Shopping Responsibly Online

Online ShoppingThe words “shopping” and “responsible” don’t always go together, but with a little effort and thought, there’s no reason why they can’t.

With the proliferation of internet shopping sites, has come an almost inexhaustible smorgasbord of online temptations. Endless daily deals and group buying offerings, html newsletters from your friendly clothing stores and loyalty programmes you may have unwittingly signed up to, and clever relevant product placement ads each time you go online. Just one click, and you’re on your way to owning another book or salad bowl set that you hadn’t set out to buy that day !

It begs the question – how to surf the web and sort through these attractive “must have” offers to get the best deal possible and to shop responsibly?

Since the advent of the plastic credit card in the 1950’s, going shopping has been a delightful experience with virtually no connection to the reality of what it’s costing us (US researchers found that customers who use credit cards to purchase spend 112% more in-store than customers who pay with cash). Fast forward to 2011, we can now sit down at our computers at work, home or on the move (if you have an internet-enabled device) allowing us to conveniently shop online 24/7 – we can only begin to imagine how much more some people are now spending !

Never has there been a time in history that we can access so many shops with seemingly unlimited choice of anything we may wish for – all obtainable if you’ve got your credit card handy and with a few clicks of your mouse – you’ve bought it !

All this can spell financial disaster if you don’t keep a check on yourself or exercise a degree of personal discipline and responsibility. So what does it mean to shop responsibly ?

Responsible shopping covers a number of areas. To some shoppers, buying online from only New Zealand retailers or sellers (where possible) helps them feel that they’re supporting NZ businesses. Other shoppers will make all effort to purchase only “green” items, such as organic, fair-trade, from sustainable sources or where the seller commits to passing on a portion of their profits to a worthy cause etc. What I’m referring to as responsible here is, doing some homework online prior to purchasing, to confirm that the item or product is the best value in the current market and will it perform the task you’re intending to use it for.

One of the greatest tools to arrive with the digital revolution is comparison shopping websites. These sites aggregate products from a wide range of retailers and usually provide shoppers with latest prices, alerts on discounted pre-selected items, expert and user-generated product reviews and ratings and feedback from users on retailers they have shopped with. This enables an online (or offline for that matter) shopper to purchase a product with a higher degree of confidence that they are getting the best price and the best product for their needs.

In New Zealand, one such site is PriceMe. With over 400,000 products and prices to compare, you can establish very quickly which retailer is offering the best deal for almost any product. PriceMe also displays over half a million product reviews on the site, helping guide a shopper as to which product or particular model performs best or suits the purpose for which you want to use it. These sites are usually updated throughout the day so that shopping data is up to the minute, and shoppers don’t miss out on great discounted offers that may only be available for a limited time.

Shopping online is even more enjoyable if you’re armed with sufficient information that what you’re buying is great value and the right product for you. It’s worth taking a little time to do some pre-purchase search, then you can hit the “buy now” button with a lot more confidence and surety.

Happy (empowered and responsible) online shopping !