Compare Online Shopping Companies
In 1979 Michael Aldrich created online shopping using a modified domestic television connected with a telephone line to a processing computer. Today, consumers can use their personal computers or mobile devices to order everything from shoes to groceries and have it delivered to their homes within days.
Consumers have many online stores to choose from, and your choice will depend on your individual needs. Want to see where your order is at? Many online retailers provide detailed tracking updates. For the eco-conscious shopper, a company's green initiatives may be important. Not sure if you will like the size, color or feel of your new shoes? Consider the online store’s return policies before you buy. Before deciding where to make your e-purchase from, be sure to evaluate your options for selection, price and customer service.
Top 10 Best Rated Online Shopping Companies
|Read 2002 Reviews|
Founded in 1909, P.C Richard & Son is a family-owned company that offers electronics, appliances and mattresses. P.C. Richard & Son has a service center for electronics and appliances, as well as a support call center. Find out more
|Read 109 Reviews|
BuyDig.com offers deals, including blowout deals, clearance and coupons, on a wide variety of products. They sell to both individuals and corporate customers and can fill orders quickly. Most ship within 48 hours.
|Read 5039 Reviews|
JustFab is an LA-based online retailer of women’s clothing, accessories and shoes. The site offers deep discounts to customers who become members and shop every month. JustFab has a wide variety of shoe styles and sizes.
|Read 737 Reviews|
Founded in 1999, ConsumerAffairs.com is a consumer advocacy website. It features news and resources to help consumers make smart purchasing decisions, including buyer’s guides and thousands of customer reviews and complaints.
|Read 267 Reviews|
HomeClick was established in 2000 and is now a leader in name-brand, luxurious home improvement items. They feature a broad inventory of items for every room, including appliances, lighting, bathroom fixtures and more. Find out more
|Read 479 Reviews|
Hayneedle is a leading online home furnishings retailer. It has decor and furniture for every area of a home. Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, Hayneedle sells products from over 3,000 brands, including their own in-house designs.
|Read 454 Reviews|
Established in 1999, HobbyTron is now a leading retailer of remote-controlled toys and airsoft guns. They have a broad selection of helicopters, cars, trucks, boats, airplanes and more, and offer Daily Deals on popular items.
|Read 57 Reviews|
Abt was founded in 1936 and is now a major appliance and electronics retailer with a massive retail site in Glenview, Illinois. Abt’s e-commerce site launched in 1997, offering electronics and appliances nationwide.
|Read 3963 Reviews|
From its humble beginnings in 2002, Wayfair has become a one-stop shop for home furnishings and décor. Wayfair and its brands like AllModern and DwellStudio offer over seven million products from over 7,000 suppliers.
|Read 25 Reviews|
Amway is a multi-level marketing company previously known as Quixtar. Established in 1959, Amway recruits independent distributors to sell personal care products. Products are also available for purchase online.
The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.
What online shopping features matter most?
Safety and reliability
Whether you are in the market for personal care items, clothing, auto parts or art supplies, you will have many stores to choose from on the Internet. And while you can find adequate supplies at many of these stores, you should use caution when choosing an online retailer.
- Reputation: Shopping from an online store requires divulging personal financial information and trusting that your information will be used appropriately and that your product or service will be delivered as promised. Be sure you buy from a reputable store that is known for ethical business practices and a quality product.
- Secure payment: When making a payment online, be sure that the company has a secure payment portal that won’t compromise your financial information. Before typing your credit card or other payment information, look for a small padlock icon in the web address bar and check to see that the web address begins with the letters “https” and not “http” (the “s” stands for “secure”).
- Value: Nearly every item, supply or service can be found online at many distinct price points. Choose a store that carries products you need at a price you can afford, then search online for the same product from other companies to see if the online store you chose is offering a fair deal. Ideally, a store should offer a guarantee on their products, which will help you feel better about your purchase if you’re unsure of the quality.
Depending on what items or services you need to purchase; selection may be more or less of a factor when you choose an online store. Generally, you can save time and money in shipping costs if you can make all your purchases at one website.
- Niche or branded stores: Some stores specialize in a single brand or even a single product. This can be acceptable if your needs are very specific (for example, if you need a component part for a specific model of computer) or if you are brand loyal and don’t want or need to try new products (for example, if you know you prefer a certain brand of cosmetics).
- Mass merchandisers: Just like offline mass merchandisers, some online stores offer many choices when it comes to consumer products or goods. Consider whether an online store has options that vary in price, size, quality or variety. You may not care much whether you have a choice when you’re purchasing items like component parts for a computer, but you might need more variety when it comes to apparel or personal care. Whether you choose an online store with a big selection or a boutique with just one product option is a choice that depends on your individual preference and needs.
- Luxury items: Some people want to purchase only the best products, but not every store offers niche brands or boutique-style items. If you want to purchase high-end items, you’ll have to look at a store that offers these options.
Customer service availability
When you make a purchase online, you may encounter problems or concerns. Customer service representatives can often help with product selection, payment questions, shipping concerns and processing returns.
- Prominent customer service features: An online store should make it easy for you to shop with them. Consider whether the customer service features on the website are clearly presented and easy to navigate. Some websites will have a “Contact us” tab on the page, while others will feature a text box on the side of the page.
- Chat feature: Some online stores offer the option to chat live with a customer service representative, who can help you choose the right product or address any purchasing concerns. Before making a purchase with a store, give this feature a try. Ask a representative a question about a product you’re considering. You will get an idea of how quickly they respond and whether or not they are helpful.
- Customer service hours: Online stores are open all the time but may have certain hours when you can chat with a customer service representative if you need help choosing an item or completing a purchase.
Every online store sets its own policies regarding purchases, returns and guarantees. Look for a company that makes purchases and returns simple and affordable, and guarantees their product or service in case you are unhappy with your purchase.
- Sales, deals or coupons: Many online stores have sales on items you might need, and these sales often rotate seasonally or by department. You can also save money if the online store you select accepts manufacturer coupons (often in the form of a code that you enter on the payment page) or if it offers store coupons.
- Return policies: If you’re unhappy with your purchase from an online store, you’ll likely have to go to the trouble of sending it back in the mail. Find out about your online store’s return policies. Some online stores do not accept returns, particularly on products that have been opened or used. Some will accept returns within a certain time frame (such as 30 or 60 days). Other stores have generous policies and accept returns at any time for any reason. You should also consider whether the store or the customer is responsible for return shipping costs.
- Guarantees: Some online stores stand by their products and offer a money-back guarantee if you’re dissatisfied with the purchase. Particularly if you are making a major purchase, be sure the store has a solid reputation for honoring its guarantees and will refund your money if you don’t like the purchase.
Shipping and tracking
When you pay an online retailer, you want to be sure you will receive the product within a reasonable amount of time and that it won’t get “lost” in the mail system.
- Autoship or subscription options: Many online stores offer the convenience of auto shipping products you need on a regular basis, such as medicine or personal care items. You can choose how frequently you’d like the store to ship a new product (for example, once a month or every other month) and your credit card will be charged with a new transaction every time the product ships. Some stores even charge a bit less for products that you buy on a subscription plan, which can save you quite a bit over time since you use these products so frequently.
- Affordable or free shipping: Standard shipping rates for orders at online stores can vary from a few dollars to ten or more, particularly if the weight or size of your order is large or bulky. However, many online stores offer free shipping if you spend a minimum amount (such as $25 or $50). Larger, more popular stores are often able to offer free shipping on all orders, which can save you quite a bit of money over time.
- Expedited shipping options: Many online stores allow you to choose between a standard shipping time of several days and one or more expedited options (such as 2 day or overnight shipping). These faster options almost always cost more, but can be a great choice if you need a product right away.
- Choice of courier: Some online stores have an exclusive contract with one mail courier, such as USPS, UPS or FedEx. However, others allow you to choose which courier you prefer, which can save you money or time depending on where you live.
- Tracking options: Most online stores are able to track your order once it has been shipped. They will often email you a tracking number that allows you to log into the courier’s website or sign up for status updates on your package. This can help you track down your package if it is shipped to the wrong address or if it is stalled during delivery. It also helps you know if your package has been stolen from your porch or another drop-off spot, since the tracking updates will change to “delivered” once the package has been left by the courier.
What are different types of online stores?
Mass merchandisers and department stores
Some online stores offer many products in many categories or “departments,” much like a brick-and-mortar big box store or department store. These stores can often offer products at cheaper prices or with free shipping.
Boutique or niche stores
Some online stores specialize in one particular product or category of products. In some cases, you might not have many options if the item you need is a boutique or niche item, such as a particular brand of boutique footwear or a part for a particular brand of appliance.
Online stores with offline counterparts
Most major brick-and-mortar retailers also have online stores. While this might not affect your choice of store, it can be beneficial if there is a local retail store near you. You might browse the physical store first and choose a product, then buy it online for more selection in size, color or variety. You can also often return unwanted items purchased online to the store’s physical location.
Many online shopping sites do not have a physical counterpart, and are often run by a small staff. This can be a great way to support small businesses and boost the economy, and often means you can find unique products you might not find in a big store.
Some websites are not “stores” per se, but instead offer a platform for many different sellers to advertise and sell their goods. Sellers set up virtual stores or list products for sale, typically paying a fee to the hosting website, and buyers bid or buy items they want.
Hybrid store websites
Some websites function in multiple ways simultaneously. For example, Amazon.com is both a seller of its own goods, kept in warehouses and shipped through Amazon’s couriers and a marketplace platform for other people or businesses to sell their goods.
Who would benefit from online shopping?
Between work, school and family obligations, many adults don’t have the time to shop at multiple physical stores for all their purchasing needs.
Those who need specific products
Some products are only available online or might be in limited supply in retail stores.
People who are homebound
Online shopping can be a great choice for seniors, those with disabilities or others who have trouble leaving their homes.
Anyone looking for convenience
Online shopping takes the hassle out of purchases for many people. You can avoid a crowded shopping mall or try on clothes or shoes in the comfort of your own home.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.