Many of us are ditching the high street altogether in favour of online shopping, but just how savvy are you when it comes to rooting out the best bargains?
Thanks to the mild weather and despite Brexit uncertainty, retail sales grew by 4.1 percent year on year in February, according to the latest ONS Retail Sales figures and online shopping is up almost 10 percent year on year.
But the ease of shopping online can sometimes fool us into spending more than we need to with retailers using clever tactics such as hiding discounts from customers who regularly visit their website or app.
And if you're hoping the reviews will tell you whether a product is worth buying or not, you should look at those in the middle rather than the highest or lowest ratings, as they're more likely to give you a genuine opinion.
Here, Nico Nicholas, founder of new online shopping tool, PinkDot.shop, reveals how to be a savvier shopper and avoid online shopping pitfalls.
Retailers will often overbuy because they don't want to run out of stock, so it's worth waiting to see if your favourite product will be in a sale (stock image)
1. Never buy from the latest product drop
High street fashion moves very quickly, and ‘last season's fashion' is often only a few weeks old. Because of this, there are always deals to be had as stores look to shift current items and make way for new stock.
Remember, retailers always overbuy because they don't want to run out of stock before new products arrive, so if you have your eye on a full-price product, wait a little longer to see if it hits the sale.
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Share 2. Avoid retailer apps
Don't shop through downloaded retailer apps, or at least check whether there are any offers available outside of their apps.
Retailers will do their best to pull in new customers with tempting discounts that won't display in their apps or websites for current or frequent customers.
Once you've downloaded their app or go onto their website, you won't receive the same discounts or deals that a new customer would, so always do a Google search first to see what's out there.
Use a professional voucher code supplier, as retailers will often hand out special discounts that they won't openly market on their websites, in order to drive extra traffic to them.
Companies may have fake review online - it's possible they may have written the top reviews, while the bottom reviews may be by a rival. Check the reviews in the middle for the most honest response (stock image)
3. Trust the 'middling' reviews
You wouldn't by a car without comparing options first, and although it's tempting to hit ‘buy' as soon as a sale item appears, do check out what other customers are saying about a brand, service or product, both good and bad, before buying.
Try to find reviews that are in the middle - top reviews can be faked by the company, and bottom of the list reviews are often written by someone who has been upset by the retailer.
Three ways to avoid online scams
1. Check all links
Signing up to marketing emails is a good way to know when your favourite brands are holding sales, But remember, instructions such as CLICK HERE could take you anywhere. If you can't see a link fully spelled out in an email, paste the link into a notepad to see if it really is for the correct store. If it tries to take you somewhere else, then someone may be trying to steal your login details.
2. Shop securely
Only shop through web pages that start with ‘https' as the ‘s' stands for secure. Stick to trusted names and brands when shopping online. Check the address bar and if a padlock symbol with a red line through it appears, a yellow warning sign (exclamation mark within a triangle) or the words "not secure," then close the page immediately. If the connection is not secure, hackers may be able to steal your details.
3. Don't share your details
Never send personal information by email, your bank details, DOB etc, should remain private. Check websites for the ‘https' at the beginning and if you receive an email and aren't sure of its legitimacy, find the company's phone number and check out their website to ensure it's certified. This will only take minutes and in the long run could save you from a lot of stress and potential loss of money. If in doubt, use the chat service, or send a support request, or call the number - all through the website - never from the email you doubt.
5. Think ahead and shop out of season
It's tempting to only look at the ‘new in' section of websites but remember that shopping out of season means you could bag a bargain.
Now winter is behind us, last season's winter coats will be on sale, meaning there are deals to be had.
If you know you're going to a winter wedding this year, for example, check out last season's sale items as you could uncover a gem at a fraction of the cost compared to purchasing this year's autumn/winter items at full price.
6. Sign up to mailing lists and loyalty programmes
Although none of us like our inboxes filling up with marketing emails, joining the mailing list for your favourite brands is a must if you want to receive info on sales ahead of time.
Join the loyalty schemes too as many brands reward subscribers with exclusive sales or previews.
This way you can stock up on sale items regularly and never pay full price again.
7. Pick your 2-4-1 deals wisely
We have all been warned of the waste issues related to 2-4-1 deals for perishable items. If you can't eat two whole cauliflowers in three days, don't get sucked in.
However, looking out for BOGOF deals on non-perishable goods, such as pricey cleaning products, dishwasher tablets, shampoo, or toothpaste, can save you a lot of money in the longer term as these can be stored easily and used at a later date.
These deals provide big savings on future shops, meaning you either benefit from a smaller weekly grocery spend or you can indulge in that bottle of nice wine.