How to order items online from around the world

From AliExpress Singles Day to Amazon Prime Day and every day in between, the online retail world has taken a firm grasp of the world. Annual online retail revenue around the globe is in the hundreds of trillions, with no slowdown in sight.

As a global consumer in this rapidly growing and changing marketplace, it’s important to evaluate your options. Here are five choices to make when you begin ordering items online from a new location.

1.  Choose your preferred stores.Many factors come together to create an online shopping experience. Because location can affect how these elements are executed, a favorite shopping website in your home country isn’t always the best choice elsewhere. Identify your needs — for specific items, and for overall service. Does the store offer any perks that might be useful to you, such as a loyalty shopping program with bonus incentives? A store’s customer support and individuals in your new location can be a good sources of information on what to expect…and when and how to expect it.

2.  Choose your customer service.Your needs and priorities as an assignee in a new location may make support more important. Read through policies carefully. Can orders be cancelled online, or will you need to telephone or email the merchant? Are live chat or email channels available? What options do you have if an item arrives damaged, or if you decide you no longer want it? In addition: Are there any country-specific consumer laws, rights, or advocacy organizations of which you should be aware?

3.  Choose your payment methods.Local culture, habits, consumer rights, and credit card providers can all contribute to this important decision. What payment methods do your favorite online stores prefer? Does using a particular payment method offer benefits or protections to consumers that an online store does not? Many experts also advise having a payment method for online purchases that is not directly tied to banking accounts, as this can be an additional protection against fraud.

4.  Choose your shipping address and carriers.Some online stores use internationally-known courier services, such as DHL, to deliver items door to door. Some opt to use a freight forwarding service that takes on the responsibility of shipping internationally to destinations using different methods, based on cost or quality. Still others rely on the postal systems of their country and the recipient’s country. Each of these types of service can have different policies, different estimated delivery times, and different recipient requirements. In addition, when considering this, it is worth reviewing the delivery addresses available to you. While home deliveries of online orders may have been suitable at home, it may be more secure or appropriate to have items delivered to an office or third party address in your new location…or, vice versa.

5.  Choose your notifications.Once you have identified online stores that provide the right goods, efficient delivery and great customer service in your new location, you may want to keep track of what else they have to offer. Email provides an excellent way to do this, but sometimes the deluge of “junk” email can drown out the sales or special offers you might actually want to receive. There are a number of effective ways to deal with this phenomenon, but one relatively simple tactic is to create an inbox rule that moves all emails that mention a store into their own folder, so that you can review them at your leisure.

by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, International Content Manager, Living Abroad