Sadly, it still matters where your online shop is located. It's hard to control shipping costs if you buy from online shops in the US or UK. Luckily, local online shops keep getting bigger and better. Some of the bigger ones have been open for a few years already. If you're not one of the new breed of online shoppers, you might be wondering where to get started.
Here's a handy list of sites to whet your appetite.
Rakuten Malaysia has been around since November 2012, which is forever in Internet years. The site bills itself as "the largest on-line shop." After browsing for a few hours, we can attest it's pretty big. You can buy all kinds of things on the site, but the categories with the most items are electronics (cellphones, computers, cameras), fashion and fashion accessories (clothing, male and female), and health and beauty (cosmetics, diet and health supplements). Many well-known physical retailers have online storefronts on Rakuten and looking over the list, you can see a clear focus on electronics and smartphones.
Lazada Online started off as an online electronics retailer, but it's grown to offer a wide range of products. Also launched in 2012, the site houses over 300,000 products, and plans to add 350,000 more by the end of the year. Disclaimer: I have been a seller on Lazada since last year. Lazada is making a push to give greater access to rural areas, especially Sabah and Sarawak. If you're reading this outside of major urban areas, you might want to give Lazada a shot.
11 Street is the newest entry in the list, having opened its proverbial doors a few months ago. Like the others, 11 Street carries a wide range of products, from smartwatches to jumpsuits. The selection is not as wide as the other sites, but we did notice a higher number of comments on 11 Street's product pages than on Rakuten's or Lazada's, which may help you choose the right seller.
The elephant in the room is of course Amazon. If you can stomach the weak ringgit, the high shipping rates and their brutal work practices, order from Amazon. Amazon's selection is the widest, by far. However, there are restrictions on what Amazon ships outside of the US. Shipments of video games, toy and baby items, electronics, cameras and photo items, tools and hardware, kitchenware and housewares, sporting goods and outdoor equipment, software, and computers are restricted. You have been warned!
Kinokuniya KLCC is Malaysia's best and biggest bookstore and their website is no exception. You get access to the in-store selection as well as books available from their distributors. That means, if your book is out of stock, they might be able to order it for you. Having ordered from Kinokuniya before, I can say that they've got excellent service. Books are cheaper at other bookstores, but Kino's selection and service deserves to be supported.
Some people feel like glasses are one of those things you should buy in person. If you're not one of them, Glasses Online is the biggest player in online glasses sales. They've got over 30 brands in stock, notably Oakley, Ray-ban, Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford. If you're wondering how does one buy glasses online, the FAQ can help with that. They are already in 14 countries worldwide and recently announced plans to expand in Southeast Asia and Europe, which are two reasons to consider this site legit.
No list of online shopping websites would be complete without Zalora. Owned by the Lazada Group and headquartered in Singapore, Zalora has grown into an industry leader in three short years. You could say that Zalora built the regional market for online fashion. In addition to many established brands, Zalora also stocks local designers like RIZALMAN, Melinda Looi and Syomir Izwa.
Is it safe?
Signing up for most online shops requires a working email address. Making a purchase requires a credit card, internet banking account or Celcom Air Cash. If you'd prefer to make a purchase without signing up, select "guest checkout" on the payment screen. Most importantly, if you change your mind at any time before paying, you can back out. No need to close the browser tab! It should be this easy for all sites.
Many online shopping websites have are connected to internet banking facilities, but if possible use a credit card for all online transactions. A credit card will offer more protection than a debit card. It's easier to get the charges reversed. Having said that, with credit cards, it's easy to fall into the trap of spending money you don't have. And be wary of the signs of credit card fraud.
Is it worth it?
In spite of the uptick in online shopping portals, the bulk of shopping is still being done offline. Companies keep trying to convert these offline shoppers into online ones, as shown by Lazada's Effortless Shopping campaign and the launching of Fashion Valet's physical outlet.
Maybe you're one of these offline shoppers, shaking your head at the youth of today, too busy to look up from their smartphones and laptop computers. But online shopping isn't getting any smaller. Try it out. You might save a little time and money.
[Image source: freepik]