HI-Tech Shopping, Technology changes shopping choices for the better

If I run out of bread, my first thought still is to make a quick run to the local food store. But if my iPad charger breaks or I need a new pair of jeans, my first thought is most often to check on the Internet. There are so many shopping choices, and they continually develop more apps to help you wade through those choices more easily.

It would certainly be a lot easier on my money situation if shopping weren’t that easy. The current economy isn’t all that supportive. It almost represents the ultimate in laziness, to sit in my easy chair in my living room with an iPad on my lap shopping with money I don’t have. Or, at the very least, “window shopping” with the money I wish I had.

Nothing illustrates this better than to explain that while typing the previous paragraph, I received an email about back to school deals at a clothing store I frequent. I figured that must mean they had summer items on clearance, and I broke two pairs of flip fops/sandals yesterday. I went to the site to look for sandals and left $80 later, after also buying clothes on clearance for my daughter, and socks for my husband. It will all be delivered late this week. The whole process took thirty minutes or so.

The online shopping process has evolved slowly. When it first became an option, many people feared it, afraid of sharing their credit card number online. Those fears weren’t unfounded, as I did have my information stolen at one point. But they’ve made changes to the online process that make sharing such information more secure.

There are ways to keep your own shopping experience safe. But shopping sites can their sites safer for you to use them as well. They can add VeriSign to keep the information safe and when you see that on a website, you’ll know all contact info and financial information is safe.
Certainly the bigger, more established site you go to, the safer you are. Amazon started out as a an online book retailer, but added on the ability to sell music as well, and later electronics, and currently seems as if you can purchase anything there. It’s a great place to Christmas shop as you can knock out a lot of it in one fell swoop.

Amazon returned to their original book-selling roots with the development of the Kindle, an e-reader. By offering a proprietary device that only read e-books that they sold, they cornered a market. Several other e-readers are available, but “Kindle” has become so synonymous with e-readers that it seems to be everyone’s first option. With that move, though, they set themselves up once again as being known for selling books, rather than selling general merchandise.

The other big daddy of shopping sites is eBay. It started as an online auction site, with the first sale being a broken laser pointer. It became similar to an online garage sale, and later added the “Buy Now” functionality to remove the auction status and added third-party selling as well. Like Amazon, it too seems to sell everything and anything.

Huge online stores aren’t the only ones offering great deals via the Internet. The larger stores with physical locations are represented online as well. If I’m buying an Apple product, I don’t head to the local Apple Store. It ‘s thirty or forty minutes away, depending on traffic. It’s much easier just to buy the products at their online store or an authorized seller such as Best Buy. The only time I walk in the door is if there’s something wrong and I need to visit the Genius Bar.

My husband wanted to buy a new iPhone, and we spent hours on the AT&T site and phone calls trying to make the purchase. It just wouldn’t go through, and phone help wasn’t exactly “helpful.” I went to the Apple Store and had the phone purchased and on its way in less than five minutes. This is what they do well. They sell their items. AT&T doesn’t do that well. They’re a phone network. This went to prove that not every company is great at having an online store.

All of these larger stores and some of the smaller ones, have Facebook sites encouraging you to “Like” them. The more fans they have, the more they can advertise on their Facebook page and get you to buy more items. It’s the inter connectivity of it all that keeps that going, and that’s what Facebook does well.

What do you do if you’re looking to purchase something in particular? You use Google, of course. The Search engine is the first place people go to find an item if they don’t already have a store in mind. You can enter your search criteria and get a number of links back where you might find the item. Or you can be more specific, go to their shopping tab, and find all of the online and local stores selling your item, and know how much it will be before you even open the link. Without online shopping, you’re either spending hours driving store to store or making phone calls to find that item.

What about shopping for food items? And by this, I don’t mean a handful of items. I mean that weekly shopping we all dread; that cartful of food. Peapod has been in the business for a long time. They’ll complete your shopping and deliver it to your door. NetGrocer will do the same. It’s much easier than giving someone a list where you have to break down the specific items as you have to break down the specific items as you can shop visually on the site, and know you’ll get the products you want.

If you have an i-Gadget such as an iPhone or iPad, shopping gets that much easier. For one, you can take the iPhone with you to help you shop in person, if you just need to get in the car and do it the old fashioned way. For another, they make several apps that are designed to help you shop, and the larger stores all have their own apps. You can either download them at the store’s website or through the Apps Store. While Amazon certainly has its own app- a few in fact- the many apps available make it not the first place to go.

The Catalogue app features items from online catalogs. It allows you to browse by item or through catalogs. It’s a much easier way to search for a certain product, doing it electronically instead of flipping through several pages in different catalogs to see just who has the black flip flops you’ve been searching for.

Google Catalogs is a very unique app which is almost more fun than useful. It allows you to flip through catalogs and “Favorite” the items you like. You can then go back through your favorites and organize them into collections via collages. It’s especially helpful if you’re planning an outfit or decorating a room and want to see what everything looks like together, even though you’re putting it together through separate catalogs.
Some apps even allow you to shop by bar code. You can scan in the code of your item using your iPhone’s camera. Walgreen has an app that allows you to refill prescriptions this way. No more calling in and going through an extensive list of options to get to the pharmacy. Download the app, scan in your prescription bottle and designate when you want it to be picked up. That’s it!

What’s going to tie this in even more will be iOS6. It will feature the new app Passbook. This app will allow you to store coupons, boarding passes, tickets, loyalty card, etc., all within the app. While they aren’t allowing you to be able to make purchases through the app yet, some feel this is yet to come in the near future and Apple is simply dipping their toe into that market and treading cautiously. It’s understandable. There are already too many apps fulfilling this need, and if Apple does it wrong, it will be a wasted effort, similar to Ping.

Regardless of what options it adds, shopping via the Internet and through i-Gadgets is bound to only get easier, despite the poor economy leaving everyone with little extra money to support wild spending habits. It’s the flow of technology. We no longer need to leave the comfort of our couch to do much of anything, let alone shop. We can get exactly what we want quickly and in a safe manner as well.


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