’ll click on the little cart icon or the checkout button. It normally takes you to a screen which requires you to fill in all of your details (Name, shipping and billing address, contact number, bank details, shipping method), this window should also give you a break down of your order and the total cost, normally once you’ve put in your shipping address and you’ve selected your shipping method it will add those to your total (HINT: If you are doing international shopping my suggestion is to use the google exchange calculator fist to convert the cost into ZAR so that you can really get the just of the damage you’re about to make, it’s all hunky dory when you see $90 on your screen but when you convert it haha be prepared for the mini heart attack). Ok so once you’ve filled in all of the information you will hit checkout and boom bang your first online shop has been completed!! Hoooorah!! You should be then taken to a screen that gives you a detailed breakdown or your order and your order number and you should also get an email with the same details.

6. Safeguarding your banking details

Now I know this is a touchy subject. Everyone that doesn’t online shop normally doesn’t do so because they fear the safeness of their personal info and banking details. But don’t fear there are systems out there that can assist you! The most commonly used one is PayPal and the one I’ve been seeing pop up locally is PayU. Basically these are programs where you can save your banking information and then when you shop online they will do the money transaction without sharing your banking details to whomever the service provider you are using is, and so when you shop online most websites will give you the option to checkout with PayPal for example when you click on this option it will ask you sign into your paypal account and then you will agree to the transaction and voila you are done. You wont need to fill in your bank details or give any of those details to the website or provider.

7. Delivery

Ok so delivery can vary depending on the website, the shipping method and the country from where your parcel is coming from. It can be really quick (3-5 days local and 2-3 weeks international) and it can take forever (9-20 days local and 2-3 months international). So if you are one of those people who wants it and wants it now then online shopping is not for you, because here you have to play the waiting game. Please note that most international parcels will need to be collected at the post office (it’s normally the colsest one to your shipping address) as you will need to pay for duty and taxes (don’t worry ill explain this below). Local parcels normally are delivered to your door and websites like Amazon whom charge duty and taxes beforehand will also deliver to your door.

8. Duty and taxes

AGRGH if there’s anything I can’t stand its duty and taxes. Why? well honestly because you never really know what the cost will be. Some people are really lucky and don’t have to pay and then sometimes its just not your day, for example I’ve had duty fees that came up to R120 which really wasn’t so bad but then I’ve also had a duty fee that was R660 (yup I nearly had a heart attack when I found out) My suggestion is to calculate 30% of the total cost of your parcel or deliver and that should be about the amount you’ll be likely to pay for taxes and duty.

Ok so those are my hints and tips for anybody who’s an online shopping beginner. I really hope you found this useful.




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