10 Tips For Making Your Online Holiday Shopping Safe and Successful

The busyness of the holidays and now Covid-19 might be causing you to do more online shopping than usual this year. With the explosion of websites and online stores in the last two years, the market is over-saturated. The options of websites to shop from can be overwhelming, especially if you are trying to shop small even from your computer. If you are like me, I hesitate to give Amazon any more market share than it already has, so this year, I have been intentional about shopping directly from the brand rather than going through Amazon. In this blog post, I will share some of the things I do when shopping online to ensure a positive experience.

Look for the padlock and word “secure” in the website address. Avoid websites that do not have this.
  • Don’t get fooled by a bogus website: This time of year scammers abound, and consumers really do need to be aware of some of the common ways to spot a bogus website. Did you know that the “s” in “https” means “secure.” Just looking at the website address in your browser window can tell you a lot. Google, for example, will put a padlock in front of the website address to let you know it is secure (see the picture above.) You can click on the padlock to see more information about the website’s security. Also, the website name can give you a clue as well. Scammers often try to mimic a brand name with just a few changes like substituting one letter such as “AmazOn.com.” Additionally, at the bottom of a website, you should find some logos that indicate it is secure. These include DigiCert, Verisign, or Symantec, as examples. If you click on these logos, you should be re-directed to a site talking about the website’s security. If it takes you somewhere else, beware. Lastly, scammers often come from countries where English is a second language. if you notice a lot of grammar and spelling errors, you might want to use the other tips I have shared here to validate the legitimacy of the website
  • Read the website return policies: Some websites have ridiculous return policies that are too short and charge re-stocking fees. The intention is to make it so difficult to return that you just give up and keep an item you don’t really want. If you are buying clothing, as an example, a website should offer a 30 day return window. The policy should be easy to find and understand.
  • Know the last day to have your item shipped and still have it arrive before Christmas. Right now, the typical shipping time is taking about a week. That means that time is running out to get your packages in the mail if you don’t want to pay 2 day priority shipping rates. As I did my own Christmas shopping this year, I noticed just about every site warned of shipping delays. This year especially, it is important not to wait too long. Also, keep in mind, some businesses close on certain days, so if you order it Saturday night, it might not be shipped until Monday morning, even if you choose 2 day priority shipping. The business hours and days should be clearly listed on the website so you can verify days it is open.
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  • Don’t hesitate to call the business: I remember one year, I was buying a gift for my husband from a well known brand. I was shopping online and just didn’t feel confident about the fit from the description. I called the business to get more information. As I was talking to the representative, it was obvious he really had no idea how the item fit. The benefit of shopping small for the holidays is that when you call the business, you are much more likely to get the owner or an employee who knows the brands they are selling as well as how they fit. You can get crucial information by taking this extra step. I know in my stores, we go out of our way to help customers over the phone including measuring the item, trying it on ourselves, and suggesting other items that will pair well and complete the purchase. I have had more than one sale that included exchanging pictures back and forth on my cell phone to help a customer feel secure about the purchase. It is something a small business can offer you that a large brand cannot.
  • Does the website offer a payment plan?: Let’s face it, payment plans give us more buying power. Nowadays, it is common for websites to offer them. My website, as an example, uses Sezzle which breaks the total purchase price up into 4 easy, interest free, installments. You still get your purchase shipped the day you order it, but you can pay the balance in installments, which is easier on your budget.
  • Use PayPal or a virtual credit card number: As someone who has been unfortunate enough to have my credit cards compromised several times during past holiday seasons, this year I am trying some new methods to keep my accounts secure. I am using either PayPal or virtual credit card numbers that my credit card company supplies me automatically when I am making an online order. This happens via an extension that I added to my browser. The benefit of these virtual credit card numbers is that they are not my actual account number and can only be used once. It has given me a much more secure feeling about shopping online this year.
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  • Use those promo codes: Pay attention to the header on the website which is the space above the picture as well as the slideshow at the top. Any deals the retailer is offering should be listed there. Most offers come in the form of a promo code that you enter on the checkout screen. You can also install extensions on your browser that will search for promo codes automatically. Capital One has just come out with one of those tools. They are very helpful and have saved me money on various purchases that I didn’t even know were on sale.
  • Beware of overly high freight and fees: Unfortunately, some businesses play games with consumers. Some retailers make up for a low listed price and undercutting competitors by adding the loss into their shipping and handling rates. I have been burned before by choosing the lowest listed price for an item only to discover that the merchant added exorbitant freight and “handling” charges at the end of the sale, wasting my time and making me frustrated. If you live in the same town as the store you made your purchase from, you can usually choose a free in store pick up option that saves you from having to pay freight. Now during the pandemic, most stores are also providing contactless pickup options as well. My boutique, as an example, has a handy alley where we receive our freight deliveries. We have turned this into an alley way pick up option where customers just pull up and wait in their cars for us to bring their purchases out to them.
  • Organize your emails: Once you’ve made your online purchase, the borage of emails begins. You will usually receive an order confirmation email and then various shipping notification emails. When you are buying more than one package at a time from various websites, the emails can get a bit overwhelming. What I do for myself is create a folder in my email inbox entitled “Christmas.” I then move all of those emails into that folder. If a package doesn’t arrive or has an issue, I can easily go and find all the order and tracking info I need. If everything ships okay, then when Christmas is over, I just delete the whole file. It is a snap and makes managing the emails so much easier.

Following these tips will help make your holiday shopping not only safe but also successful. After all, online shopping is supposed to make this season easier, not more difficult. If you’d like to get more information on this topic, you can watch me in a live video discussing it tonight around 6 p.m. MST. I do weekly Wednesday Night Wardrobing videos that offer tips and tricks in our VIP Facebook Group called Fashion Crossroads Fashionistas. To watch, join the group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/fashioncrossroadsinc.

8 Ways To Shop During Quarantine

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During these unusual times of stay at home orders and mandates for social distancing, we’re being asked and sometimes forced to stay away from not only people we love but also activities we love.  For many off us, shopping is therapeutic, that’s why they call it “shopping therapy.”  For others, shopping is a way we connect with our friends and family as a fun activity that we can do together.  The silver lining I see to the Covid19 crises is that it is forcing all of us to look for new ways to do the things we have always loved.  Maybe you are using Face Time or Marco Polo to stay connected to your friends and family.  Maybe you are using Zoom to have meeting with your team or, like me, doing bible studies over Zoom.  As each week passes and we become more and more aware of the things we miss from our normal lives, we are becoming more willing to think outside of the box and learn new ways of still doing the things we love.

If shopping is one of those things for you , this blog post will give you 8 ways to get creative and be a savy shopper during quarantine. Here goes:

  1.  Use Your Favorite Boutique’s Online Store:  Many boutiques already had an online presence prior to Covid19, and like us, are now ramping up their offerings by increasing their online inventory.  Some boutiques that weren’t online, are now getting there.  Shopping from a small business online is a little different than shopping with, say, LL Bean.  First of all, the very nature of a boutique is to offer exclusive items that customers can purchase without worrying about seeing 15 other people in town wearing the same item.  Using my boutique, as an example, the most we buy of a single style is 6 pieces.  Quite often it might be only 4.  As a result, there is a limited supply and once the item is gone, it won’t be re-ordered.   Thus, like shopping in store, if you see something you like, grab it! It may not be there next week.  Also, boutique owners know their products: how they fit, how they wash, what they match.  Just because you are using an online venue, doesn’t mean you can’t call that boutique up on the phone and ask questions.  Many times I have worked with customers over the phone who used our online store as a online catalog and then asked me what else I had in the store that would complete the look they were trying to achieve.  In the end, the sale was a combination of online offerings and other items that I suggested.
  2. Shop by phone: If you are savy and know the brands that you love, it is quite easy to shop by phone.  Usually, boutiques carry clothing lines that have a consistent fit.  So, that favorite jean that you love, for example, is just a phone call and shipping bag away!
  3. Use Drop Shipping: The financial burden on small businesses has led to strained cash flow and inventory shortages.  As a result, many of my vendors are offering to drop ship items directly to the consumer.  The way this works is you call up your favorite boutique to get a specific item.  If they are out of that item, the boutique can call their vendor, and if they have it in stock, the vendor can ship the item directly to you.  That way, the store owner doesn’t have to invest in inventory he or she might not sell.  It’s a win, win for everyone.  Just ask your boutique if they are offering drop ship.
  4. Shop Via Messenger: Most boutiques can be reached through Messenger, an app that allows for a private conversation very similar to texting.  Yesterday, I did a sale over Messenger with a customer.  She told me what she was wanting, and  I found items that I thought she would like.  I took pictures and sent them to her through Messenger.  She picked the items she liked, and then I called her to complete the purchase.  You can also you Messenger, oftentimes, to ask questions about products or fit for items you find on an online store as well.
  5. Shop Via Live Sales: If you don’t know what a Live Sale is, let me explain.  This is basically virtual shopping where you watch a live video on Facebook of someone showing you items available for purchase. If you see something you want to buy, you comment on the items as they are presented in the Live Sale, and the transaction is completed sometime after the video ends.  It is first come, first served, which ads an element of fun.  This type of shopping comes closest to being able to replicate shopping with your friends.  Live Sales are scheduled and so you can all get together in a group call and watch the live sale together and talk about the things you like and what you should buy.  You can also communicate with each other in the comments while the Live Sale is happening.  It is fun and creates a social shopping experience while still being safe.
  6. Shop Via A Video Chat: You might be familiar with Apple’s app Face Time which allows you to video chat in real time.  This app can also be used to shop at your favorite boutique.  Essentially, you do a video chat with the boutique owner and you can see items you might want to buy right during the chat.  That way, you can give direct feedback and ask questions like, “show me what the back of that top looks like” or “can you show me a close up of that detail on the sleeve?”
  7. Shop By Appointment: Even if your favorite boutique has limited hours or is closed for in-store shopping, many owners might consider letting you schedule an appointment to shop.  This can be done while still practicing social distancing and using safe practices like sanitizing.  Of course, you would never want to request this option if you have been exposed to sick person or are sick yourself.
  8. Personal Shopping: If you have been shopping with a specific boutique for a long time, the owner probably knows you and what you like.  In this case, it is relatively easy for a boutique to offer personal shopping services where you communicate what you are needing and you allow the owner to choose items for you.  These items can then be shipped or picked up.  Even if the boutique owner doesn’t know you, a simple phone consultation can usually produce all the info necessary for he or she to shop for you.

As for my boutique, Fashion Crossroads, I am offering all of these services to my customers.  My online store can be found at www.fashioncrossroadsinc.com.  I have been working very hard while my store is closed to in-store shopping to add new merchandise, and I have expanded our online inventory greatly.  Additionally, I am here Tuesday-Saturday 12-5 for shopping by appointment, personal shopping or phone shopping.  I am offering free shipping on orders over $100 or alley way pick up.  Also, I just recently launched a weekly Live Sale every Wednesday night at 8 p.m.  You can see my most recent Live Sale here: 4/1/20 Live Sale.  The next one is scheduled for next Wednesday night 4/8/20 at 8 p.m. To watch live, join our VIP Facebook Group called Fashion Crossroads Fashionistas.

Hopefully, this blog post has opened you eyes to ways you can shop that you might not have tried.  During this time, your favorite boutique needs your support!  I encourage you to reach out to them and find out what they are doing to make shopping accessible to you.  If you would like to watch a video with more ideas on this topic, check out my latest YouTube video Ways To Be A Savy Shopper During Quarantine.

pearsonphoto2018_031As a brick and mortar business of 45 years, we’ve only recently added an online store to our mix of offerings.  Today, I am writing this blog post amidst the Covid19 outbreak, and we are having to get creative to still reach you, our customer, in order to allow you to shop while still protecting yourself.  Many of you have shopped with our stores for years and prefer an in store experience because we have always offered knowledgeable staff and excellent customer service.  And, frankly, its just nicer to shop face to face, especially when you are shopping with a local store where the owner is almost always in.

You may be unfamiliar with all of the ways you can shop from us that don’t require you to leave you home.  I wanted to take a minute today to write this blog post for you who fall into that category.  Maybe you are a Boomer and uncomfortable with online shopping or perhaps you just didn’t know we have added an online store to our business.  So, let me tell you what we are doing to help you out.

Many Boomers are on Facebook and love it for the way it helps them keep in touch with their families.  Facebook is also a great platform for “virtual shopping.”  If you are unfamiliar with this term, it essentially means watching a live or pre-recorded video on your favorite business’s Facebook page where the owner or staff member shows you items that are available for purchase and includes the sizes and prices.  Virtual shopping can be almost as good as going into the store because it allows us to tell you about the product….how it fits, what the fabric feels like, what the washing instructions are, and show you, via video, any details like embellishments or embroidery.  You likely know how your favorite brands fit, and this allows you to buy an item without trying it on with more confidence.  Video does a good job of representing the color and texture of the fabric, so there are few surprises.

In response to the outbreak, Fashion Crossroads is offering regular virtual shopping videos on our Fashion Crossroads Fashionistas VIP Group Page (to join, just click this link.” The reason we chose our group page to host these videos is because as you watch the video while its happening, you are able to type in the comments any questions you may have.  For example, you may want to know what we have that matches an item.  While I am doing the video, I can see your comments and answer them right then.  You also can take that opportunity to let us know you would like to purchase the item so we can set it aside for you.  The transaction can be easily completed over the phone and then we can ship the item to you or you can use our alley way pick-up, and we will hand deliver it to your car.  We ship all orders over $100 for free.  We pre-schedule most of these videos so you can know when to tune in.  For example, we are doing a Wednesday Wardrobing video each Wednesday night at 6 p.m. that focuses on new arrivals.  Click this link to see our latest video on the new Sympli arrivals, as an example.

Another opportunity for shopping remotely is using our online store at www.fashioncrossroadsinc.com.  One thing that we do differently is that I do most of the modelling.  The reason for this is so you can see the items on a real person and have more confidence in how an item will fit.  I am not 6 foot tall and a size 2.  I am 5’3 and a size 6-8.  Hopefully, you can relate to me a little better than to a professional model.  We also shoot multiple product images and close-ups so you can get an accurate sense of what you are buying.

We have tried to make your online shopping experience as easy as possible.  When you get onto our website, you will see a menu at the top listing several categories like “tops” and “bottoms.”  If you click on these menu items, you will be shown all the tops and bottoms we have available on our online store.  If you scroll down a little on the homepage, you will see our “featured collections.”  These are organized by brand or style to help narrow down the choices for you.  Once you click on an item, you will see all of the photos we have taken of that item as well as a detailed description of it that includes information about the item and how it fits and feels.  We also include styling information to help you choose matches so you can create an outfit.  We then tell you what our customers love about the brand and any specifics you need to know.  Last we include the fabric content and washing instructions.  You will also see the sizes available.

If you aren’t familiar with online shopping, let me take a minute to explain the checkout process you can expect…don’t worry, it is easy.  From the item screen, just click on the button “Add it to your Cart,” you will be taken to a shopping cart page that will tell you the total before shipping and also offer you our payment program through Sezzle that allows you to pay in 4 installments that are interest free and still get your items shipped right away.  It will calculate your payment amount for you, so you know exactly what to expect.  To make your purchase, click the button labeled “Check Out,” and you will be taken to a page where you enter your contact information and have the opportunity to apply any discount codes like our current STUCKINSIDE promotion that gets you 20% off a purchase of $100 or more.  To get your discount, just type the word STUCKINSIDE in all caps into the box labeled “Gift Card or Discount Code.”  Next just click the button that says “Continue to Shipping.”  Our website will calculate the shipping and taxes for you.  Orders over $100 ship free.  Next click the “Continue to Payment” button and you will be taken to a screen where you can enter your credit card information or choose our payment plan through Sezzle.  Last, just click the button labeled “Pay Now.”  That’s it.  We will receive a notification here at the store that an order has been placed, and if it is within our regular business hours, we will start packing it right away.  Often times, we ship out the same day.  And, as an extra precaution, every outgoing package will be sanitized before it leaves the store.

It is still us helping you.  I am modeling the clothes and am the one writing the product descriptions.  It is Elizabeth or I that pull your order and pack them.  Every step of the process goes through our hands.  We will even write you a personal thank you note so you know who packed your order and that we appreciate your business.  If at any point in the process you have questions, don’t hesitate to call us at 307-237-9221 and we can answer your product questions or help you with the ordering process.  When you order online from us, you have 30 days to return the item either by mail or bring it into the store.  This gives you plenty of time to receive the item and make sure it is exactly what you want.  If you have a Rewards Card with us, just let me know that in the notes with your order, and I will be sure to apply your points for your order onto your Rewards account.

So you see, it’s still shopping with Fashion Crossroads…just in a slightly different way! I encourage you to give one or both of these shopping methods a try.  This crises shall pass, and when it does weddings, graduations, trips and much more pleasant things will all be waiting for you.  There is no need to have to wait until them to get prepared!