E-commerce has become a fact of modern life, with millions of people now shopping regularly from the convenience of their computers. Many retailers, from Amazon to Z Gallery, have websites where you can purchase products online, including flowers, pet food, and tonight's dinner. Why this explosion? Shopping online saves time and money. As Internet security has improved, consumers are more willing to give out their credit card numbers and almost all websites now accept credit cards.
Let's say you're looking for a bestselling novel. You can comparison shop to find the best price, order the book, and have it shipped overnight. The whole transaction can be done in minutes, saving a trip to the store. Better yet, you may receive a substantial discount off the cover price and pay no sales tax.How to Buy Online
While every site differs a bit, you'll find many similarities. Most sites are like electronic catalogs. You browse for merchandise in various categories or search for specific items. Once you find something you want to buy, add it to your electronic shopping cart and continue on.
When you're done, review the contents of your cart, deciding whether you want to purchase everything, or just a select few. The items in your cart are then subtotaled. Now it's time to check out.
To buy the merchandise, you fill out a form, providing information such as your name, e-mail address, shipping information, and credit card number. Usually you are advised how long it will take for delivery. Some sites e-mail an order confirmation along with a tracking number.
Within this general procedure, there are myriad variations. Some sites, like computer stores, build computers to your specifications. At certain apparel sites, you "try on" clothes using a virtual model. Many sites have customer service representatives who you can contact by e-mail or chat with in real time should you need assistance. Since customer service has become as vital to online shopping as it is in the real world, expect to see great emphasis on making e-commerce a friendly experience.
There are too many shopping sites to begin to list them here. If you are looking for a particular store, brand, or type of product, try a search engine to find the right site.
Finally, In the event of problems with online merchants, contact your local Better Business Bureau. For those in the U.S., the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission may be able to help.
Last update: Dec 5, 2010