Online shopping has come of age with more variety on the Internet than in hundreds of malls, department stores, boutiques, flea markets, garage sales and handcraft fairs combined. With expert analysis and consumer reviews, Viewpoints’ goal is to help shoppers make better, smarter decisions about how to spend their online dollars.
To do this, we bring you detailed articles about all the big (and small) online merchants so you can find the best deals online. Before we jump into specifics, we wanted to take a moment to introduce you to the three areas of online shopping Viewpoints will be covering.
When looking for where to shop online, the easiest place to begin is with the stores you frequent in real life. Retail giants like Walmart (66/100) and Target (69/100), along with just about every department store and specialty shop you can imagine, have built an online presence. These retailers usually have brick-and-mortar operations, but also offer their inventory online for your convenience.
The advantages to shopping online at stores you could visit in real life are many. You avoid check-out lines, traffic, parking and gas costs. You can be sure the items you want are in stock, and if not, you can usually find out when they will be available or even back order.
Most online retailers offer loyalty rewards programs that correspond to the ones they offer in store and often include special online perks, like discounts on shipping, free returns or access to special promotions. Many retailers have some stock reserved for online sales only—including names like Gap (62/100) and Sears (59/100).
Of course not all eCommerce sites have physical stores. Zappos.com (88/100), for example, is a massive shoe and clothing retailer that exists online only, and certain brick-and-mortar stores like Old Navy (80/100) keep entire sections—like their plus sizes—exclusive to the Internet.
Marketplace sites differ from eCommerce sites in that instead of doing business directly with retailers, you use the third-party service—like eBay (83/100) or Etsy (66/100)—to purchase goods from all kinds of different sellers. The goods can be new or used, handcrafted or mass produced. The key difference is the website doesn’t hold any inventory; it merely provide the platform—and the security—for you to transact with small merchants and individuals who can’t afford to maintain an independent online presence.
While auction sites like eBay and handcrafted good sites Etsy are the best known in this sector, there are all kinds of specialty sites like ecampus.com (43/100) for textbooks, alice.com (91/100) for household goods, and even trading sites like listia (52/100). The advantage to these sites is they generally offer significantly lower prices than traditional eCommerce sites, because the sellers have less overhead and can operate with even a single item of inventory.
Streaming media services
The last area of online shopping that Viewpoints focuses on is video and music streaming sites. They have all but replaced traditional music and video stores, and are growing and gaining market share daily. These services include personalized radio like Pandora (91/100) and on-demand music services like Spotify (80/100), along with flat-rate streaming video services like Hulu Plus and on-demand/pay-per-view steaming outlets like iTunes.
So where does Viewpoints fit in? Well, just like we have here, we want to be the place that breaks everything down for you. Our experts will guide you to the best online eCommerce, marketplace and media streaming sites to suit your particular needs. Our wealth of consumer reviews will help you choose the right place to spend your online dollars by sharing real-life experiences.
We want you to come to Viewpoints whenever you have to make an online shopping decision, so that our experts can give you their best information, tips and tricks, and other consumers can share their stories so you get a full sense of your options. But we can’t do it without your help. So, please, if you have used any of the services mentioned, or similar ones, leave your review now so others can profit from your experience.
Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with online shopping, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.