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Retail therapy

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How to be a savvy online shopper.


If you’ve purchased something on the Internet recently, you’re in good company. Last year, 26.8 million Canadians bought goods or services online.[1] Nowadays, you can buy almost anything online, from groceries and electronics to clothing and home furnishings – it’s no wonder that roughly one-third of respondents to a 2019 survey indicated that they planned to spend more money online in the coming year.[2]

Why shop online?

Some people appreciate the convenience of online shopping, some like the wider choice and, for others, the lure of a good deal is what brings them to the internet.

Always open

Many of us don’t have time during business hours to go shopping. For the busy professional, the shift worker or the parent of young children, the only spare time to shop may be at night or in the wee hours of the morning. The internet is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. No bricks-and-mortar retail outlet can match that.

Easy and convenient

Whether because of traffic snarls and extortionate parking prices in urban centres, or driving distances in rural areas, it can be a pain to get to the store. Online shopping avoids all that – the traffic, the crowds, the lineups and the over-eager sales-people. Even better, deliveries come right to your door. Online shopping can save you time and the hassle of going out and getting the item yourself.

More choice

Unlike traditional retail stores, with online shopping, the world is your oyster. Your options are no longer limited to your local area, and you can access goods from almost anywhere in the world.

Cost savings

If a retailer can manage with fewer bricks-and-mortar stores, it saves money. So, to provide shoppers an incentive to make purchases online, retailers often make discounts and special offers available. Shoppers can also subscribe to a retailer’s emails so they never miss a deal.

Product comparison and reviews

Many Canadians do online product research to figure out what they want to purchase and where they’ll get the best deal. You can easily compare products and prices from a variety of retailers online. Consumer reviews are another benefit, letting you read what people are saying about a product or service before you buy. 

Caveat emptor (buyer beware)

Although it’s easy, convenient and fast, shopping online can have a few drawbacks and areas to be wary of. Here are some things to watch for. 

Protect your information

To make a purchase, you need to provide personal and financial data over the internet. Pay attention to the website address: ensure it begins with “https” rather than “http.” The “s” means the website uses secure encryption to make data transfer safer, and many shopping websites do this. You might also want to consider using a more secure payment method, such as PayPal.

Check out the return policy

When shopping online, remember the photos of merchandise may not be accurate. You can’t try on garments or feel upholstery. So before you buy, it’s a good idea to find out about the retailer’s return policy. Does it allow returns? Do you have to pay to ship the items back? Even if the retailer has a physical location, don’t assume you can simply return the item in person. Know what recourse you have if the goods are damaged in shipping, or not precisely what you ordered.

Look for hidden costs

You may have found the perfect sweater from an online shop halfway across the world, but its cost may balloon when you factor in currency exchange, delivery charges and customs duties. Make sure you know exactly how much it will cost – particularly for goods coming from outside Canada. That perfect sweater may not be worth the total price. 

Understand delivery options

If you’ve purchased something you require by a specific date, make sure you’ll be able to receive it in time. A reliable retailer will provide an estimated delivery date and often a choice of delivery methods, as well as identifying the courier service. It’s helpful to know how long it will take to receive your goods, as well as being able to track your shipment.

Get the most out of your online shopping experience. The internet is an easy and convenient way to shop, one that can save you time and money. Keeping these tips in mind can help you be a better online shopper.

© 2019 Manulife. The persons and situations depicted are fictional and their resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental. This media is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific financial, tax, legal, accounting or other advice and should not be relied upon in that regard. Many of the issues discussed will vary by province. Individuals should seek the advice of professionals to ensure that any action taken with respect to this information is appropriate to their specific situation. E & O E. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with mutual fund investments. Please read the prospectus before investing. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. Any amount that is allocated to a segregated fund is invested at the risk of the contractholder and may increase or decrease in value. 

[1] www.statista.com/statistics/245143/number-of-online-buyers-in-canada

[2] www.canadapost.ca/assets/pdf/2019_ecomm_benchmark_report-en.pdf


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