I’ve learnt something today – I am not built for internet shopping.

It’s always seemed to me like a great idea, and when I’m browsing websites and see something that catches my eye I think it works a treat. I’ve realised now that when I’m looking for something in particular, I really have no idea where to start and end up suffocating in an endless stream of tabs with half filled shopping baskets all over the place and no idea whether anything is even going to fit.

I’ve spent a good half hour trawling through the TopshopZara and Dorothy Perkins websites (amongst others) in an attempt to find smart clothes. I’m talking trousers, skirts, shirts and blazers, but I’m looking for a fashion twist. It’s a tough enough brief as it is, add in the inability to see the fabrics, lengths of the trousers and the limited size availability and I’ve found myself in quite a disaster zone.

I’ve chosen to give up on the task and plan an actual, physical shopping trip, but I’ve come up with a few tips that I think might help me in the future:

1. Know what you want to buy – If you’ve seen the perfect blazer in a magazine, or know that Topshop jeans always fit, then go right ahead and order online. This way you know you’re definitely going to get what you want.

2. Leave plenty of time – One of the biggest risks of online shopping is that when the items do finally arrive, they might not fit. So it’s a disaster to order something just days before you need it, because you’re not leaving yourself any time to find an alternative if what you’ve ordered is far too small.

3. Do your research – Some websites now offer customer reviews, so read them! They can be really useful in telling you if an item comes up bigger than expected, or the colour looks totally different in real life to what it does in the picture. Also look at the item details to find out what the fabric is, and look carefully at the pictures. All of this gives you a better idea of what the item will actually be like once it’s in front of you. And why not leave your own review? It’ll help others like you to make the best decision.

4. Check the returns policy – The last thing you need is to be stuck with an item you don’t want because you’ve missed the refund deadline. Some stores allow you to return internet items in store, but online only brands might give you a short time to get your item posted back. Always know your time limits and decide if you’ll keep the item with plenty of time left over to ship it back.

5. Don’t be afraid to try something new – You might have your favourite shops that you always head to on the high street, but on the internet you have the opportunity to compare thousands or stores, all in once place. There isn’t a town on this earth that will allow you to shop the number of stores you can online, so reach out of your comfort zone and browse a website you wouldn’t usually consider. You never know, they might have exactly what you want for half the price of your favourite high street store!

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