Your most important online shopping questions answered

PHOTO: Screengrab

In a pinch, I usually opt to go online shopping. You are in your pyjamas at home, and flipping through a thousand options without needing to worry about gas or your legs giving in from walking around.

Such convenience can come with a price. From overspending to horror stories about lost orders, online shopping is not for the weak.

We then went straight to an expert when it comes to this world. Inanc Balsi, co-founder and CEO of Lazada Philippines, clues us in with some tips and insider info on how to make you a pro at online shopping.

#1 When is the best time to go online shopping?

If you want to be the first one to get that coveted item or to avoid having so many other users slow down your experience on the website, you may want to avoid peak hours.

"Lazada traffic peaks around lunch break and 8 p.m. during weekdays," shares Inanc, which is reasonable given working schedules.

Try to schedule your online shopping spree on either a weekend or early in the morning.

#2 Before clicking 'Add to Cart', what should I always do first?

Inanc tells us that despite the strict guidelines most online shopping websites impose, some shoppers are still disappointed with their purchases because they don't read through the descriptions very well.

"Some shoppers overlook the product details that are listed in the product page, and this can affect one's online shopping experience," he explains.

"We never want to disappoint our customers but we also want to be fair to our merchants.

That's why we require our merchant partners to be clear and comprehensive in their product descriptions and specifications."

Thus, always do your research.

"We always advise our customers to check product descriptions and images carefully. Customer reviews are also good references before deciding to make a purchase," Inanc adds.

Read also: Taobao 101: How to shop on China's largest online market place

#3 How can I secure my personal info online?

When it comes to paying for your items, don't be so lazy in securing your information such as home or delivery address and credit card details.

Inanc tell us of four tips we can follow to make sure we're not compromising ourselves online:

-Only use your credit or debit card on sites with a padlock icon in the URL bar.

This means the site uses secure platforms to prevent any third-party eavesdropping.

-For mobile shopping, choose shopping sites with an app. It's easier to use and have higher levels of security.

-Check news articles about the shopping site to ensure it's not a temporary online shop that will disappear after a purchase is made.

-Check for security labels such as PCI-DSS certification.

This means the shop has been audited and is certified safe to use.

-If you strongly suspect you have been scammed and your credit card information has been stolen, contact your bank or credit card issuer to block the card and start an investigation.

#4 What clauses in online shopping policies should people be more aware about?

Whenever you are choosing an item to buy, Inanc also notes that the seller should be able to provide clear and succinct information about four specific conditions.

First is an exhaustive product description so that there is no miscommunication between what you want and what the seller is providing.

"This decreases the likelihood of you getting the wrong product," says Inanc. Second is the exact amount of delivery time as "giving the customer a heads up when he can expect the package to arrive."

Third is about warranty and return policies. This should be clearly stated "so the customer knows his rights and privileges as he makes the purchase."

Lastly, the seller must be proactive in giving you the payment options and conditions. "[They should be] explained throughout all communications making transactions online more secure and risk-free."

Read also: Top 10 online shopping sites in Singapore you need to bookmark now

#5 I ordered online a gift for my friend abroad, what is the best way to cut on shipping costs?

"Just like shopping for good deals, you should shop for good carriers," Inanc emphasizes. When you need to be a little bit more efficient with the shipping, you have to put in a little effort.

"The first thing to do whenever you're thinking of cutting costs is to get a quotation from all reliable carriers. From the list alone you could assess which carrier offers the best service at the cheapest cost," advises Inanc.

"Yet one of the best alternatives you have is to choose an online retailer site that partially shoulders the shipping cost or offers it for free.

This makes things more effortless as you don't have to worry about ensuring your package reaches your friend's doorstep," shares Inanc so you can cut on time and cost.

#6 Is it really better to shop in bulk?

"I would recommend our customers to consolidate items in one order," shares Inanc.

This reduces delivery charge as some shops would waive the delivery charge once you exceed a thousand pesos. Also, it will help you save on time.

"It is easier to organise someone to receive one big package at a specific time rather than several packages at different times."