There are lots of benefits to shopping in person. You don’t have to replace your in-person shop with online shopping. An online shop can be a helpful addition to the way you shop, or you can choose to do every type of shop you do online.

In this lesson, we will walk you through the general steps to help you shop online. We'll also cover delivery options and how to stay safe and save money while you shop.


  • Understand the steps to check-out.
  • Choose the right delivery options for you.
  • Know how to return items bought online.
  • Learn ways to save money on your shop.
  • Know how to shop more safely online.

Read time

15 mins

Chapter 1

Chapter 1


Read time

12 mins

Why shop online?

Online shopping can make a really good addition to the way you do your shopping.

For example, you might like to try on outfits before you buy - so you might like to shop for clothes in person. On the other hand, you might not be able to get out to the shops to buy groceries or you may not have a car to carry them easily back to your home. In which case, shopping online might create an easy way to get groceries delivered to your home.


You can also shop for:

  • Clothes
  • New and used goods
  • Services
  • Goods from local shops that also run online


How to shop online

Just like shops in person, no two online shops will look the same. Each website has their own design and way to buy, but there are some general steps to shopping online. Let’s take you through a set of ten steps to help you navigate to a shop, find what you want to buy and checkout safely now.


1. Get to the right website

If you know which shop you want to buy from, go directly to their website. You can do this by entering the web address into your browser or searching for the shop through your search engine.


2. Search for a website

If you don’t know which shop you want to buy from. You can use your search engine to find what you are looking for. For example, you could type ‘woollen jumpers’ or ‘best birthday presents for siblings’ into the search bar.


3. Check the website is real

Look carefully at the website to make sure it seems real. Check the web address, and check the details of the page. You should always take care to make sure the website is real and not a copy set up by scammers. It’s important to know that the website you are visiting is secure.


4. Search for what you want

Once you're on the site, you can search the website for what you are looking for in two ways. Firstly, you can use the website’s search bar, this works in a similar way to the one on a search engine, but it will only show you results on the website you are on.

Your other option is to use the website’s menus to find what you need. Websites are built in a way to try and make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for. You should be able to find a list of items that match your search if it is something they sell.


5. Add to your ‘basket’

Once you have chosen your items and you want to buy, you can add them to your ‘basket’. This works just like it would in a real shop. Your online basket is a place to put your items until you buy. To add items, you can click the ‘Add to basket’ button. You will find this on the page where you found the item.

6. Review the items in your basket

Once you are done shopping, you should review the items in your basket. It is a good idea to do this before you ‘check out’ to make sure you still need everything. You can also check you haven’t missed any items and change the number of each item you want. This means you can select three cartons of milk instead of one without having to search for and add the item again. Once you’re happy it’s time to begin your ‘check out’.

7. Start your check out

In your basket, there will usually be a ‘Check out’ button. When you click this button, the usual first step is to choose how you want to check out. You can either choose to register, to log-in or to check out as a guest. Registering and logging in help to speed up checkout next time you buy from the same shop. The shop may also send offers over email to people who register and say they want to be sent offers.

If it’s your first time on the site and you want to create an account, you will need to register, which will mean entering a few of your details like your email, name, address, and billing information. You will also have to set a password for your account. Make sure this password is a strong one. We have lots of details on how to choose a strong password in our lesson ‘Ten tips for staying safe online’.

If you’ve registered before, you need to log-in. You won’t have to enter all of your details again, as long as you chose to save them on your account. It is always best to check your details are correct, especially if you’ve recently changed any of your details.

If you don’t want to or need to set up an account, you can always check out as a ‘guest’. In this case, you will only have to enter the personal details the company will need to take payment and deliver your products. They will likely need fewer personal details and they won’t save them. So, if you come back to shop again, you will have to enter them a second time.

8. Enter your details

The choice you made in the last step will change what details you need to enter. If you do need to enter any details, it will usually be your name and address, your email address and your payment details.

Your name and address helps the shop to know where to deliver your items. Your email address is used to send you a receipt. Your card number or payment information is what the shop uses to allow you to pay. This will usually either be a debit or credit card or you can choose to use a payment system like PayPal.

Retailers will never ask you to pay through a bank transfer or for your pin number. You should be wary of any shops asking you to do this. The most you should ever enter is your long card number, the three-digit security number on the back of your card, and the start and expiration dates of your card.

They may also ask you for details like your date of birth to verify you’re old enough to buy certain products. They could use it to send you discounts on your birthday too if you register for an account.


9. Select your delivery options

Lots of shops offer a selection of delivery options. Others may give you just the one option. Either way, at some point in your check out, you should be told about your delivery. They will usually give you details of the delivery dates or the number of days it will take to get your item to you. You can sometimes choose to pay a higher fee if you need your items quicker or on a specific day.

There are also options on some websites to choose to ‘pick-up’ your items from a collection point or store. This means you can collect the items in-person and still save time by shopping online and not having to go around a shop in person to find the items you need.

10. Complete your order

Once you’ve done these last few steps, you are nearly ready to complete your order. Always check the details on the final page to make sure it is all correct. Once you’re happy, you can click to check out. This is often a button you can click showing as ‘Pay now’ button or ‘Complete your order’.


Once you press this button, it will do one of three things:

  1. The first option is that your payment will go through straight away, and you will be sent an email receipt
  2. If you have paid by card, you may be asked to verify the payment either by entering your online banking details as requested or by pressing to confirm the payment on your mobile banking app
  3. The third option happens if you’ve chosen to pay via PayPal or another payment service. In this case, the webpage of your chosen payment service will open for you to complete your payment there


How deliveries work

There are lots of delivery options when you shop online. Most shops will give you a few choices of ways for your items can be collected or delivered. You can pay more for faster deliveries too. Some shops will offer free delivery or free delivery once you have spent above a set amount.

The seller will usually be the one choosing which delivery company to use to send your parcel. The seller may also have their own drivers. Once you have ordered, you will be sent details about your delivery. This will often include a tracking number or link to check where your parcel is.

Be careful though. Online criminals can make fake versions of these emails to trick you into clicking a link. This link can be used to get access to your device or to take you to a fake website. Once they have you on a fake website, their aim is to get you to enter your personal details.

One of the best ways to avoid this is to download the delivery company's app (application). You can also search for the delivery company's website through a search engine. This means you can make sure you are talking to the real company. Once you’re in their app or on their website, you can enter the tracking number provided in the email or message. If it brings up details about your items, you know the message you received was real. If it doesn’t, then the message you received was likely a fake designed to steal your money or details.

We will help you understand more about how to stay safe from messages like this in our lesson on 'Ten tips for staying safe online'.


Not going to be home?

Sometimes you can’t control when a parcel is due to arrive. You can tell the parcel company what you want them to do. There will often be a few options given to you by the company. For example, picking up from a local collection point, delivering the next day, leaving it with a neighbour of your choice or in a safe place of your choice.


Making returns

Just like when you shop in person, things aren't always right first time. When you get something home, they aren’t always as you expect. They can be the wrong size, the wrong product or just not what you wanted.

Online, all sellers should provide a ‘cooling off’ period. This is where you can return your items no questions asked. After this, you should still be able to return you items if they are faulty in any way.

Once you’ve decided to return, the best place to start is by looking at your email confirmation or the website of the seller. The returns details are usually found here. Every seller will have a different returns policy, so it’s best to check their website.

Generally, you can expect the seller to give you an address to send the parcel to at the post office. They will then usually refund either the item or the item and postage.


Shopping apps

So far, we’ve mainly talked about shopping online through a website. You can also shop through applications (apps) on your mobile or tablet. Many shops have apps you can use to either shop or to access discounts and loyalty programmes.

To find a shop's app, search your favourite shops on your device’s app store. Once downloaded you can find the app on your device and open to start shopping.

The steps to checkout are similar to those on a website. There’s nothing new to learn, but you might see some differences in layout. The benefit of using an app instead of a website is that there's less chance of fake apps than fake websites. On the other hand, your device can get quite filled up with apps and you can run out of space. So it’s best to choose the shops or apps that you use most regularly and review your applications often to make sure you still need them.


How to shop for groceries online

Shopping for groceries online also more or less follows our ten-step online shopping guidance.

There are some differences though. Firstly, you always need to have an account and can’t check out as a ‘guest’.

You also need to log-in to your account at the beginning of your shop. This allows you to choose an available and convenient delivery slot for your groceries to arrive. This is done because the seller needs to make sure the order comes when you are home first time. As it is food and can go off, you can't leave it in a safe place.

The price of delivery slots are different. This is because there is more demand at certain times. Given a lot of people will work 9-5pm Monday-Friday, sellers see demand for deliveries in the evenings and weekends. The price is higher at these times to encourage people to book during the weekdays where they can.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2


Read time

3 mins

Save money on your online shop

With a whole world of products at your fingertips online, there can be a temptation to spend a lot and buy everything you see. There are plenty of ways you can keep yourself on budget and save yourself money on goods though. Let’s look at a few now.


Ways to save money

  • Make a shopping list - Just like when you go to a shop in person, having a list can help you to just get what you need. Without a list you can end up buying other items in the shop. This can lead to you spending more money than you should. There are apps and websites which can be used to make a list. Some online shops also build lists into their site. To keep it simple, you can just use an electronic document or a notepad and pen
  • Compare prices - There are lots of websites and apps that can help you compare the prices of items in different shops. Some will ask you to type in the name of item you want to compare. They will then show you what the price is across many different sites and shops. Others use what is called a 'browser extension’ which is an add on that automatically scans for lower prices while you shop for products. According to Money Saving Expert, Google Shopping is one of the most effective, followed by Kelkoo, Pricerunner and Price Spy
  • Use coupons and voucher codes – There are lots of websites offering coupons and voucher codes to help you save money on goods online. Money Saving Expert have a lot of suggestions and resources of their own to help you save money. Like their voucher codes page and their high street sales diary. They also recommend websites like Voucher Codes, My Voucher Codes and Voucher Cloud
  • Register and join rewards programmes – By registering on a website or signing up for a mailing list, you can get exclusive access to deals on some shops. You need to be aware that this means the store save your details and can send you emails as and when they wish. You can unsubscribe or block these emails at a later date

Shopping online safely

You need to take care when shopping online. There are always criminals who want to take your money, this doesn’t change between online and offline shopping. Online shopping just poses new ways for criminals to act. We want to make sure you feel confident to identify any risks and that you know what to do. Before you shop online, we recommend you take our module on 'Ten tips for staying safe online'


Module complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now have a good grasp of the basics of shopping online. We suggest you keep your learning going with our lesson 'Managing your healthcare online'. It will help you to use healthcare services like the NHS online. You will learn to book doctor's appointments and access your records online.


Up next for you:

Next module: Managing your healthcare online

Back to: Using online services

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st Oct 2022.