The 6 Tricks Online Shops Use - And How to Avoid Them

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


Physical money used to make the world go around, and then the “magic” credit card was born, soon this card became contactless, then came the reign of Apple and Google Pay. In 2020, wallets are no longer just accessories made out of leather or canvas, they are ‘e-Wallets’ made of digital data.

You can now transfer money out of your account lying down, at the tap of a finger. Losing money has never been more convenient.

Online shopping has been on a precipitous rise for years now, but with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, us Brits are spending more time in our homes, and on our phones, than ever before. More time on the internet meant more ads, and an unprecedented boom in online shopping.

A lot of us (myself included), may have gotten just a tad carried away with our purchases. And it’s not entirely our fault. There are endless ingenious marketing strategies that fuel this multi-billion-dollar business.

Naturally, we thought we’d give you the inside scoop. Here are the 6 tactics retailers use to get your money – and how you can keep your head above water.

1.   ‘Free’ Shipping and Returns


Beware of anything that is marketed as ‘free’ – it always comes at a cost, most times to you – the consumer.

Online retailers will often require you to spend a minimum amount of money in order to receive free shipping. And most are guilty of putting more items in our basket just so we can avoid paying for shipping.

There is something psychologically unnerving about ‘wasting’ money on shipping. As money-saving expert Andrea Woroch has said:"Most people would rather spend more money buying things they don't need than pay for shipping costs.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with free returns.However, the problem with free shipping and returns, is that it can lead us to buy things we don’t need or don’t even really want. We start thinking:

What’s the harm? I can always return everything, and it’s like I never spent the money at all!

This is a dangerous game. Once we have received an item, it’s such a fuss to return it that even if it’s sub-par we may keep it after all, or worse, simply forget to return it in time.

The trick is to stay conscious. Ask yourself: Would I still buy this item if I had to pay a small shipping/return cost?

2. They Start to ‘Stalk’ You

Ever feel like companies are spying on you? You may have considered buying new headphones once, and now adverts for headphones are popping up everywhere. No, it’s not paranoia, clever algorithms are able to ‘stalk’ you and tempt you into making more purchases.

Retailers target you with adverts based on your browsing habits, and almost all of them are in cahoots with social media platforms likeFacebook. In simple terms, Facebook knows what you’re looking at on ASOS.

The same item may pop up on your Facebook feed 3 times in 2days. When retailers are reminding you of items you may have ‘forgotten’, they are testing you: ‘How many times will he/she see this item they liked before they finally give in and buy it?’

To combat this and protect your data you can opt-out of personalised ads on Google, Facebook and there are also some pretty good plugins if you use Google Chrome as a browser, that can do all the privacy protecting work for you.

3. Convenient Checkout

Shopping in brick-and-mortar (especially as an introvert)can be downright stressful. Long queues, bustling shop floors, and fumbling around for your wallet can be a turn-off. But online, the glossy screen, quick flicks, and tiny taps make the temptation to purchase strong, and the roadblocks to it almost non-existent.

Many online retailers make it easy for you to check-out again and again by saving your credit card information. Refrain from saving this information in the first place and delete your payment methods from your favourite sites. Un-save your card information from your browser, so it no longer auto-fills when you buy something. You could also get rid of your Paypal account – there’s really no need to be just one password away from a purchase.

Or simply make yourself wait. Make a personal rule to go fora 15-minute walk before ‘adding to cart’. Or, wait 24 hours, 72 hours or even a week before buying. This gives you the time to detach from the sales tactics and realign with what you want in the long-term.

4. Loyalty and Membership Programs


Loyalty and membership programs are extremely lucrative for companies, and they can seem like a smart deal. The more you spend, the more ‘exclusive’ deals and discounts you receive. In fact, PWC’s 2016 Global Retail Report found that 91% of consumers were part of a loyalty or rewards program. Unfortunately, memberships can keep you hooked and motivated to spend extra just so you don’t “miss out” on all those deals.

To combat this, simply delete shopping apps from your phone. You can still shop online on a laptop or browser, and avoid the daily scroll, notifications & incentives.



5. Email Marketing


Anyone else have an inbox cluttered with retail emails on a daily basis? We’ve all been there trawling through email after email, reading reminders of items we have ‘forgotten’, or sales and ‘must-have’ items.

These emails can cause some serious FOMO, especially withLimited Time Only sales. Before receiving the email, you didn’t even know the sale was going on, , but now you feel left out. So instead of continuing with your work or getting some decent shut-eye, you’re scrolling through the sale section trying to look for that unmissable bargain, for a thing you didn’t even want to buy in the first place…*sigh*.

Block or unsubscribe from these retailers and – trust me – you will feel a huge weight off of your chest when you open up your emails in the morning.



6. Constantly Changing Prices


Prices don’t just change when there are sales on. Many online retailers now practice “dynamic pricing” – this means the pricing changes according to consumer and market behaviour. If it’s hot outside, the price of ice-cream could suddenly skyrocket upwards. If you’ve splurged on expensive items recently, you’ll start being recommended more expensive items, rather than the affordable ones you were seeing before. Suddenly, your perception of a fair price is altered.

 Fortunately, there are a number of price comparison sites that can help you sift through the competition and marketing tactics to find the best deal.


 ‘Save’ Yourself…


You deserve a good relationship with money, and the first step is by being intentional about your spending – and your saving. Usually, when we overspend, we are chasing a certain feeling. Is there an activity that can achieve that same feeling that doesn’t get in the way of your other goals?

You could start to view ‘saving’ in the same way as a purchase. If you’re saving for a house, have a picture of one as your desktop, phone background, or pinned up on a board. This will remind you of the bigger picture, and the incredible things saving money can achieve.

The clearer you are on your goals, the harder it is for companies to lure you away from them. And hey, if you have the money and motivation to splurge, and you’re intentional about it, go nuts!