It's truly getting exciting this festive season with Apple's new iPhones topping the charts, closely followed by Samsung's curved ultraHD TV and the convertible laptops from Lenovo, among a host of other new launches and great deals across categories. But, there's more to the fun and frolic as it is raining discounts from e-commerce giants such as Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon. Besides, promises of quick and hassle-free delivery, easy payment options and no-questions-asked refund and return policies are only making the festivities a lot more rewarding. However, don't get blinded by the excitement. Read the fine print carefully and compare the prices across portals to sweeten your deal further.
Online shopping involves your bank account details for making payments. In the process, there's a possibility that you are leaving a digital trail of your finances as you go along. To ensure your account details are not compromised, use the 'incognito' or 'private' mode on your web browser to erase the digital footprint as soon as you close the browser. The incognito mode prevents the browser from saving the surfing history and gets rid of all cookies once the browser is closed.
A rise in sales on mobile apps has prompted many e-commerce sites including Myntra to go app-only. Flipkart has also shut down its mobile browser page. You can either shop on their desktop site or through the app. In fact, Flipkart's Big Billion Day Sale that offered huge discounts was only for those who logged into the Flipkart app. Other players too are offering special app-only deals and discounts. Therefore, it makes sense to have the latest version of the app installed on your smartphone even before you start browsing.
Compare Price across Sites
The thumb rule of online shopping is to cross-check prices of products that you wish to buy across various e-commerce websites. There are possibilities that even the maximum retail price of branded as well as unbranded products might be different, and you might end up buying a product at a price far higher than the maximum retail price.
You should never go by the percentage of discount offered on any e-commerce site as these are calculated on the maximum retail price and not on the market operating price. The market operating price of gadgets is usually lower than the MRP. For instance, the maximum retail price of Samsung Galaxy S 6 was Rs 49,900 at the time of the launch, while the current market operating price is Rs 36,900. Some websites have listed the price as Rs 49,900 and the discounted price as Rs 36,900, which isn't actually true.
While shopping for a product, you should always check the warranty details. There are chances that the products might belong to the grey market and instead of the manufacturer, it is the seller offering warranty on the products. In such a scenario, if something goes wrong, the product will not be repaired by the company's authorised service centres. Chances are that even the seller might refuse to repair the product at a later date.
Always check the user review before buying a product because, at times, the specifications listed on an e-commerce site are different from what the actual product is about. Also, reviews give a clear indication of how good a product is - quality as well as the performance. This comes really handy when buying home appliances such as a steam iron, washing machine, mixer grinder, etc., because you will never get access to any expert reviews on such products, and have to always depend on the specifications and product description listed by the company. It also lets you know how old the product is. To get rid of old stock, some sellers update the same on e-commerce platforms. In certain cases, if the product is too old, the company does not offer any service support or warranty. Also, if the product is too old, it might be difficult to get it repaired in case something goes wrong, because spare parts might not be available.
Some of the popular e-commerce sites act as a marketplace. They don't stock the product and sell it directly. Instead, they list the products from various sellers and closely monitor the order till the time it is delivered. Therefore, it is important to check the seller's rating and reviews, which are based on user experiences and feedback on their purchases. This helps in understanding how good the particular seller is in meeting client expectations. You should prefer a seller with a higher rating over the one with a lower rating. In some cases, sellers do offer a better discount or price, but take longer to ship the product or may even send you a used product.
The biggest advantage of shopping online is not about the comfort of ordering and receiving a product, but the ease of returning and refund that e-commerce players offer. But, this may not be the case during festive sales. Always check the exchange or return policy of a product before buying it during a festive sale. If it highlights an exchange offer in case of a faulty product, all you will get is a replacement and not a refund. Says Jayant Sood, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Snapdeal: "We do business as usual during the festive sales. Our standard policies on refund and return apply throughout the year so that our customers are never inconvenienced. We recently launched the instant refund facility. This will help customers get refunds within one hour of receiving the returned product. Snapdeal is the first to introduce an automated, API-based, real-time, highly reliable, secure instant refund transfer system based on IMPS technology with one of largest private banks of India."
Some online portals often claim-free delivery for a minimum order of Rs 499. But this need not be true. In certain cases, these online portals charge for delivery even if the order is above the minimum stated amount. Also, you might have to pay delivery charges varying between Rs 50 and Rs 150, or more. Further, you might be asked to pay for the number of items, even if it is part of the same order. For instance, if you order three deodorants, you may have to pay delivery charges for each of them.
There are plenty of deals and discounts listed on the websites. But you can further sweeten the deal by looking for discount coupons. Websites such as Coupon-Dunia and Groupon specialise in deals and offers across various products and websites. They also list their own special offers that users can avail. Browse through such websites before making your purchase; you might end up paying a lot less than what you would on e-commerce websites. Another way to save money is to use cashback options offered on a few select credit cards.
All online sellers accept various modes of payment - cash-on-delivery, debit card, credit card, netbanking and e-wallets. For instance, Snapdeal has linked its payment through FreeCharge balance, Flipkart has got its own wallet and eBay has tied up with PaisaPay.
Sometimes, while making payment through netbanking, if the transactions get cancelled and the amount gets deducted from your account, you may have to chase both the website as well as your bank to get a refund. The safer alternative is to pay using wallets so that if anything goes wrong, the website will track the order status and help in claiming the refund.
Shipping and Delivery Date
Before making the payment, always check the time frame the seller would take to ship and deliver the product. Yes, shipping and delivery dates are not the same. Shipment date is when the order is dispatched and the delivery date is when you receive the order. You might receive the product the very next day or after 15 days. Also, websites such as Flipkart and Amazon are offering faster delivery options for a fee.
Received a Brick?
Of late, there have been cases where customers have complained about receiving a brick or tile instead of a smartphone or a laptop. Considering the increasing number of such cases and issues with logistics, the best would be to unpack the box in front of the delivery boy. You can also record a video with your smartphone while unpacking the box so that you have proof to claim your refund.