Online shopping, the craze that just won’t go away

Care is needed when shopping online because it can be easy just to hit the ‘buy’ button. (Rawpixel pic)

Online shopping platforms and frequent sales are changing how consumers spend. This trend accelerated with the Covid-19 pandemic and online shopping is increasingly featuring social elements, such as influencers.

Be a smart and savvy shopper — take advantage of deals but do not be taken advantage of.

Why online shopping is cheaper and more popular

Online retailers keep costs lower because the goods often come directly from the manufacturer or seller without going through a middleman, and online shops often have lower overheads than bricks and mortar outlets.

Prices are generally competitive as customers can easily compare several factors between multiple sellers, such as pricing, delivery and customer service.

And shopping can be done in the comfort of one’s home at the click of a button without the time and hassle of going to the shops.

Can online shopping be trusted?

Online shopping is relatively safe as various metrics can be checked, such as the sellers’ rating and customer reviews. Most platforms specifically mark trusted sellers.

Some online shopping platforms and credit cards also offer buyer protection but read the fine print and verify that it is a genuine product and not a knockoff.

The most popular shopping platforms in Malaysia*

  • Shopee – founded in 2015 in Singapore and owned by Sea Group, it is Malaysia’s fourth most popular site.
  • Lazada – founded in 2012 in Singapore and owned by the Alibaba Group, it is the ninth most popular.
  • Mudah.my – founded in 2007 in Malaysia and part of Carousell, it is the 19th most popular (Carousell is 198th).
  • PGMall – founded in 2017 in Malaysia by Public Gold Group, it is the 92nd most popular.
  • Zalora – founded in 2012 in Singapore, is an online clothes retailer owned by the Zalora Group. It is the 249th most popular.
  • Lelong – founded in 2007 in Malaysia and owned by Interbase Resources Sdn Bhd, is the 408th most popular.
  • PrestoMall – founded in 2014 in Malaysia, formerly known as 11street Malaysia, is the 1,800th most popular.

Note: Site popularity based on Alexa Malaysia rankings at the time of publication.

Online shopping can easily get out of control, so tread carefully. (Rawpixel pic)

Which online shopping app should one use?

Different online platforms have different products on offer, with most having an app as well for ease of shopping.

Overall, Shopee and Lazada are the two most popular online shopping platforms with the largest variety of products being sold, including houses.

Shopee and Lazada have e wallets for faster checkout, secure payments and instant refunds.

Shopee and Lazada also have games on their apps to earn coins, which can be exchanged for vouchers or freebies.

Mudah/Carousell and Lelong are noteworthy for also offering preloved goods while Zalora is the leading online shopping platform for clothes.

A bonus tip is that platforms such as Shopback offer cashback/coupons for using their affiliate shopping programmes.

Can online shopping be addictive?

Compulsive shopping can be a bad habit or in the worst-case scenario a disorder. Malaysians spend a lot of time online and online shopping is a reward loop as platforms make it as easy and friction-free as possible to shop online.

Buying things one does not need can lead to clutter, hoarding and going into debt. In fact, uncontrolled shopping is a leading cause of debt in Malaysia.

One is clearly addicted to shopping when the following occur:

  • Relationships are damaged and loved ones express concern.
  • The quality or performance at work deteriorates.
  • Finances are affected or one is getting into debt.
  • Shopping for things that are not needed, never used or too expensive.
  • Shopping online is always on one’s mind and the individual gets upset if something interferes with their shopping.

What should not be bought online?

Sometimes, it makes more sense to buy offline despite the extra hassle. Some things must be touched and examined to see if one really likes them.

Things that should not be bought online include art, furniture, mattresses, cars and musical instruments.

A person may want to test certain other personal items, such as make up, in person before reordering online.

Be wary about the sellers. If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is.

How to spend responsibly online

A key way to handle online shopping is to plan out a monthly budget for shopping and stick to it. This means no unplanned purchases above a certain (low-ish) amount.

Plan in advance and then be a smart shopper to maximise savings by buying when there are sales and promotions.

One’s overall expenses, including online shopping, should be below 60% of the total income, with online shopping/wants being at most 10% to 20% of overall expenses.

This article first appeared in MyPF. Follow MyPF to simplify and grow your personal finances on Facebook and Instagram.