SOS ~ Smart Online Shopping
I’ve been doing some online shopping lately. Okay, more like A LOT of online shopping. I sink into my couch (actually, my bed) after a long day, pour myself a bottle of wine, and unleash the wrath of the web on my bank account. I do this for two reasons. One: I really like wine. Two: research purposes. No, I’m serious. It’s for research.
When I shop online, typically, it’s for convenience reasons. Some days, I want nothing more than to unwind, mindlessly browsing the internet searching for the perfect pair of boots or a nice, cozy sweater, because actually leaving my apartment and going to a store means putting on real pants. An added bonus: the World Wide Web makes it easier than ever to find the best deals.
Where does the research come in, you may be asking yourself? Let’s compare online shopping with writing research papers. I’m in my (second) last semester of college, and research papers are a topic I have become far too familiar with. It is drilled into every student’s head to check and re-check resources to make sure they are legitimate. Buying from an unreliable retailer can be a lot like using information from an unreliable website: the info might be legit, but there’s a significant chance it’s not quality.
I’ve been hunting for a comfy fall boot by a very specific brand. Browsing Google shopping, I notice the average price point for this specific boot falls right around the $150 range. There are a few dollars of variation, but nothing significant. Glass of wine in hand, a feeling of defeat befalls me. As a broke college student, $150 can buy me items I need far more than a new pair of boots.
All of a sudden, I see it… THE BOOT FOR $99!
I start getting excited. I quickly reel the excitement back in, because as a part of the retail industry, I know there’s probably an unfortunate reason this boot is $99. How can one company sell a boot for $99 when everywhere else is selling the same boot for $150? It doesn’t make sense.
So, I check my resources.
At first glance, the $99 boot looks exactly the same as the $150 boot. I click on the picture. The first thing I pick up on is this: on the websites I’ve seen this boot for $150, there are pictures displaying the brand’s logo. The logo is so visible it’s essentially yelling at you from the web page.
The website with the $99 version of the boot very artfully arranges the boot so the logo is never in the picture. I also notice the ridges on the bottom of the boot look off. I pull up a side by side comparison of the boot for $150 and the boot for $99, and notice the ridging on the underside of the boots are different. The more I look, the more I realize how different the two boots actually are.
Just out of curiosity, I choose a size and head to check out. Stipulations involving currency and additional fees appear in front of me from seemingly out of nowhere. In the fine print at the very bottom of the page, the sellers of the $99 boots have written a lovely message: “do not confuse with ___ brand boots”. As in, don’t confuse with the brand of boots I’ve been looking for the whole time. IMPOSTERS!
The problem is many less-than-truthful companies pull the wool over consumers’ eyes far too often. I’m guilty of paying more attention to quantity over quality when it comes to shopping on the web, but is the best deal worth the less-than-quality product you may be getting?
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Brands update styles frequently. There may be a particular high heel your favorite brand carries from last season that looks almost identical to the new high heel the brand came out with for the current season. The high heel from last season may be sold for significantly less money than the “updated” version of the high heel. Even though the two shoes look almost exactly the same, the newer version is probably going to cost more than last season’s shoe.
Another reason for price variation when online shopping: MAP. MAP stands for “minimum advertised pricing”. There is an immense amount of info and logistics involved in MAP. So much so that I could write an entire blog post detailing the topic. I do not want to bore any of us by writing such a post, so I will lay out the basics for you.
MAP is the minimum price retailers are allowed to sell a brand’s products online for. This keeps retailers, big and small, along the same price points to make online shopping as fair as possible. At times, larger retailers may take more of a risk and deviate more from MAP than smaller retailers. Basically, bigger retailers can afford to get away with more. Smaller retailers cannot afford the consequences that might come from deviating from MAP and upsetting a big-money brand.
As you can see, from new trends to shady retailers to MAP… A LOT of factors go into e-commerce pricing. The bottom line is this: let’s all make sure we are practicing SOS – Smart Online Shopping. As consumers, we must do our research. Always, always keep in mind: the “best deal” is not always the best deal.
Web/Social Media Administrator