There’s nothing better than the feeling of getting an alert on your mail that says: “Your order is on its way.” But many times, that frill dress that looked stunning on the model ends up looking like a garbage bag on you. And that’s when you realize that you’ve been duped instead of getting a great deal.
Having shopped online extensively for the last few years, I realized that while online shopping can be a lot of fun, one should be aware of certain hacks and smart shopping tips before clicking the “purchase” button. What’s more, I’ve also been online shopping in Japan more, adjusting and learning. So here are my tips and tricks to help you be the ultimate online shopping hustler.
1. Basics: Plan Ahead & Price Compare
It’s quite easy to buy a ton of things when you are shopping online. That’s why I prefer to prepare a list of items I’m currently looking to purchase before I start browsing any shopping sites. I also like to create a secret Pinterest board with all the product links so that I know I am not doubling up on certain things.
The most important rule of online shopping is to look out for the best deals and savings on different brands and websites. If I have my eyes on something particular like a pair of Adidas shoes, I visit price comparison sites. In Japan, that’s usually Kakaku.com. The website is quite simple to use and automatically translated thanks to Google translate. One must enter the product name (and code or style name for more precise results) to compare prices for the same item from different online retailers.
Here’s what a typical search result on Kakaku looks like :
Even a quick Google search with the brand plus product name (especially for popular brands) helps to find which retailers are carrying the same product at a cheaper price, thanks to their Google Shopping feature.
2. Check the Reviews
Always check the customer reviews, no matter what. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Most online retailers these days have reviews and pictures from genuine buyers.
Since I am such a makeup hoarder, I love Cosme’s one-of-a-kind ranking website. It allows frequent shoppers like me to share reviews, check out the latest product launches as well as indulge in conversations focusing on beauty items.
Again, don’t forget to install the Google translate browser extension to make things easy for you when online shopping in Japan specifically.
3. Check the Sizing Carefully
The ultimate rule I go by when shopping for clothes or shoes online is to not go by what the product looks like on the model. As more than often the stylists use hacks like tying the clothes at the back to make the product look more fitted and attractive for pictures.
Instead, I look at the reviews for pictures shared by buyers and fit notes shared by them to understand if I need to go a size up or down.
If you are someone like me with a bigger shoe size that’s not available in most stores in Japan, there might be more sizes online. Check out the online shops of brands like ABC Mart, big-B and Oriental Traffic that carry bigger sizes (up to 42-43 for women, and 46-47 for men). For clothes, brands like Uniqlo, GU, Isetan, Clover Plus and H&M all have bigger sizes on their website that otherwise aren’t available in stores (up to 3XL for women and up to 4XL for men).
4. Check out products in stores and place an order online
At times you instantly fall in love with an outfit at the store and can’t resist buying it without a second thought. I was this impulse shopper before. But now instead of purchasing the product at first sight, I just try it out in the store first and order it online later if I still have the urge (and the need) to buy it.
And trust me, this helps you save a lot of money if the product is better priced online.
I also love the idea of concept stores like Uniqlo in Harajuku with one-of-a-kind features like StyleHint Harajuku. There, you can search and browse the latest products from the 240 display panels that fill the walls of the store and try combinations. You can purchase these products in-store as well as from your smartphone.
オープンしたUniqlo Harajuku。ベーシックなアイテムよりファッショナブルに寄せた品揃えはさすが原宿旗艦店。240枚のタッチパネルでコーディネート提案するStyle Hintが見どころ。 pic.twitter.com/Rl0nBzm9An
— Yuichiro Mori(森 雄一郎) (@yuichiroM) June 12, 2020
Similarly, Cosme’s store in Harajuku has some excellent features like Tester Bars, shelves filled with products from Top Customer Rankings and Tokyo Sales Ranking. These allow you to check all their latest offerings in person before making a purchase in-store or online.
5. Set up Sale Alerts
I do love a good discount. That’s why I stay updated about the latest offers by signing for newsletters of different e-retailers and brands. A lot of brands these days use their social media pro-actively to share exclusive coupon codes, deals and member-only discounts for their followers, so I make sure to check their pages before I end up making any purchases.
When online shopping in Japan, check out websites like RaCoupon and Tokyo Bargain Mania that list coupons and offers for shopping across various product categories and brands. Many a time, I have scored a great deal by using these coupons online.
6. Don’t Miss Out on the Rewards
Retailers in Japan have some of the best reward programs I have ever come across. When I moved to Japan, I signed up for all the available reward programs and point cards like Rakuten Pay, MerPay, Line Pay and so on, to get further cashback and points for future purchases.
If you are a beauty fanatic like me, I would also recommend checking out Cosme’s fun reward collector program that allows you to play games, participate in surveys and quizzes to win points that can be used to pay for your favorite products.
I have found Line Pay and T-point to be also extremely rewarding when it comes to gaining loyalty points.
7. Always Check the Return & Refund Policy
My wardrobe is still full with lots of outfits and shoes that I bought excitedly but didn’t fit me well. But I couldn’t return them as I didn’t read the fine print. So, now I make sure to go through the return and refund policy of each website to make sure that the product can be returned. Moreover, I check if I have to pay the return fee — which is surprisingly often in Japan.
Online Shopping Websites to Check Out
During my online shopping journey in Japan, I have come across some amazing websites that are less talked about but have great offerings. If you’re into vintage & pre-loved goods then don’t forget to check websites like Reclo.jp, 2ndstreet.jp, qoo-online.com that offer luxury and high street goods at a steal.
The more popular sites like ElleShop.jp, ZoZoTown, gilt.jp are also worth checking out. For cosmetics and skincare, apart from Cosme I also spend a lot of time on Lookfantastic Japan that retails a lot of Japanese and international beauty brands. They also have a monthly subscription box offering great products.
All these hacks aside, online shopping can become a real addiction. So, do take a moment to think before you click “purchase.” Have a look at your closet to see if you really need another denim jacket that you won’t wear more than once. If you still do, I hope these tips help you become a smart shopper.