Whether you’re looking for a new iron, the latest on-trend accessory, or a just released piece of tech, the choice when it comes to shopping online can be overwhelming. The sheer volume of products, retailers, and special offers can make it difficult to identify the best option.

Use the handy guide below to help navigate shopping on the internet, no matter what you’re looking for, so that you can enjoy a smoother and safer online experience.

Make the Most of Comparison Sites

Comparison sites are a really useful way to make sure you’re getting the best value for money regarding your utility bills, bank accounts, and insurance. There are also comparison sites out there for all manner of products, so whether you’re considering the best type of dog food to buy online or are looking for a whole new work wardrobe from online clothing stores, you can read reviews and information that’ll help you make a choice.

Have a look at top10.com for an example of one such comparison site; navigate a vast range of products and services and read real-world testimonials from those who have made a purchase. This particular site is also home to a series of handy blogs on subjects as diverse as hacks to help your kids eat healthier and dating site slang.

Stay Safe Online

When shopping online, keeping your personal and payment information safe and secure is paramount. Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to help with this. Firstly, it’s vital to have high-quality virus protection software installed on your device; this should be updated regularly, and patches applied when prompted.

Next, take a few moments when visiting a site to check that it’s not a clone or malicious. Do this by taking a look at the address bar: is the spelling correct in terms of the company or brand the site purports to belong to? Does the address contain ‘HTTPS’ rather than just ‘HTTP,’ especially on the payment pages? Scan the text: are there spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or anything else that makes you uneasy?

Have a look at the customer service provision and returns policy, too. A reputable company will offer a high standard of customer care and will have a robust returns policy in place – if either of these things is missing, proceed with caution.

If you can, pay with a credit card rather than a debit card; the former features more built-in fraud protection elements and will usually recompense you if your card is used fraudulently to make purchases. It’s a good idea to have a specific card for online shopping and to monitor bank statements regularly, looking for any transactions you don’t recognize.

Finally, using a VPN (a virtual private network) to connect to the internet can also help keep you safer. This type of connection offers enhanced security features, such as the encryption of all traffic; if you use the internet to buy online via a public connection, then a VPN is even more important, as it prevents snoopers and hackers from viewing your activity and potentially harvesting your passwords, log-in details, and payment card or banking information. 

Double Check Details

Before completing checkout, take a moment to make sure that the details you’ve entered are correct, in terms of your address and contact details – also, double-check that the right products are in your basket and, in the case of certain types of products, are the correct size.

When the payment is processing, be sure to never click back or refresh your browser.

Hacks to Access Discounts

Signing up to the mailing list or for membership of online stores can often mean big savings: you can expect to receive regular emails offering discounted prices, free shipping, and other perks. Coupons are also a great way to get more bang for your buck, and there is a multitude of couponing sites online that can save you money on both high-end and regular, everyday products.

Look out for sites, too, that offer gift cards at discounted prices: the sites offering these are also able to buy unwanted gift cards that you may have received at a price less than their face value.

Lastly – a risky strategy, if there’s low stock of the item you want – abandoning your virtual basket can also net you a big saving. Within a day or so of abandoning your basket, there’s a high chance that you’ll receive an email from the online store advising you that you seem to have forgotten to check out….and offering you a discount code to tempt you into completing the transaction.

Create an Online Wish List

And finally – while this may seem like the fastest way to spend all your hard-earned cash, a well-curated wishlist can actually save you money in the long term. There are even online platforms designed to help you put together and manage your list!

By keeping information on all of the products you’d most like to purchase in one place, you can more easily see where you can make savings by, for example, buying multiple items from a single supplier to access discounts. Plus, creating an online wish list is one of the most fun and relaxing ways to spend a spare hour.