How to shop online—and avoid purchases you regret

How to shop online—and avoid purchases you regret

Online Shopping Guide Image by: Pexels


How to shop online—and avoid purchases you regret

We asked the experts how you can make sure your next online shopping experience is a breeze.

Depending on who you ask, some might say shopping for clothes online has been the greatest thing to ever happen to retail. The market has flourished over the past few years. And, thanks to e-commerce brands like Shopify that allows business owners (big and small) to set up shop on the web, a seemingly infinite amount of online stores have cropped up. We now even have apps that make it easier to make purchases straight from your phone without ever having to sit down at a computer or even leave your bed.

Despite this, there are still some who find online shopping to be a source of headaches. We spoke to Shopbop fashion director Caroline McGuire and eBay Canada’s head of communications Camille Kowalewski to find out some simple ways to make your online shopping experience run smoothly.


If there are two things that are complained about most when it comes to online shopping, it's sizing and return policies. Online-only retailers don't have fitting rooms so what happens when an item arrives and it doesn't fit, but the retailer has a no refund policy? Kowalewski says that in order to avoid this dilemma altogether, you need to pay attention to the fine print. "Online shopping is great for convenience, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't apply the same discerning process as you do when you're in a store," says Kowalewski. "In fact, you should apply a little bit more of a review process for the items that you're looking at online.”

The material, care directions for the product, shipping, and return policies are some of the key things Kowalewski says consumers need to be considering before making an online purchase. If a website is reliable they will have all the information you need to make an informed decision and are likelier to have a more robust and fair return policy. On the other hand, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. “Be conscientious of where you shop!” McGuire says. “At Shopbop, we work tirelessly to ensure we are offering our customers the best of the season’s trends—from upcoming and established designers—in the best quality the market has to offer.”

Pro tip: To make sure an item you purchased doesn't arrive surprisingly more transparent than you expected, Kowalewski recommends looking at the items in all available colours, especially the lighter shades. "Dark colours like black, dark grey and navy, can make it hard to really see the material from the photo,” she says. "Try looking at it in soft pink or white.” That way you’ll get a better sense of the fabric—and of the garment overall.


If you usually say no to signing up for retail newsletters, you might want to reconsider. Kowalewski says signing up to receive newsletters or notifications on your phone from your favourite brands can help you act quickly on the deals that go fast—and get access to deals that non-subscribers don’t even know about. "One thing eBay does continuously is if you're a registered user, you'll get notifications for things like flash coupons that will be 20 per cent off if you spend a certain amount,” says Kowalewski. 

Another easy way to save money online is to show some support for your local online businesses. Kowalewski says items from Canadian business tend to offer free or inexpensive shipping in Canada and your items will arrive much faster—a win-win. Another bonus? You can avoid those pesky customs fees when you’re purchasing an item that will be shipped within Canada.


Don’t be afraid to take advantage of apps and online shopping straight from your phone, especially if you don’t spend too much time on the computer. "Online shopping experiences are getting far better so the experience on your phone is that much better as well," Kowalewski says. Since an app can store all of your information, it's easier to complete a transaction in a flash. But even if you don't have a dedicated shopping app, becoming a registered user on a site can help speed up transaction times. You can even start a purchase on your phone and complete it later from your computer or tablet on the same account.  


With all of the different clothing options available on the web, it can be easy to wind up 20 pages deep on a website, trying to find an item that speaks to you. McGuire says a common mistake people make when it comes to online shopping is hesitating to try something different like a new trend, brand or silhouette. "Many online shoppers stick to brands they are comfortable with, but the beauty of e-commerce is the opportunity to discover new brands and upcoming designers," said McGuire.

She recommends checking a retailer's “new arrivals" tab often, along with navigating to their speciality tabs (like “trend edit" for example, on Shopbop's front page) to guide you towards the season's best buys. Looking for those tabs that group items by trend or feeling (for example, "spring," or "business edit"), as opposed to item ("sweaters," "dresses"), can be a great way to discover new items.


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I’m wearing a one-shoulder dress to a winter wedding. How should I style my hair?

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Fashion note: If you’re putting a bit of bling in your hair, skip bold baubles on your ears and neck. 

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How to shop online—and avoid purchases you regret