I do a lot of online shopping. While I love the experience of being in a store and rifling through the racks touching all the pretty things, let’s face it, shopping takes time. And time is a luxury I don’t have so much of these days. So since I can’t go too long without shopping, the web is my savior.
It takes a certain amount of preparation and savvy to become an expert online shopper. But with a little patience, anyone can learn to find some great deals and out-of-the-mainstream brands, as well as to stock up on the old standbys. Here are a few tips for taking full advantage of the world’s largest mall:
1. Stick to what you know: Because I tend to be a creature of habit, I mostly stick to the same regular rotation of retailers for my clothing and shoes, both online and in-person. This takes some of the mystery out of online shopping because I already have a good idea of how certain items will fit me from my usual stores. I also use the web for most of my shoes and accessories purchases, as there is less chance that an item won’t fit the way I expect it to. An important thing to be aware of before using a retailer’s online store is its return policy. I only shop online if I know the store offers free returns or, in some cases, offers a small flat-rate return fee. Large retailers like Nordstrom, Gap and J. Crew all offer free returns and in-store return options. While you do lose out on the initial shipping costs (if you paid shipping in the first place), free returns take much of the risk out of shopping online.
2. But don’t be afraid to try something new: It’s so easy to fall into a fashion rut, but the web can help re-energize your wardrobe. Small online boutiques and independent designer sites abound featuring fun, different items that are often reasonably priced. Sick of buying the same Old Navy sweater as five of your friends? Try out small shops like Spool No. 72 or Australia’s Secret Squirrel (whose line I can’t wait to shop in-person on my upcoming trip to Melbourne and Sydney), accessories sites like Bauble Bar and Lulu Frost (a beautiful site we came across when they started following Style Tutor on Twitter — thanks!) and daily deals site like those from Daily Candy and the celebrity-curated Open Sky. Sure, this is a little riskier — a lot of the smaller shops don’t have the same flexible return policies and sizes can be unpredictable — but the reward is great when you find an out-of-the-ordinary piece you adore. Everyone will want to know where you got it.