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E-commerce is growing at an unprecedented rate all over the world. Retail e-commerce sales grew from 1.3 trillion US dollars in 2014 to 2.3 trillion in 2017 and are expected to continue this exponential growth to reach almost 4.9 trillion US dollars in 2021.

This comes as no surprise: online shopping is easy, convenient, and is cheaper on many occasions, too. Some even argue that online shopping brings more happiness than physical shopping.

However, it can also be quite challenging. That is especially true when it comes to items somewhat more specific than a laptop, shoes, or lipstick. Think about jewelry, gemstones, collectibles (coins, stamps, baseball cards, comics, militaria, etc.), antiques, or artworks. These are the types of items that require rather specific knowledge and experience for you to be able to evaluate them appropriately.

That is true for physical shopping, too, but even more so for online shopping. The reason for this is very simple: while shopping online, you have much more limited information available about the item in question. On most occasions, it is limited to the description and a few photos.

In this limited-information environment, buyers are inclined to make the wrong decisions oftentimes, and these bad decisions result in losing money. Sometimes, unfortunately, these are substantial amounts of money.

There are a considerable number of deals where buyers are deceived intentionally, when items for sale are knowingly misrepresented to a more or less substantial extent. There are even more cases where buyers are deceived unintentionally – due to the seller’s unprofessionalism. This is a fact: there are plenty of occasions where sellers believe their items are perfectly ok, while they are in fact fake; the sellers believe their descriptions meet industry standards, though in truth oftentimes the descriptions are inaccurate.

Online shopping questions

So, you as a buyer – even if you possess considerable knowledge about the type of item you are about to buy – should ask yourself a few additional questions:

  • Do I know how to identify a fake item based on the limited information available?

  • Do I know how to read the seller’s feedback scores properly? (This is by far not as simple as it may seem)

  • Do I know how to evaluate the seller’s level of professionalism based on its item descriptions?

  • Do I know how to evaluate the photos properly: are they perhaps stock photos, have they maybe been photoshopped to make the item look better than it really is?

  • Am I aware of the various scam tactics existing in the respective field?

Let’s face it – in order to be able to answer these questions correctly and in order not to find yourself ending up in a nightmare transaction, it is not enough to have decent knowledge about the respective field – you need to have substantial experience in the online market environment, too.

  • If you are not sure that you have the right answers to the above questions

  • If you are not sure whether the asking price is fair

  • If you suspect that there might be a better deal waiting for you elsewhere

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