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How To Shop Online The Smart Way

How To Shop Online The Smart Way
Credits: keep-calm-and.tumbler.com

This is a special post, because this is the 1,000th blog post I published, that’s according to WordPress. I also happen to hit 100,000 views on my new WordPress blog since May after I migrated from Blogger (again, according to WordPress Jetpack site stats). I was concerned about migrating to a new blog site, because I would practically lose all the traffic counts. I managed to find some scripts to redirect all the traffic from Blogger to WordPress, and rebuilt my traffic.

Read my first blog post in 1 Nov 2006

Blogging about gadgets generally gets less traffic than food, fashion, events, parenting stuff. My strategy has always been to make sure my articles comes up in searches so that readers benefit from the reviews I write. I am very thankful for all the brands, their PR agencies, and companies for supporting my interest in reviewing their products and sharing my experience.

On this 1000th post, I want to share one thing that has changed the way we live. I’m talking about how we shop with the advent of online platforms.

100,000 views on musicphotolife.com

Shopping without Walking, via Online

Over the years, the ability to shop for items has become from “hard to find” to “anything is possible”. No longer do you need to go to a brick-and-mortar shop to find the things you need, limited by stock availability. Years ago, I would go Sim Lim Square or Funan Centre to visit every shop to look for the product. I would attend the major IT trade shows, the adrenaline to seek the best deals.

Today, I can shop on AmazonQoo10, GearBestAliExpress. I can compare prices easily, and find the cheapest deal, all under the comfort of my home. The days of walking floor to floor, store to store, are over. Only when I couldn’t find that item online that I will head to the stores to get them.

ZenCase Illusion Series Zenfone 2

2 months back, I was looking for the limited edition Zenfone 2 Illusion Series Zen Case. ASUS Singapore did not sell it on the e-store, and I did not want to visit every accessory shop to find it. Besides, the retail price is S$42.90. I managed to find it on Taobao, and paid about S$20 including shipping. Here’s the link to the item if you are interested.

That feeling of finding an awesome deal is so gratifying.

Additional Saves with Cashbacks or Discount Codes

Besides looking for the lowest selling price, you can also save money after shopping. Sites like ShopBack let you earn cashback which varies for each online shop. After accumulating your cashback amount, you can cash it out to your local bank.

Another straightforward way to save money is to look for discount codes that can be applied during shopping cart checkout. Picodi is one such site that you can get discount coupon codes, as well as latest promotion offers that do not require coupons.

Smart Shopping: Retail vs. Online

Remember the days when we had to wait for a certain product to be officially distributed in Singapore before we can buy them? Today, there are a lot more official online stores that supporting international shipping. Want a Pebble Time? It’s selling for S$329 with local warranty, or you can buy direct from Pebble official website for US$199.99 (during Christmas last month, it went down to US$129). Keen on hard-to-find Lego sets? You might find them from online Lego Shop. Looking for Classical CD? Better luck getting on Amazon than the local music stores.

I want to share another amazing buy last week. Back in 2014 when Logitech announced the Logitech PRO for Samsung Galaxy Note PRO, it retailed for S$179 (Amazon sells it at US$69,99). It was rather pricey and so I opted for more economical options like a standalone Bluetooth keyboard which cost me just S$20. When Logitech recently launched the Logitech CREATE Backlit Keyboard Case for the iPad PRO, it got me interested to get a keyboard folio for the Logitech PRO so that I can use it as a single unit. Since the Galaxy Note PRO was such an old model, I have no hope of finding it in local retail stores. Boy, was I surprised to find original Logitech PRO in Taobao selling for S$36. Can you imagine the euphoria of finding a gem that costs a fraction of the original price? Here’s the link to buy if you are interested.

Of course, there are still some products that are unsafe to buy online, like pricey electronic items without local warranty coverage, or products that are at risk of being counterfeits. There are also goods that are available only from specific countries and that there are no online means to purchase them affordably. Freight forwarding companies can help but they cost quite a bit if your item is big. So for me, I usually buy only inexpensive electronic items (US$40 Android TV Box – there are cheaper but this has a balance of performance and features), or non-electronic products (phone accessories, toys, as mentioned in my Black Friday Sale post).

Also, there is always the disadvantage of not able to touch and feel the product when doing online shopping, and that you can only receive the item several days or weeks later, which is quite anti-climatic in the shopping process. So I would say that retail stores are still important, but they need to have an online presence so that consumers can find out more about their products before coming to the shop.

Nowadays, when I window shop and find something I like, the first thing I would do is to search the item online to read reviews, see if anyone is selling cheaper in Carousell, or check if there are alternative products sold online. Another case study: when I came across the Darth Vader light-up chopsticks in a retail shop, I promptly checked online and determined that I couldn’t find it cheaper.

Cannot resist the dark side and bought this. #starwars #darthvader #lightsaber #chopsticks #lightup #buy

A photo posted by Chester Tan (@musicdiary) on

So next time, don’t panic if you can’t find something at the shopping centre, or hyperventilate when you found some rare merchandise. Who knows, you might find a cheaper one online.

Can’t Ship To Singapore? Airfrov!

But for products that are practically impossible to buy online, you may have to rely on friends and colleagues who are traveling to the country to buy them back. Today, it is possible to post such requests over social platforms. Airfrov is one such platform where it links up requestors and travelers. Airfrov takes a small service fee (7% + $2) while the traveler takes whatever the requestor is offering.

After a failed attempt by Justin during his Japan vacation, I posted a request for the Sony Smartwatch 3 adapter SWR510C, retailing 1980 yen (about S$25) in Japan. Japan seems to be the only country selling the adapter without the strap, and for a reasonable price. Sony UK e-store is selling the SWR510 adapter with strap for at about $60, without international shipping. And eBay sellers are offering at exorbitant prices too.

Sony SWR510C for Smartwatch 3 SWR50
Justin Lee (http://justinlee.sg/) tried to help me find in Tokyo. Alas, the store ran out of stock.

To entice someone to take up this request, I topped up $10 and posted an offer of $35, and someone accepted my request. I then sent $39 ($35 + fee) to Airfrov as deposit. Once the transaction is closed successfully, Airfrov will then pay the traveler $35. First-time requestors get a $5 credit, which means I only pay $34. You can choose to offer any price to selling price, but the traveler may not want to accept the deal in consideration of the hassle he/she may have to go through. You are discouraged to do off-line deals because you are not protected if the deal goes awry (seller don’t deliver as promised, buyer don’t honour the deal, etc.)

Airfrov breaks almost all trading barriers which still exists for some regions, like Japan, where the only way to get products out of the country is via mail forwarding companies, incurring hefty fees. If you are frequent traveler, this may be a good opportunity to earn some money while engaging in your favourite past time.

Advanced Tip

When you find a product selling at an online store, try to see if you can find the source of the merchant. As you know there are many online sellers who also have physical stores, so they might sell cheaper at the shop, usually because online sales need to cover packaging and shipping charges, and to entice buyers, they might mark up the prices to offer “free shipping”.

When I found someone selling the Sony SWR510C on Taobao for 220 yuan (about S$48), I read closely on the sale details and found out that the seller actually orders the item from Japan and ships direct to the buyer. So, if I were to cut off the middleman, I could get a cheaper price. True enough, upon further research, I found that Japan is selling the SWR510C for just 1,980 yen. That led me to find out ways to order and ship to Singapore, including exploring the cost of using Buyee and MyJapan. They all turn out rather pricey and the final shipment price is not finalised. When Xinyun recommended me Airfrov, I said to myself: this is the best option.

If I had bought from Taobao the first time I saw it, I would have spent S$60. Now with Airfrov, I will get the same item for S$34.

Sell Anything on Carousell

Previously, I sold my preloved items on Clubsnap forum (camera-related) and Hardwarezone forum (computer-related), and communication to seller was via private message that was not mobile-friendly. Today, thanks to apps like Carousell, Tompang, Letgo (to name a few), it is really simple to post an offer via your mobile phone, just like posting an Instagram post. And through Carousell, I sold many other items that I did not think it was possible. Recently, I changed my home aircon split units from Sharp to Mitsubishi Electric Starmex, and I sold off the Sharp aircon remote controls for $10 each. It’s no brainer. Whatever you don’t want, just post it up. It’s free anyway. Similarly, when our Novita garment steamer broke down, I told my wife to post up the accessories for sale. Well, offers came in!

I’ve heard of people with unpleasant encounters, but really, no one owes anyone anything. If you do not like the way the other party communicates or demands for lower price or meeting at unsuitable timing, just don’t proceed with the transaction. Sometimes, I would drive to meet the person, other times the person would come to my location. So it all depends on the convenience – and how desperate you are to get (or get rid of) the item.

Final Words: A New Shopping Experience

Have you already been doing online shopping, or still feeling the jitters? Agree, online shopping and after-market buy-sell trading is not for everyone. It takes courage and calculated risks to make it pleasant. Do not expect too much at first go. Start buying small no-risk items, check out GearBest where they sell little cute items for less than US$1, with FREE SHIPPING (which takes 3-4 weeks… zzz). If you buy more, it will upgrade you to a shipment with tracking. Other shopping sites may include expedited shipping methods (my Logitech PRO reached me within 5 days! I seriously don’t know how they can still make money.)

How To Shop Online The Smart Way by musicphotolife.com

TL;DR (“Too Long; Didn’t Read”)

To summarise my article, in case you find it too long and didn’t read:

  1. Before buying anything from retail shops, check online to read reviews and see if you can get a better deal.
  2. Before thinking of going shopping at a mall to search for a product, check online to see if you can buy it conveniently before leaving the house.
  3. If there’s something you cannot buy online to ship back home, find someone who travels to the country, using apps like Airfrov.
  4. If you have anything you want to get rid of, try putting them for sale on Carousell.
  5. If you don’t mind pre-loved goods for a good price, check Carousell.

Do You Have Any Tips Too?

Do you agree with my shopping style? Is there an even smarter way to shop? Please share under the comments section!

 

Thank you for making it possible for this site to hit 100,000 views in just 7 months. It took me 9 years (since 1 Nov 2006) to publish 1000 posts, so I guess, here’s to another 1000 posts for the next decade.

 

If you find this article informative, please help to share the posts so that I can grow my blog and bring more exciting product reviews to this site.

 

Summary
Article Name
How To Shop Online the Smart Way
Description
On this 1000th blog post, I want to share how I do my online shopping the smart way, comparing retail and online items, and sell pre-loved stuff.
6 comments
  1. Irene Soh

    Great tips, I’ve always been skeptical about buying online…. But, I’ve started online shopping from last year. And it’s so true about reading reviews…. I buy my lens off clubsnap too… Used to be very active on it…. but I’ve stopped. Technology Lust and pockets not deep enough. haahahahaa….

    1. Chester Tan

      Nowadays with improved technology, no need DSLR liao. Mine is in the dry cabinet for years… sigh… want to sell off but bo bian have to keep it in case got special shoot. Else, most of the days I use the compact mirrorless camera.

  2. Claudia

    I have an online buying fanatic at home, he’s practically almost always seen shopping on his iPad loh! And almost EVERY other day also got courier delivering stuff to our place. Online shopping has changed the way we buy things, even groceries and household stuff too. Comparing prices are much easier too and time saving. Think the only time we went shopping is to buy clothes and shoes.

    1. Chester Tan

      Actually, I’m also on the road to addiction. What excites me is to find good gadgets and novelty items that don’t break the bank. Like recently I bought a quadcopter for less than US$10. And the 2 lightsaber for less than US$20.

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