Online shopping is the new normal and this goes for almost all shopping categories, including furniture, lighting, rugs and art. And even designers like me are sourcing many items online.
While grocery and household products shopping can be a no brainer nowadays by one-click purchasing our regular brands of food, cleaning products and cosmetics, some other more permanent purchases for our homes are not as easy. Some can even find them a little intimidating. Furniture for instance can be a fairly large purchase for a home, and sightseeing online window shopping can be, in a word, daunting.
Nevertheless, more and more furniture brands are present only online – mainly affordable brands – and let’s face it, you may have to head to the web to get the best options, brands and designs in order to be able to decorate your home within a reasonable budget. And like any buying experience, taking your time and getting the details right can make the difference between a deal and a disaster.
So, before you start your online shopping, read this article. I will share all the things I have learned that you should consider.
- HAVE A CLEAR OBJECTIVE
Before you start the search, know exactly what you need: measure twice – considering baseboards, power outlets, windows and doors; determine your budget and material/finishes (wood and laminate are totally different things!)
- SAFETY FIRST
Look for stores with a good reputation: be leery of unscrupulous websites. You have to make sure it’s a secure store, that will deliver your purchase and that has a good customer service. For instance, illegitimate operations rarely invest in the expensive and time-consuming infrastructure of good, pleasing web design. Also keep an eye open for industry certifications, and don’t hesitate to verify with that agency if you have your doubts. A quick checking option can be 3rd parties websites, like trustpilot.com that ranks the reviews on online business.
- YOUR STYLE RULES
Find a store that matches your style. With the exception of giants like Amazon, usually online stores carry items that reflect their commitment to a particular style so, make sure to browse for shops using key words that identify your favorite type of furniture. (Not so sure about what your style is? Check here) Research will be much easier.
- READ THE FINE PRINT
Read the “About” page: good online retailers will provide detailed information about their history and policies. This is your second guarantee that the online store is reliable: the more detailed the information, the better.
- CHECK THE RETURN POLICY
Every online shop should have a comprehensive return policy published in their page and any restock fees and/or shipping costs should be very clear. The best stores offer free return shipping, or the option to return products to a brick and mortar store.
If the return procedure seems complicated, avoid making business with them.
Favor online shops with flexible return policies. They should give customers plenty of time to return products. Many stores give customers at least 30 days, but some offer 45 or 60 days to return items.
- SHIPPING COSTS… SO BEWARE.
Here is an item where there could be a huge hidden cost. Usually shipping and handling policies are placed in the FAQ or About pages and you should thoroughly review these policies before buying. If the shop has a fixed fee, make sure to select everything you need together.
- REVIEWS RULE
Check the product reviews. Once everything about the reputation and policies s checked, if you find something you like, the first thing to do is to read the reviews of that specific item. Obviously check the amount of reviews: the more the better. If you see only a few great ones, be skeptical. Even if the product has some good evaluations, check what is written in the “not so good” evaluations. Any complaint repeated more than once should raise a red flag.
- CHECK THE BRAND
Look for the brand/manufacturer reviews: if you loved one item of one specific brand/manufacturer, check if the store carries different products of the same brand and evaluate their reviews. The more items the brand have with good reviews, the bigger is the chance you will be happy with your choice.
- SCRUTINIZE THE PHOTOS
Look through all the photos available. Even in other sites. Zoom in and out and consider that no matter how accurate the light can be, it is possible that true colors are distorted. If you can ask for samples, like in fabrics or carpets, do not hesitate. Darker furniture for instance, tend to look much lighter on online photos.
- READ CAREFULLY
The description should be clear: make sure to cover all the information the store provides and if anything looks a “little too rosy”, outright deceiving or just confusing, take advantage of the online retailer’s support team. Product specialists usually have insider information on what works and what doesn’t, and can help you make the best choices for your space.
- COMPARE PRICES
Very few shops have exclusivity on their selection of products so chances are you will find the same item in different websites and you should look for them to compare prices. Once again, make sure to take into consideration shipping costs and different policies in your analysis.
- LOOK FOR SALES
I know, this sounds obvious. But make sure to understand the sales calendar of the store and consider waiting for a better deal. If you can, check the stock of the products you selected to make sure it is wise to wait for a promotion.
Finally, remember: if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. So tread with caution, as much as you want to make a great deal, don’t rush into anything suspicious.
I hope you found these tips useful. Have fun and good clicking!