shopping cartBuy a sewing machine online and have it delivered within 24 hours?  Done!  Such convenience!  But would you?  Should you?

Under the right conditions I absolutely, without a doubt, would (and have!) but not everyone feels the same. 

Some of you will say “no way”, “nada”, “never”, and “not on your life”.  But, for certain people, buying online is a way of life.  Those with hectic schedules, or who live in locations inconveniently far from major shopping, or who get a thrill from leveraging online deals to save money go to the internet first.

This information can help you understand why it might make sense to purchase online and how to protect yourself if you do.

Of course, when it comes right down to it, the one you want might not be available to you locally. To get what you want you might HAVE to purchase online!

That leads to one of the benefits of online shopping and that is a much better product selection.  The other, significant benefit is, of course, deeper discounts.

Do you remember when you could first buy something online?  I do.  It was risky.  Would the item show up?  Who were these internet retailers?  They weren’t names we recognized.  What would they do with our debit card information?  How long would it take for us to receive our purchase?  It was new and interesting to some; scary and fad-like to others.

Internet retailers immediately saw the advantages, though.  They could escape the costly expense of running brick and mortar stores. They could enhance their existing store with a web presence. They could reach a broader audience. They could offer a richer range of products by arranging for drop-shipments directly from manufacturers or suppliers. They could offer more deals to more customers.

Consumers thought this was pretty interesting, too.  To anyone who had ever tried to go to the store with a couple of small kids in tow, shopping online sounded like heaven on earth.

First, though, online retailers had to establish trust and encourage customers to take a risk.  We wouldn’t think twice about walking into a store in our neighborhood and plunking down a wad of cash or a chunk of our savings for something that cost several hundred dollars.  The sheer closeness and familiarity of a local store established some level of trust even if we’d never shopped there before.  To hand over our hard earned money on this new internet thing, however, seemed an open invitation for trouble.  Seriously, fast food restaurants couldn’t (still can’t) get our order right when we were using the drive through just a few feet from their kitchen.  How was this online shopping thing going to work?

But work it did – and still does – and now the largest internet sites have attained the level of trust and familiarity that used to be reserved only for local businesses.

It’s what happened between then and now that made all the difference and those factors still exist today.

Here’s how online stores established trust and online buying comfort:

  • Detailed, descriptive requirements and lots of photos
  • Star rating systems with independent consumer reviews
  • Discount pricing strategies
  • Easy payment options
  • Flexible return policies

These rich descriptions and photos, ratings, and consumer review platforms brought the consumer as close to the product as possible in a virtual environment. These steps differentiated the internet from the brick and mortar stores.

If you walk into a Walmart store, you don’t get a star rating on each product, pictures from multiple angles, and pages of independent reviews for you to read before you buy.  You don’t get to save on gas by shopping from home (and isn’t that getting worse these days???!!).  You don’t get an offer for free shipping. You don’t get reminders about the other products you should buy (important sewing notions).

The effort put into building the internet as an option for shopping also helped establish the internet as the number one source of consumer pre-purchase information.

This is true of sewing machines, too. When you buy, the appearance and list of features only tell you so much.  You want to know what others thought about a machine.

It was just a short leap of faith from researching a product online to actually buying the product online.

That doesn’t mean that the process is without its flaws.

If you’re going to buy through an internet retailer, here’s what you should do to protect yourself:

  1. Compare prices online before buying.  Use Amazon.com, Walmart.com
    icon and Overstock.com as your base and compare all other options to those as they’re usually the lowest price around.
  2. Buy from a source you trust. That doesn’t have to be the largest online retailer, either.  Your local sewing store might have an internet presence with special internet deals, too.
  3. Make sure the listing has at least one picture.
  4. Read the description thoroughly.
  5. Make sure the listing confirms the product is, in fact, IN STOCK.
  6. Read the return policy.

The biggest issue with buying online is returning an item and there are 3 big reasons returns take place.  Damage, wrong item, or someone changed their mind.  Most online stores have excellent return policies but if you have to repackage anything or cart it to the post office, it’s inconvenient.  Check the online store’s return policy and make sure it’s one you can live with.  Some will come get the item from your home, some come with a return packing slip prepared just in case, and others require you call in advance to get instructions.

I’ve bought a sewing machine online and not had any issues.  I like the convenience of shopping online and I hate crowds. The one thing I hate about buying online, though?  The wait.  Explains why I’m all over those “expedited shipping” options.