e-commerce

With e-commerce sites picking up steam and challenging regular brick and mortar stores like never before, it is all but too easy to fall for some of the common traps. As a rule of thumb, if anything seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some of the things I recommend buyers to keep in mind before shopping on e-commerce websites.

1. Don’t be fooled by discounts: Most online retailers will always offer you discounts on almost everything they have to sell. Every product will be shown selling way below the MRP. Don’t fall for it. Most of the times, the MRP displayed on the listing is never true. Many companies announce one MRP and a MOP (Market Operating Price) when they launch a product. Also seldom does a product sell at a fixed price through its lifetime. At times, some resellers also bump up the MRP to show higher discounts.

Always check the price of the product across retailers. It doesn’t hurt to check your neighborhood shopkeeper as well. There have been times when I have found better deals at a brick and mortar store.

2. Read about the seller: Since India’s FDI norms don’t allow most online retailers as sellers, every major e-commerce portal is a market place with third-party sellers selling products and e-commerce companies acting like a middleman connecting sellers and buyers. Hence, it becomes very important to know about who is selling the product.

As a yardstick, on Amazon you should prefer going for products that are Fulfilled by Amazon. On Flipkart look for WS Retail, which is Flipkart’s own seller and accounts for nearly 75 percent of all products listed on the site. Things get a little murky on Snapdeal, and I recommend buying only those products that are exclusively available on that portal, where Snapdeal and the manufacturer have struck a deal.

In case you really want to buy something from a third-party seller, do check out the reviews of other buyers who have bought products from that seller.

3. Read the fine print: Even after checking out the two points above you feel that you have landed yourself a good deal, read the product fine print. Especially in the case of buying electronics from a third-party seller, there are chances that the product might be a parallel import from other countries and not the official unit for India. In such cases, you won’t get after sales support from the company. Most such product listings come with “seller warranty,” which doesn’t mean much.

What makes matters murky is the fact that none of the brands have come out with a well defined warranty statement on buying products from online retailers. While some brands have claimed to have blacklisted some online retailers, there’s no clear cut policy to help consumers know whether they would get official after sales support or not. Even online retailers don’t help by not having checks in place and not taking ownership of stuff being put on the marketplace.

4. Read the product review: Many times, especially when a product is being sold by just one reseller, it makes sense to read the reviews of the product on the product page itself. There have been incidents where the seller is selling fake or faulty products and buyers have complained about it. Yes, in most cases the online retailer would refund your money, but it is worth checking and saving yourself a headache.

5. Avoid impulse buying: Many times I have ended up buying stuff on impulse, which made a lot of sense at the time of placing the order but ended up gathering dust in my room. Yes, it might be a fabulous deal but do you really need the product? After many such impulse purchases, I have now devised a trick – I add the product in my shopping cart and let it sit there for a few hours. Almost 90 percent of the times, I have found myself removing the product from the cart.

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