How to shop online

Many things that are usually done in the real world can be done quite easily online, including your shopping. The move online can take some getting used to but is often worth it. You could eventually save time and money too!

In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic the major supermarkets were overwhelmed with online orders. Things have generally eased now, but if you have difficulty getting a delivery slot you may need to ask a friend or relative to shop for you if you can’t do it yourself. Other online retailers such as clothes shops are generally trading normally, but things may take a little longer than usual to arrive.

Finding what you’re looking for

Most retailers also provide online shopping. In fact you can buy just about anything that you can buy at the supermarket or on the high street on the internet as well, and sometimes it’s cheaper too.

To get started you can shop in two ways:

1. If you know what you’re looking for but aren’t sure of the best place to buy it you can search online and see what options are available. For example, you might want to find, say, a blue shirt or a particular vacuum cleaner. You can then browse options and prices and navigate to the one you prefer.

2. If you have a particular store in mind, you can look up that store online – so you would do a search for, say, Sainsbury’s or Next. From there select the store’s home page (this is usually at the top of the search results)

Online retailers

A lot of the high street shops have online sales websites. Typically you will need to sign up on the retailer’s website with an email address, and you will need to make up a password to continue – the mechanism is similar for most retailers.

When you find what you want, select “Add to basket” or “Add to cart”, and repeat this until you have everything you want. When you’ve finished select the shopping trolley or basket icon at the top right – you will see a list of things you’re buying. You can change or remove things on this list if you need to. Finally select “Checkout” and follow the instructions for making payment. Generally you will need to use a debit or credit card to make payment. There are slight differences between different stores, but the process is similar.

Amazon and Ebay

Amazon and Ebay are the two leading websites offering ‘almost everything’. Buying on these sites can be quite straightforward, but they do operate in different ways.

Amazon is fundamentally an online marketplace – it has a mixture of goods that are stocked and delivered from its own warehouses and goods from other sellers (‘Amazon Marketplace’). These are mixed together on the website so you have to look at the listing to see where each item is coming from. The great advantage of Amazon is the vast range it offers and the convenience, and prices are usually very competitive too.

Ebay is a shopfront, in general for smaller sellers (although some larger retailers such as Argos occasionally use it). Buying is in two formats – an auction over a few days where the highest bidder gets the item or ‘Buy it now’ where you just pay and order at the advertised price. Items on Ebay are often cheaper than elsewhere, so there are some bargains to be had, but before you buy something from Ebay look at the reputation of the seller and the number of transactions they have carried out, and be aware that ‘Buy it now’ means just that. Reputation information is usually at the top right of the screen – you can also look at the seller’s recent history and see what purchasers think of their service.

Shopping on a smartphone

Many retailers also have mobile apps. On a smartphone the advantage of using a mobile app is that it is designed for smartphone use so should be easier to use on a phone than the retailer’s website (for example, the text may be larger and the screen less cluttered). You can download the retailer’s app from the App Store (iPhones) or Play Store (other phones) – once you have registered or signed in it should work in the same way as the website.

Need further information? There is a simple course on online shopping at

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