Online shopping has made purchasing groceries, clothes, appliances, and just about any product or service a breeze. It’s a welcome modern convenience that not only saves consumers money but time and effort, as well. That is the reason why we now have hundreds of websites and apps dedicated to making online shopping a positive and satisfying experience for any buyer.

There are different kinds of online stores. Some are virtual counterparts of actual brick-and-mortar shops, while others are purely online-only and sell either unique-niche or drop-shipped items. There are also digital marketplaces for various sellers to offer their wares under specific categories. But what particular characteristics make up a legit online shopping site?

The following are just some of the necessary yet essential things to look for and be aware of whenever you buy something in an online shopping website or app. Hopefully, they can also guide you when you compare one site or app with another before settling on the one that best suits your needs and lifestyle.

Extensive or Unique Product Selection

Whatever type of online store it may fall under, one good reason for shoppers to keep coming back to a shop is because of its product selection. A successful online store makes a customer feel excited to browse through its catalog because it has either a wide or a unique choice of products not found in other stores. It should help the customer find what they want, or get excited by a rare find.

It doesn’t make sense for a virtual store to carry common items anyone can find at any other shop, whether it’s online or in actual real-life locations. Nor does it make virtual shopping a fulfilling experience if products aren’t readily available in an online store. A great shop with an extensive product catalog will usually have drop-down menus or a sidebar bearing the different categories for the items they have for sale. There should also be a search feature for when you are looking for something specific. Shop inventories should be up-to-date, with out-of-stock items taken off the catalog right away so as not to deceive and disappoint buyers.

Reasonable Pricing and Policies

There is always a price to be paid for convenience, especially in this day and age. However, discerning shoppers would most likely compare price tags of different items across various competing online shops. An excellent online shop will make it worth their while by providing value shopping by way of coupons, discounts, promos, and even price comparisons. It shows confidence in the way they run their business and the kind of importance they place on customer experience.

Aside from having a reasonable pricing scheme, it’s a good idea for customers to take a close look at the shop’s return policies and money-back guarantees in case of unsatisfying purchases. The return shipping rules should be practical and fair for both parties, and refund policies must be available where applicable.

Reliable Customer Service

A virtual shopping site might look good and have great functionality, but if it doesn’t have a customer service you can rely on at all times, then it’s practically useless. A customer service representative can help a client – whether by phone, chat, or email – to get information not usually covered by the site’s FAQs or terms or service. They can answer questions about shipping, promos, sales, policies, and other client concerns. This is why some online shopping sites opt for customer service that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, primarily if it sells internationally. After all, courteous and reliable customer service can help a client feel valued, and in turn, build a site’s reputation.

Speedy Shipping and Communication

Shipping plays a significant role in a satisfying online shopping experience. Selecting an item on a shopping website or app might take just a couple of minutes, but having the product arrive at a customer’s doorstep is another experience altogether. It could take a couple of days, weeks, or even months – but what matters here is if it’s within a reasonable timeline as explained in the site’s policies. The couriers and shipping partners should also be trustworthy and of good reputation.

Communicating with a customer service agent can help clear up any issue on shipping and handling. Aside from that, an online shopping site should offer affordable and flexible shipping rates, especially for bulk purchases, or for expedited or subscription shipping options. Some shops even waive their shipping fees once a customer reaches the minimum required amount in their shopping cart. There should also be a reliable tracking system to keep customers assured and updated that their purchased items are on the way.

Safety and Privacy

Since almost all online shopping sites and apps require a credit card or other digital modes of payment, security and privacy are a must every step of the way. There are many incidents of identity theft and other forms of online fraud when it comes to purchasing stuff in a virtual setup, and most of them have to do with compromised payment gateways or log-in pages. A trustworthy online store should address concerns about customer information privacy and safety in their transactions right away.

To avoid the heartache associated with online shopping scams, it’s best to be cautious at all times. Look up honest reviews of select online stores you are interested in, and gauge if customer satisfaction is high or low. Forums are also a good source of feedback from buyers, especially ones that encourage proofs of payment from verified shoppers.

A shop’s pedigree could also help, but unfortunately, some stores that have been around for decades could also have a declining reputation and service. Before paying for something, make sure that the web address for the payment portal is a secure one (the address bar should say “https” and have a padlock icon on it). Always keep track of your purchases by checking your bank statements regularly.

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