Shopping the Web

Time & Life Management

Shopping the Web

Stay Focused

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dear Juli,

Do you really save time shopping online? I need new sneakers but am overwhelmed by all the choices and think that in a real store I would choose more quickly. —Shoeless in Santa Barbara

Dear Shoeless,

You bring up several interesting points in your question. Allow me to address them for you and shed some light on your murky shoe-purchasing experiences.

There are pros and cons to each option. Online purchasing clearly has the advantage in some situations. It’s the only real way to shop for people in rural areas where brick-and-mortar establishments are scarce. Other people, confined by their work schedules, are unable to get to a store during its regular hours. Online shopping is also a blessing for busy parents who may have only a few minutes here and there to go to a website, order what they need, and have it conveniently shipped.

The flip side to this convenience is the feeling of overwhelm that you mentioned. For some, being online is fraught with temptations to surf, and online shopping may take longer than a trip downtown for that reason alone. Then there is the problem of simply having too many choices on the Web, even at a single site.

Here are some tips to help reduce that online shopping stress and wasted time:

  1. Know what you are looking to buy before you get online — same as if you were to walk into a store. Know your size, and also have an idea of the color and features you are looking for. In your case, Shoeless, you know that sneakers are generally categorized by running, walking, hiking, etc., so select the pertinent activity and narrow your choices to that section only.
  2. Don’t start browsing through every shoe store on the Web, or you will need to start shopping for a nursing home by the time you exhaust your possibilities. Limit your search to five websites at the very most, sticking with your tried-and-true favorite vendors or those with good recommendations or reviews.
  3. Give yourself time limits: an allotment of time for looking at choices, and then a shorter amount of time in which to decide.

I have found, when shopping online, that it doesn’t hurt to do a quick Google search for any online specials or coupons. Five or ten minutes is all it takes. (Really.)

So the final answer to the question of whether online shopping saves time is — sometimes!