This is a sponsored post. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Buying online is a convenient, quick way to find just what you are looking for. However, for those who have little experience with online shopping, it can be difficult knowing where to look and which sites to trust. Here is a list of tips for buying online to help you become a savvy online shopper:

1. Be Sure Your Information Stays Secure.

The internet is a notorious place for consumers to have their personal information compromised. This should not deter you from shopping online, though; there are ways to protect yourself. The number one way is to be sure you are buying from a secure site. You can tell a site is secure by looking at the URL. It should begin with https:// and not just http://. Additionally, sometimes secure sites will also have an icon of a lock next to the URL to tell you it is a secure site.

When you are making a purchase online, there is no reason you should ever have to give personal information such as your social security number or your birthday. If a website requires this information in order to make a purchase, you know it is not a site you want to use for your transaction.

2. Shop Around.

When you are shopping, you want to make sure you are getting the very best value. Therefore, you should compare prices as well as features on the product you are looking to buy. Different websites will have different options when it comes to size, color and brand so it helps to look around before you make your final decision.

Sometimes it seems too time consuming to search several websites. There are websites out there which compare prices for you so you can see all prices and options on your screen at the same time. In addition to saving you time, these websites can also find products on websites you weren’t aware of.

3. Sign Up For Email Updates

If you have specific websites you prefer to buy from, you can sign up for their company emails. These emails help you know when there will be sales or special promotions. In addition, some companies offer rewards programs which send you coupons or promotional deals available only through email. If you decide you would rather not get the emails anymore, it is easy to unsubscribe from the company’s list.

4. Be Cautious About Consumer Reviews.

One way internet shopping outshines shopping at a retail store is that the internet can provide you with feedback from consumers who have already purchased and used a product. Unfortunately, some companies have started fabricating and inflating product reviews in order to increase sales. This means a high consumer rating may mean nothing at all.

While there is no way to know for certain whether or not consumer feedback is fabricated, there are some indicators to be aware of. If a website has a relatively low number of consumer ratings and comments on a particular product and then has several listed in a short period of time, the ratings may be false. Additionally, if every rating is perfect with nothing but positive comments, you may be looking at falsified ratings.

One good way to know you are getting legitimate consumer ratings is to search for a non-retail website which compares various products of various brands. Because these websites generally do not have a financial interest in which products are purchased, they are usually more truthful with their reviews.

5. Read the Fine Print.

Before making any online purchase, be certain you read all the fine print. You don’t want to be surprised by hidden charges. You need to know what the shipping costs are as well as how long before the product is shipped and when you can expect it to arrive.

Too often, consumers do not take the time to find out a company’s return policy for items purchased online. This is a very important thing for you to do before making a purchase. Some companies have a very customer-friendly return policy. They will accept any returns made within a certain period of time for any reason. Some companies even pay the return shipping fees. However, the opposite is often true. You do not want to be stuck paying for a product only to find it is not what you wanted and either you cannot return it or you can only exchange it for a similar product if you pay the return shipping charges.

Shopping online doesn’t have to be a time consuming or stressful experience. Simply follow these tips to help you find the right product at the right price. You’ll be glad you did.