There is a big behavioural shift that has taken place in the way shoppers spend money.
A fad or a necessity, or call it by any other adjective, but virtual shopping perhaps hasn't gone off untried and untested by almost any internet-savvy user today.
How usual and widespread online shopping has become can be glimpsed by Datamonitor's estimate that said that last year online commerce market was worth more than €1.09 trillion (Dh5.4trn).
As you read this, scores of online shoppers are hooked on to the internet and are busy ordering anything ranging from grocery to laptops, cameras, mobile phones and other snazzy gadgets from the virtual shop instead of visiting the traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
And why not? Online transaction comes as a convenient shopping option as it saves one from the exasperating drudgery of dropping in numerous shops to find out a good bargain.
But hang on, buying online has its discontents too.
Not only because transacting online is laden with online frauds but also because you may not be getting the best deals, said experts.
So what are the tips to be a smart online shopper and how to get the best bargain from online shopping?
Resist the temptation
Very often when surfing the internet you may have come across an online advertisements popping up on the screen and flashing a big discount on offer for, say, an MP3 player or a laptop.
But don't get caught up in the herd mentality and click on 'buy now' for that product just yet, until you're well aware of all the good and the bad sides of online shopping.
Instead, wait for a while and check if the gadget you're going to buy is really worth the price and whether you could get the same product from another website at a much cheaper price.
The internet boom has meant that consumers now have the ability to purchase goods that are either cheaper than in their own country or that are generally not easy to find in their home market.
While it's very easy to go for the promotion offer when online shoppers are purchasing goods, the key to any online shopping transaction is making sure that a consumer has enough choice of products as well as he gets the opportunity to compare prices of the product, said David Spottiswood, CEO of Borderlinx, a Belgium-based e-commerce solutions providing firm.
One of the first tips to be a good online shopper is to not just restrict oneself to one merchant or one item. Secondly, a buyer needs to do his/her homework before buying any product, he said.
One can also select the right product at the right price and get a good bargain if a little effort is made to compare prices of the product, say experts.
If a buyer looks at the price comparator portals or price calculator sites that compare prices on sale of a product, that could be a good bargaining tool. On such portals one can actually find some stores offering a stuff at $200 while the other is selling at for instance $100 or $120, he said.
Ensure the site is secure
Security is another major issue when transacting online, but it's also one of the less watched area by buyers, said experts.
Online fraud has emerged as one of the biggest threats to online shopping causing significant loss to internet merchants as well as buyers.
The thumb rule for online shopping is never to share any personal information while transacting online. Use a secure online payment service as security is one of the fundamental elements for any payment solution, said Morten Hofstad, Regional Director of Middle East and Africa, Luup International, a Norwegian mobile payments solutions provider.
The only don't for online shopping is sharing of password information or any other PIN details, said Hofstad whose firm offers solution like mobile wallet, a downloadable java application that lets users send money and manage their account with a user-friendly interface.
Experts also add that when it comes to paying for the online purchase one should avoid paying through money transfers and direct debit as these can be misused.
The way to be smart on the web is making sure that you are buying from secured and well-known trusted websites.
Another important fact is making sure that you are paying by trusted credit cards, and the merchant accepts that. The general consensus is that if a merchant asks for cash or wire transfer, avoid doing that, said Spottiswood.
Online shopping tips
Shopping online can offer greater convenience, greater selection and, in some cases, better prices. Just like shopping in a store, or over the phone, there are some basic rules that we suggest you follow when you shop online to ensure the best possible shopping experience.
Use a secure web browser. Look for a 's' after the 'http' in the web page address or URL. Keep your password secret. Some online stores require you to register a user name and password before buying an item.
Just as you keep your cash machine code private, always keep your passwords secret from other people.
Use the internet to compare retailers. Compare products and prices before you buy – click around to find your item at the best price.
Protect your card details. Only give your card details when making purchases . Check delivery and return policies.
Keep a record of your transactions. Keep a record of your transactions – just in case you need to return an item or have a question about your purchase.
Do not reply to phishing e-mails. Fraudsters have developed a new way to trick online banking customers and cardholders into revealing their confidential financial information. Called phishing, it involves false e-mail messages or web pages pretending to come from legitimate sources and asking for private data, such as card numbers.