As the owner of an online store and a veteran online shopper, I’ve come to learn (sometimes the hard way) what you should consider when shopping at any online store.

* Website Security

How secure is the website? Is their site being scanned daily by a third party service like McAfee Secure (formerly Hackersafe) to ensure the site is valid and secure? These services will keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud and other online scams. So you want to make sure that they have a McAfee Secure or other valid third party security seal on their site. Very important!

* Shipping

What shipping options does the company provide? Are you able to choose your shipping options based on desired date of delivery and cost? I’m a big fan of websites that allow me to pick a shipping option based on delivery date (express vs. regular post). Many sites will also offer free shipping when you purchase a certain amount – for example, offers free shipping for any order over $39.

I also want to know how quickly they process orders. It is such a pet peeve of mine to order something on a Monday, and then realize that they still haven’t even shipped the product by Friday… which means I still have to wait up to a week (or more) for delivery. In our online store we have a policy of shipping all orders within 48 hours, and are able to ship much quicker in most cases.

* Where will the item ship from?

If you are Canadian and making a purchase from a US based site, just know that you may be responsible for any duty/brokerage charges when the order crosses the border. There are also many sites these days that are drop-shipping direct from the manufacturer. So even if the website is based in Canada, if they are drop shipping chances are the item itself may ship from the US (and charges may apply).

* Free Gift Wrapping/Personalization

If you are purchasing your item a gift for someone else, it is great to be able to send it already gift wrapped and with a personalized hand written card. This will provide the feeling that the gift was sent from you directly and is a very nice touch that is sure to be appreciated. Free gift wrapping is one of the most popular options in our online baby gifts store.

* Customer Service

Even though the business is online, you still want to be able to get good service. You may want to give the store a call (do they have a toll free number or is it a long distance call)? You may also want to them an email to see how your question(s) are answered and how long it takes for them to reply. How quickly and thoroughly they respond to your email is a good indication of how quickly they will take care of your orders.

* Return Policy