Online shopping, whether you like it or not, is unavoidable and has increasingly become the way to shop! So let’s talk through some tips for how to shop online with more success. I personally LOVE shopping online for clothes rather than going in-store, and I’ve done most of my clothes shopping online for over the last 10 years.
The Benefits of Shopping Online
Before we get into some tips for how to shop online with more success, let’s quickly discuss some of the benefits of shopping online. Here are some of my favorite reasons:
- Convenience – I don’t know about you, but I’d rather shop whenever I want to, such as late at night when my kids are in bed or during dead times in the day when I’m waiting for my kids to finish up their activities, than have to squeeze in a shopping trip during store hours. Not to mention I love not having to spend precious time driving to and from stores!
- Better Selection – You know how it sucks when they don’t have your size in-store? Online there is more inventory, a better selection, and more sizes and colors! On top of that, if you shop petites, plus, and tall sizes, there are always more options online.
- Reviews are AWESOME! – I LIVE off of ratings and reviews to help me make more informed decisions! They help me narrow down which items are worth checking out rather than flying blindly in the store.
- It’s easier to return items by mail (if you do it right and have a good system!) than to head out to a store – having to navigate store hours—and wait in line. I know many people think it’s inconvenient to process returns online, but I would rather do it by mail than at the store. Again, you need to start with a good system, which we’ll talk about.
There are more benefits to shopping online versus in-store, but those are the main ones for me!
Tips for Shopping Online With More Success
Now let’s talk through tips for how to shop online with more success. First, let’s be clear that you will never have a 100% success rate or near it shopping online—or in person! That’s not the goal, and that’s unrealistic. But, online shopping is here to stay and is only increasing as the way to shop, so it’s important to embrace it, figure out how to do it well so you can increase your success rate of finding items that work for you, and do it more quickly and confidently.
Here are some best practices that I recommend doing to shop online with more success!
1. Set your expectations and mentality.
Rather than thinking of shopping online as a final decision on buying a piece of clothing like I would when purchasing that item in a store, I equate purchasing online to bringing an item into the dressing room. I’m ordering it to TRY it. I’m hoping it’ll be a hit, but I’m not expecting it to be. I’m just purchasing it to try it, understanding that I will likely return a good portion of what I order, similar to how I do not end up keeping/buying many items that I bring into a dressing room.
With that framework in mind, I make sure to set myself up as best as I can to make having to return things easy. Which brings me to #2…
2. Prioritize shopping at stores with free shipping and free return shipping or with a store nearby at which you can easily make returns.
This allows you to order items—simply to TRY—without worrying about wasting money to return them. While it isn’t always possible to shop at stores with free return shipping, there are plenty that offer it. Here’s a list of some:
- Nordstrom – free shipping and free return shipping on all orders (no minimum price requirement). Plus an EXTREMELY generous return policy. (There is virtually no window for returns – the item can be super old. And, if you’ve worn and washed it but you’re unhappy with it, they will almost always return it. Seriously, GREAT customer service.)
- Old Navy – free shipping on orders $50+ and free return shipping on all orders if you are part of their rewards program (no store credit card needed!)
- Gap – free shipping on orders $50+ and free return shipping on all orders if you are part of their rewards program (no store credit card needed!)
- Banana Republic Factory – free shipping on orders $50+ and free return shipping on all orders if you are part of their rewards program (no store credit card needed!)
- Madewell – free shipping and free return shipping on orders if you are part of their rewards program (no store credit card needed!)
- Amazon – free shipping and free return shipping with an Amazon Prime membership and on select items
- Athleta – free shipping on orders $50+ and free return shipping on all orders if you are part of their rewards program (no store credit card needed!)
- Zappos – free shipping and free return shipping on all domestic orders (no minimum price requirement), plus a generous return window
Bonus tip: If you use the store’s provided label and have it all labeled and ready to go, you can often drop off packages at the post office or at UPS without having to wait in line. Also, depending on where you live, you can leave packages out on your doorstep for carriers to grab when they deliver mail/packages, or you can schedule a pickup.
Samples of the checklist & plan in the PMT Wardrobe Guides available in the PMT Style Club
3. Shop with a plan.
I recommend shopping with a plan whether online or in-store—shopping with intent saves you money and makes your wardrobe easier to use because it’s well thought out! Online shopping can be overwhelming, not knowing where to look first. That’s why I totally recommend shopping with SOME SORT of plan. You don’t need to have your entire season’s wardrobe list planned, but having some idea of what you’re looking for is helpful so you can use the filters to whittle down the options.
(If you DO like having an intentionally planned seasonal wardrobe list, you would love the PMT Style Club’s wardrobe guides—CLICK HERE to learn more and join to access them today!)
Speaking of filters…
4. Use the FILTER feature! It’s your best friend.
I think most of you know this, but in case you aren’t using it, please do. Filter by item type, sleeve length, casual/work/dressy/etc., colors, size grouping, price grouping, brands—all the things. This is best utilized if you have an idea of what you’re shopping for, hence why #3 is important! The filtering feature is my best friend and helps me stay focused.
5. Focus on Top Rated Items.
Even with filters, sometimes the options are still overwhelming. So, after all my filters from #4 are set, I also make sure to filter by Top Rated, Highest Rated, or Best Seller items—whatever the lingo is for the retailer—and browse those first. This ensures that I’m choosing from pieces others recommend, so they are more likely to feel good, be comfortable, and hold up over time. Whether they FIT you is TBD, but at least you’re removing other variables by going with things others love so you can shop online with more success.
Now, about fit…
6. Know your measurements. This is such an underrated part of style, shopping online, and finding clothes that work for you. Use measurements: 1) when looking at sizing charts, and 2) when looking at specific products.
When looking at sizing charts, you can compare what your bust/hip/waist/inseam/etc. length is compared to the sizing chart for the brand. This is a common and helpful use as knowing your measurements will help you whittle down which sizes to try.
But #2 is where knowing your measurements REALLY becomes helpful. When I look at specific products, I always look for ANY measurements the retailer lists about the garment. This is different than a size chart, which is a general frame of measurements for the BRAND, because each specific piece is created a bit differently from the brand’s standard measurement system.
Sometimes retailers don’t list anything, while other times they list a few measurements that can give you more clues as to whether this will or won’t work for you. Measurements are listed for jeans and skirts more often than for tops. Look in the product details for numbers like inseam, leg opening, and rise. When you know your own measurements — and your IDEAL measurements for garments — it makes shopping a lot easier. Even a half an inch difference in the rise or leg opening of jeans can make or break an item from looking weird on you or looking amazing!
Bottom Line: The more familiar you are with YOUR measurements and your ideal measurements for GARMENTS, the better you can shop online with more success. ESPECIALLY for jeans and pants!
7. Learn which clothing shapes best suit your figure.
Different shapes and cuts emphasize different parts of your figure, and it’s really helpful to know which shapes work well with your particular figure. This cuts down on online shopping time because you can save time by easily avoiding the clothes with shapes that don’t work on you and go straight toward the ones that will. You will, of course, still have to try on clothes since every garment is cut differently, and sizing may not work out, but having a general sense of the shapes to look for that complement your body type really makes shopping (and creating outfits that you feel good in!) MUCH easier. You stop wasting time with the clothes that will make you feel frumpy!
If you want to learn which clothing shapes work for your body type and how to flatter your figure, you can learn all of that with our Dressing Your Body Shape Course inside the PMT Style Club! Join today to get immediate access, and join a few hundred other women who are developing their style and enjoying putting themselves together, too!
8. Read reviews to find info on quality, fabric, and fit, and to see it on others with a similar body type to yours.
It’s so helpful to not just shop items that are the best rated but to also skim through reviews to find more info.
I usually filter the reviews by “Most Helpful” and quickly skim a few. I namely look for words about quality and comfort.
Then, I look for insight about sizing, like if people needed to size up or down, or if a fit was boxy or tight in certain places.
If you have a good handle on how to dress your body shape, you can discern how likely it is that the garment might work for you based on other’s comments about where a garment is tight or loose. Very helpful!
I also search to see if there are pics from reviewers with similar body types and builds as mine. Even if I can’t find someone similar to me, it also helps to look at someone who has a different body type than me and compare. (Again, the more familiar you are with different body types and how to dress them, the more informed you can be while shopping, which helps you make better decisions!)
9. Order multiple sizes!
Even after all that, order multiple sizes! That way, you don’t have to wait to process exchanges. But more importantly, I find it super important to compare sizes so you can scrutinize each size and find your best fit. In stores, I always try multiple sizes because I love to compare how the different sizes fit. Sometimes a size small looks okay, but a size medium might look WAY better. I wouldn’t have known that sizing up (or down) looked that much better if I hadn’t compared them. So, of course, when I shop online, I often order multiple sizes so I can compare them. This is why it’s important to shop from stores that have free return shipping or stores that allow you to easily return items to stores near you!
These are the main things I always make sure to do to shop online with more success. No matter what, you will have to try things on and return items. Finding things that fit you is a process — for everyone! — online or in person! However, the more you know your measurements, preferred style of fit, how to dress your shape, and have a plan of what you’re looking for, the more quickly you can identify clothes that work for you. Not only will that all help you shop online more effectively, it will also help you feel more confident in your clothes!
I hope these tips help you shop online with more success. Good luck!
If you’d like to learn how to dress your body shape, create a plan for an easy-to-use wardrobe, and identify your Style Type, you can access all that and more by becoming a member of the PMT Style Club! In addition in-depth style lessons to help you feel great in your clothes, you’ll also join a like-minded style community to have fun with style and get tons of great advice from! Learn all about what you get as a member and join the PMT Style Club HERE.