Shopping has changed quite a bit since the advent of the Internet. At first, consumers were somewhat hesitant to buy thing online. Then, eventually, people felt comfortable buying simple things like books, thanks to Amazon.com. Today, e-commerce online has grown by leaps and bounds, and you can purchase just about anything you want online. This includes things like cars, contact lenses, customized products like brochures, clothes, and many other items.
The first thing you should know about shopping online is the importance of protecting your identity. You always want to make sure that on any sensitive page (such as the pages where you enter credit card numbers) is delivered over a secure connection. The easiest way to determine this is by looking at the address bar. If the address bar in your browser begins with "https://" then that means you are on a secure page (read the wikipedia article on https here.). You can learn more about how to protect yourself by viewing the video below:
Just to be safe, I like to only purchase from well-established vendors. Amazon and Ebay are two of the sites that I trust. Other well-known e-commerce sites include Zappos, iTunes, Walmart.com, and many others. Basically, if it's a name you've heard of, they will be large enough to afford using top notch security measures.
If you tend to purchase from small vendors, it might be a good idea to join a credit monitoring service like Equifax. This way, if your identity is ever compromised and there is suspicious activity on any of your accounts, you will be notified immediately. More robust identity protection services are available from sites like Lifeguard as well. It all depends on how much you're willing to spend, and how important your privacy is for you.
The next thing you should know about shopping online is that prices vary quite a bit depending on who you purchase from. In most cases, I recommend purchasing a product from the vendor offering the best price. This is easy enough to look up if you take advantage of price comparison sites such as the one available from Google. But one thing you need to know is that not all merchants are listed on such site. A better option may therefore be to bookmark a number of low-cost vendors you like, and compare prices manually. While this can be a bit of a hassle, I've saved a lot of money over the years by going through the trouble of doing my own price comparisons.
In addition to seeking out the lowest price, you should also get into the habit looking out for sales, discounts, and special offers. Not all special offers are shown on a vendor's home page. This means you often must hunt for bargains on your own. The search engine is a discount shopper's best friend, so be sure to use it. I often find great deals online by using a search engine for coupons and other deals. Become familiar with coupon sites like savings.com, coupon cabin.com, and other sites. That way, you can quickly search for a coupon whenever you're about to make a purchase.
Buying services online is also becoming highly popular. Typical web services can include things like software trials and membership sites, with online dating sites being the most prominent kind. These purchases can be a bit more risky since you often cannot be sure exactly what you'll be getting with your subscription, and most subscription sites do not offer refunds. For this reason, I always tell people to use a free trial before buying software or a membership service. Not all services will offer a free trial, but many do. I've gotten numerous trial offers for dating sites and software in the past. This has helped me avoid paying for services that ultimately weren't right for me. On the other hand, it has also allowed me to join and become a loyal member of a service I was only marginally interested in at first. The best example of this is Netflix. I joined the site years ago, mostly out of curiosity, and have kept my membership ever since.
To recap, make sure you buy from secure sites, always hunt for bargains and coupon codes using search engines, and seek out free trials when possible. If you follow these simple guidelines, you should have a positive experience being an online consumer.