Raya-ready with a click

Years ago as Syawal approached, those celebrating Aidilfitri scrambled to decorate the house, sew clothes, bake cookies and post Raya cards. Today, the preparations go on but with a technology twist.

Intan Rahayu Ya'akub, for example. is not worried about getting new clothes. "I've been browsing online shops like H&M, Azorias.com and Zalora.com.my for weeks and I've bought the attire and accessories I will be wearing on the first day of Raya. I use the Zalora app on my iPhone to see if I can get a second set of clothes and shoes for the second day. I will need new clothes to visit my extended family and friends in my hometown on the second day. Last year, besides clothes I also bought online table runners and this really cute set of cookie jars for Raya," says the 36-year-old violinist.

While she stands at 165cm but weighs only 47kg, Intan says it's not true that slim people find it easy to shop for clothes online. "At times, the clothes don't look good on you, even if you are thin. Even easy cuts like kaftan may not suit you if the floral design or overall length doesn't fit your body type," she says.

She only buys from sites that accurately describe the dimensions or size of each item, or at least show each piece on a human model or mannequin."

So far Intan has done online transactions only on sites that offer online banking payment system. "I've yet to try using my credit card or PayPal, but I don't like spending for Raya on credit. If I do, I will worry about paying debts after Raya," she says.

As a musician, Intan has had the opportunity to travel and she made many foreign friends who Muslims. "Nowadays I simply send a WeChat voice message or send a wish through Whatsapp to my Muslim friends who are in Indonesia and Australia," says the iPhone 4S user.

ONLINE GIFT ITEMS

Intan's friend Michelle Kong, 27, may not be a Muslim but she too feels the excitement of Aidilfitri. "For a few years now, I have part-time job as a marketer for my father in-law's Bagan Seafood restaurant in Northport Klang. I send hampers to regular Muslim customers and suppliers," she says.

She gets hampers at online portals like Youbeli.com as well as engage with friends who sell on Facebook. "This year, I'm also buying kurma hampers for my close Muslim friends like Intan and I bought hampers from Facebook friends. I ordered these before Ramadan so I was able to send them during the first week," she says, adding that she also sources for gift items on sites like Lelong.com and Groupon.

Also a musician, Michelle says hampers from online sources are cheaper. "I can only get customised hampers online. They are cheaper online than at shopping malls and other leading stores. Some online stores also deliver. I only need to call the recipients and check if they have received the hampers," she says.

Delivery or shipment takes about a week. "You can track your packages using delivery codes. I find that the more established Malaysian-based sites deliver faster than international sites. And I rather shop local as I won't have to fork out extra money for air shipment taxes."

LOWER SHIPMENT COST

Online shopper Nur Fadhilah Mat Zain says her expenditure online escalates when Hari Raya approaches. "I love designer goods as they are well-made and last longer. However, they are pricey so I only buy when there is a good deal. The last item I bought was a Charles and Keith handbag and I got a hefty discount," she says.

"I'm now waiting for a Coach handbag that was sold at a blogspot-based brand outlet store (mybrandoutletstore.blogspot.com) that my colleague runs," says Nur Fadhilah who contacts the merchant via email, chat or private messages before purchasing.

She also enjoys browsing Facebook pages of her friends who are online entrepreneurs. "Some friends in my Facebook circle sell cakes, cookies and chips. I've ordered a few specialty items which will be delivered in the last week of Ramadan," she says.

The 33-year-old analyst shares her online shopping tips with her sibling, Nur Ilani, 27, a nurse, who says: "While my older sister can afford designer goods, I try to keep my budget in check. However, I was swayed a few times into buying an expensive item because I really, really liked it. I usually buy clothes and scarves but this year I've also ordered custom- designed cards to send to close friends."

While Nur Fadhilah's buying strategy makes her online shopping journey smooth sailing, Nur Ilani says she did have a bad experience. "The first item I bought online was a peplum dress. My friend Zalina M. Razali and I bought one each to save on the combined shipment. The dresses fitted beautifully, so I was encouraged to make a next purchase at another local online site but this did not turn out so well. The material was cheap and wrinkled easily, hardly worth the price I paid. Thankfully, I was able to return it. Now I take my sister's advice to read the description thoroughly and email the online merchant for details," she says.

The siblings shop online together as well as with friends at FashionValet.com and Facebook pages like Dzalsbutton and Zaza Scarf. "Together with my nurse buddies, I've bought small items like cosmetics on Beautydehome.com using my online account, and we saved a lot on shipment. When the items arrive, they are also an excuse for us to wear our new lipstick, mascara and perfume for an all girls' outing," adds the bubbly Ilani.