Five easy steps to start shopping online
There are many good reasons to shop online. Not only does online shopping allow you the convenience of shopping for what you need, when you need it, in the comfort of your own home, but you can also compare prices, find discounts or check reviews instantaneously. And what you buy can be delivered right to your doorstep.
However, it can be overwhelming! How do you know which websites are legitimate? What about saving down your card details? Is it really that safe? And is it worth creating an online shopping account to complete your purchase – or will it result in millions of spam emails clogging up your inbox?
To help you safely navigate the endless aisles of online shopping, we’ve put together a handy guide on how to start shopping online.
Step 1 – Finding the right website and product
Knowing where to start can be the hardest part. The easiest way is to simply type the shop or the product you are looking for into your search bar. You should then get the best-matched results which you can click through to.
Alternatively, many search engines also have a handy ‘shopping’ feature that directly link to online stores selling the product you want. Not only can you compare prices within the search, you can also sometimes see how they rate for customer service.
Top tip: Make sure the websites you choose to visit for online shopping are secure. If you shop with more reputable brands, it’s likely their site is more secure. We also recommend checking if there is a ‘padlock’ icon in search bar and if the website address starts with HTTPS (the ‘S’ indicates that it is ‘secure’!). Additionally, check that the name of the web page does not contain spelling errors or strange characters.
Step 2 – Adding a product to your basket
So, you’ve done the hard work and found the item you’re looking for. From here you can select your quantity, colour or size, then add to your basket. Sometimes, purchasing multiple items or investing in a subscription can reduce your shipping costs. It’s worth investigating if you will need these items regularly.
Top tip: If you have your eye on an item but aren’t ready to purchase, many sites offer ‘wish list’ or ‘list’ functions which allow you to save down items until later.
Step 3 – Completing your purchase at checkout
Once you have added the item to your basket, you can proceed to ‘checkout’. Depending on the site you may need to set up an account using your email address. This is useful for regular purchases, such as groceries, as you can store your card and address details for a faster checkout next time you buy online. At this point, the site will guide you through the payment steps.
Top tip: With some shops you can use one-click-payments which means you just need to set it up, prove you are the right cardholder, and then you can shop online easily without the need to insert your card details every time
Step 4 – Pay it safe
When paying at an online shop’s checkout for the first time, you’ll need to enter in your card number, card expiry date as well as the CCV (card verification value), which is usually located on the back of your card and often consists of three digits. You may also have to enter your mailing address or just the post code, which is an additional way that your bank can verify it is you making the purchase.
As an additional security measure, you may have to take an extra step at checkout when paying with your card. This is called two-factor authentication and means your bank requires an additional piece of information to identify the right cardholder is making a purchase. There’s no need to download anything, install software or register and you’ll be guided through this process.
Paying online should feel safe and secure. Most sites accept payment with debit and credit cards, like your Visa. Visa and your banks work hard to keep your payments safe and use multiple layers of security to prevent fraud, protect your data and help you get your money back if someone uses your card without your permission.
Top tip: It’s a good idea to check your account regularly and be aware of your recent transactions. Some mobile banking apps even let you sign up for alerts whenever a payment has been made on your account. That way, if you spot a fraudulent payment, you may be able to take advantage of Visa’s “zero liability” policy to get your money back.
Step 5 – Taking delivery
Some shops let you book a delivery slot, while others will send you an email or a text when your order has been dispatched. It’s hard for delivery companies to ensure your delivery at a certain time, but many now provide a window of time or the ability to track where your order is – which means you can plan your day accordingly. Where you can choose a time, always try to pick a time slot when someone is home to receive the parcel.
Top tip: Before you checkout, have a look at the stores return policy. Many online stores will let you return an item if you’re not happy with it and some even offer this for free. Furthermore, UK’s distance selling laws mean as a consumer, you can normally cancel an online order within a certain time frame.
If you'd like more info on online shopping, check our 7 top tips on staying safe while shopping online.