Choose a portal with a proven track record in delivering quality goods on time and more payment options.

Planning to gift your friend a smart phone for her birthday? No sweat, just order it online! Thanks to e-commerce, many Indian consumers are shopping online. This is not restricted to just books or electronic gadgets. Shopping portals have expanded their product basket to offer a range of products from apparel to air-conditioners.

Why do customers fancy online shopping? The reasons are obvious. The foremost one is convenience. It saves you the time you would otherwise have to spend driving down to a store located say 5 km away from your home. Second, you have more options to choose from. You can compare the prices offered at different portals before firming up your purchase decision. In many cases, online stores offer you the same product at a more competitive price. For instance, if you are looking at buying a Samsung chat 222 mobile phone, online stores offer you the product for prices starting from Rs 2,800, while the same model is sold for Rs 3,150 at leading retail stores.

There are also exclusive portals which specialise in select products. Myntra for instance specialises in apparel and accessories, Ferns N Petals in flowers and gifts. But, there are a few aspects that you may have look into while buying goods online. Never buy from a portal which you or any of your friends or acquaintances have never tried out. Look for one with a proven track record in delivering quality goods on time. Remember in online shopping you have no face-to-face interaction with the company selling you the goods.

Cash is best

Before you browse through the merchandise, check out the payment options. The more payment options the portal offers, the better. Most portals accept payments made using debit card, credit card and Internet banking and also cash-on-delivery option.

For small-ticket items, the cash-on-delivery option is the best. That way, the retailer bears the risk of the item going ‘out of stock’ or not being shipped on time. Some portals also allow you to swipe your credit card on delivery. That gets you best of both the worlds — credit on your purchase and assurance about the product reaching you.

This option may not be available for high-value goods such as refrigerators, air-conditioners, where most portals insist on payment at the time of placing the order. In such cases, you should ensure payment through a secured payment gateway. For specific products, select portals also offer zero per cent EMI option. For instance, Flipkart offers 3- and 6-month zero per cent EMI plan for customers using HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Citi Bank cards. You can also exchange your e-gift coupon for the goods you want to purchase online.

Cancellation

Where you are making full payment in advance, it is imperative to understand the exchange/cancellation policies of the portal. Most portals do not allow you to cancel the order once the product has been shipped. In case you want to cancel the order after the product has been shipped you may have to call the respective customer support for assistance.

Before going ahead with the purchase, you should also understand the exchange/return policy of the portal. Most of them guarantee delivery with 5 to 7 working days, provided the product is in stock. If the delivery is delayed beyond the promised date, you have a right to return the product.

What if the product you bought is defective or damaged? To seek redressal, you need to notify the portal within the mandated time. This time window may differ from portal to portal and may also vary with the product. Myntra, for instance, provides a 30-day exchange window for all apparel and accessories except innerwear, cosmetics, socks, deodorants and perfumes. But Home Shop 18 requires you to notify them of defects within 48 hours from the time of delivery. Not just that, you should not have used the product.

Also, the product should be returned in its original packaging along with the original price tags, labels and invoices. So don’t rip off the packaging as soon you lay your hands on the product!

If the above conditions are met, then the refund will be processed within 7 working days. The refund will be made through the mode by which the payment was made. Of course, prevention is better than cure. So, before you add anything to your shopping cart, it is best to check out user reviews and ratings on every product you buy. Now, that’s something you can’t do when you buy stuff in your neighbourhood shopping mall.

nalinakanthi.v@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 20, 2012)
XThese are links to The Hindu Business Line suggested by Outbrain, which may or may not be relevant to the other content on this page. You can read Outbrain's privacy and cookie policy here.