Online shopping means easier access to purchase the things that we want, with delivery straight to our doors. With many offers available, and clever online and email marketing directed towards consumers, understanding the tricks of the trade that are used to convince us to make purchases are important in ensuring we avoid the pitfalls, and get the best value for money.
The months leading up to Christmas are normally busy for retailers in general, but according to research from finder.com, the average British adult is expected to spend £548 on Christmas gifts in 2021. This is an increase of £72 from 2020’s budget of £476 and just £35 more than Christmas spend in 2019.
It is estimated that overall, the UK is planning to spend £25.6 billion this year on Christmas gifting, a 6% rise from last year’s figure of £24.2 billion and 5% less than the £26.9 billion spent on Christmas gifts in 2019. (Source: https://www.finder.com/uk/christmas-shopping-statistics Analysis conducted by finder.com)
Retailer influence on consumer behavior
We have previously looked at the impacts of consumerism on teenagers and young adults and the impacts that the retail retail environment has on consumer behavior. Retailers use the physical environment to encourage consumers to make purchases, based on in-store atmospherics, such as music and product positioning.
The online shopping experience is similar in many ways. In understanding the ways that retailers market their products to consumers online, we can avoid being drawn into hasty purchases, and make informed and cost-effective decisions.
The psychology of online retail environments
The tailoring of the online retail environment is like that of a physical store. Many shopping websites can change their layout and appearance for each individual customer, offering recommendations based on previous items that have been purchased or viewed.
Supermarket online shopping websites have shopping lists that save items automatically for returning customers, ensuring that essentials such as milk and bread are always present in the shopping basket, with no need to add these manually.
Many retailers also pay for advertising through search engines, which means that the prominence of advertisements for their products appear higher in searches, and at the top of search results when consumers look for related items or ‘keywords’ associated with that product or brand.
With all of this in mind, there are many ways for consumers to ensure they get a bargain when shopping online, which makes the experience even more worthwhile –
Shop around – there may be other websites that offer the same products for less. By checking prices with other retailers, you can save money. There are price comparison websites that can do this for you, but remember that these sites may be biased towards a specific brand or retailer.
Check websites for price matching – many larger retailers may offer to match prices of smaller websites. Not only will you get a better deal on the item you are purchasing, but you will also have the additional peace of mind of purchasing from an established retailer.
Purchase on a credit card – If you are purchasing more expensive items do this on a credit card (even if you pay it off straight away) – Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act offers additional protections on purchases over £100 (but under £30,000). This makes the card provider liable ‘joint and severally’ for the purchase, meaning that if something goes wrong, you have an additional route of recourse. This also applies if you have only paid for part of the purchase in this way.
You have more rights online that in store – Consumer Contracts Regulations mean that you have the right to return most goods purchased online within fourteen days for a full refund (even if you just change your mind). This refund includes the delivery costs.
Check for offers on free delivery – Sometimes by spending slightly more, you can save. Check for offers on free delivery when you spend over a certain amount, but don’t be drawn into spending money for the sake of it – if you are close to the amount, purchasing another low priced item (that you need) may remove the cosy of delivery.
Signing up to website newsletters can save you money – Some retailers offer initial discounts, or reductions on subsequent purchases. Be careful that your information will be safe and ensure that you check for any ‘opt-out’ boxes to ensure that your details are not sold to third-parties and you don’t receive ‘spam’ emails.
Check retailer websites for online sales events – By holding off on purchasing (even for a couple of days), you can save money on products when they go on sale.
Check for discounts relevant to you – Does the retailer offer discounts for students, or career-based discounts? Check before making purchases.
Make the most of retailer loyalty schemes – Using retailer points-based loyalty cards can earn you money back at the till, as well as discounts and member-only sales, events, and deals. Most of these are free to sign up to as well.
By bearing in mind the potential ways we can save money when shopping online, we can avoid being drawn in by ‘deals’ that aren’t all they are made out to be.
Advice Direct Scotland are running our ‘Countdown to Christmas’ 2021. The campaign aims to share advice and information on a range of subjects, looking at how Scottish citizens can enjoy the festive period in safe and cost-effective ways, avoiding overspending and being left with a financial headache in the new year. For more information, you can visit the campaign page.
If you would like more advice on safe shopping online, or any consumer matter, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. Our specialist advisers are available from 9am to 5pm, Monday-Friday.
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