How To Shop: Online Research

Before you run to the mall and fight for space with other shoppers, why don’t you sit back, relax and go shopping first? The trend is clear. Informed shoppers look online before heading out to the store. Shopping today starts at home!

I’m not talking about going the whole way. Although it’s true, once you start shopping on the couch or in bed, you might just be enticed to buy at Amazon, Ebay or some other seductive e-commerce site. The key thing to remember is to start by gathering the information that is important and relevant to your purchase. You’re in control. You decide what information is important to help you achieve your shopping goals. Your goal could be anything. Maybe it’s finding the latest Fashion on Pinterest, finding the highest recommended Washer & Dryer on Consumer Reports or discovering a great deal that Walmart has this week.

Of course, it is not worth the effort to do extensive online research for all your shopping needs, but it is easier more than ever to do a little online research today. Because it is easier, the effort/reward ratio means it makes more sense to spend a little time looking on the Web even for smaller items.  However, when the commitment level to a purchase  is higher, it definitely makes sense to take the time and effort to double check what you want to buy.

Let’s take a look at the advantages of doing a little online research to help you get the best value, price, quality, warranty, etc. for your next purchase. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Why exactly do you want to do online research? One obvious reason is when making major purchases, things like household appliances, cars and houses. The costs of making a bad buy with type of purchase are great. The costs of online research are low. Hmmmm, easy choice here. Now there are times when you might need to make an immediate purchase (e.g. replace a broken Washer or Dryer), but certainly the effort required to do a little online research has the potential for a great payoff.

How about when you’re planning a project? A “Do It Yourself” backyard project for the guys? Paint an old room for the ladies who want a change? Projects take a bit of planning. Online research is a great way to get ideas, understand what materials are needed and then wait for the best deals to come up week by week.

The list of what you can look for online is endless … warranties, features/specs, prices, financing, quality, product & store comparisons, reviews & recommendations, sales/deals, supporting services like installation, maintenance & shipping. Not all these factors may be important to you, but if they are you should be able to find them on the web today. 

So, what is the best way to do your online product research? That’s a tough one. I typically start with a Google search. Product manufacturer and retail websites are another great source of information. If you trust the community, you can also find many recommendation and review sites.  Post a comment about the project you’re working on. I’ll see if I can help you find the best resources and product research techniques to help. 

Not everyone is happy with consumers who do online product research. It can make a few retailers feel threatened and unhappy. They use the term “Showrooming” to describe how potential customers use physical stores to research what they want and then buy it online at a better price. Of course, potential customers might also do the reverse, i.e. look at competitors’ websites before going to a physical store to buy from someone they trust. I recommend to the retailers who complain about “showrooming” to get over it. Don’t be lazy. Find out what your customers want. Reach out to them in a way that makes shopping with you convenient. This requires innovation, risk and hard work. Sorry, but it’s true. Take a look at The Cluetrain Manifesto if you haven’t seen it yet. It was written way back in 1999, but it’s becoming even more applicable now. 

Shoppers, don’t be lazy either. You have work to do to if you want to encourage the marketplace to deliver better shopping experiences to you. Go out and learn how to improve your online product research skills. The effort will be worth it.

Tell me what you think. Do you do product research online at home or at a store? What techniques do you use that others might find useful? Which websites give you the best information and/or deals? Please write a comment and tell me.

Please look at Modshopper Online Shopping Research Resources for more help with your shopping research.