Amazon is now the largest retailer in the world and for good reason… they have an enormous breadth of merchandise and make browsing and buying easier than many other retailers.
With just a few pointers it’s easy to get started, find the perfect gift and have it delivered to your recipient.
On your computer or smartphone, type into the search browser: Amazon.com (or the appropriate version for your country, Amazon.co.uk, for example, if your recipient is in the UK). Don’t worry whether you are logged in or not as the site will prompt you to log in if and when needed.
Just like when you are visiting a physical or “bricks and mortar” store, sometimes you will have an idea before you enter of what you’d like to buy. The gift recipient may have given you hints or even a wish list. Other times you intend to simply browse through the options, looking more closely at some of the items until you find one you think will make an appropriate gift. The same will apply when shopping for a gift online at Amazon. We’ll cover both situations here.
In the menu, find “Find a Gift” option. The menu choices do change with the seasons, so don’t worry if it doesn’t look exactly like the below.
Next you will focus your search by choosing your “type” of recipient. Below I’ve chosen the age group “6-8 years”. I’ve kept the gender as “Anyone” because I find Amazon sometimes has very narrow definitions of what a young girl or boy might like.
Next you can (but don’t need to) choose to narrow the search results by gift category if desired. In the case of gifts for 6-8 year olds, as you can see below, the types of categories include Arts & Crafts, Dolls, Games & Puzzles, Action Figures, etc.
Next you can narrow by price band (see drop-down menu circled below, right). This will be shown in the local currency of the site you’re on. Even if you decide not to narrow the search by price band, you can still choose to sort the search results by price (highest to lowest or lowest to highest). In children’s toys, the results are fairly straightforward, but when looking through results in Electronics, for example, when you view results by price “lowest to highest”, sometimes you’ll have to wade through a few pages of irrelevant results like spare chargers for iPads vs the iPads themselves.
Looking for something specific
If you already have an idea of what you’d like to buy, you can most quickly and easily find the item by using the “Search” function on the Amazon site. Here is what it looks like on a computer:
You can choose how the various results meeting your search query are shown to you by filtering results for example by relevance, price or customer review rankings. If you are looking for a laptop for example, if you choose to rank results by relevance, you will be presented with actual laptops before having to wade through any related products like laptop chargers or carrying cases. If you choose to rank by price (low to high) you will likely first need to scroll past lower-priced accessories before getting to the laptops themselves. I often search by price (high to low) then scroll ahead a few pages until I find my price range. That way I don’t have to guess where the actual laptops begin.
It’s a good idea to look at the customer reviews before committing to a purchase, however you may find it more difficult to find the price and type of item you’re looking for if you use the reviews as a search filter. Better to use another filter and then look at the reviews once you find one you like.
How to know you’re buying a quality gift on Amazon?
Amazon and many other online ordering sites reduce some of the risk that comes with not seeing an item before buying. They do this by maintaining a consumer rating system using a 5-star scale. I find this especially important in situations where I am sending the gift directly to the recipient and will be unable to check the quality before gifting. You will find the star rating on the quick view summary of each item. The number in parentheses indicates how many people have rated the item. So you can have higher confidence in a high rating if more people have tested it. Anything over 36 is “statistically significant” or reliable. A 5-star rating with fewer than 10 people have rated it is not worth paying attention as the manufacturer may be seeding the ratings. (If no stars are shown this means simply that the product has not yet been rated by previous purchasers, which will be the case for a product recently added to Amazon.)
If you tick on the stars, you can see more detail including the rating in decimals (eg 4.7 vs 4.3, both of which look similar as a partially filled star), the distribution of ratings (how many people really hated it vs loved vs liked it) and the actual comments people made about it. Often you will also see subcategories of ratings, for example “Quality”, “Value for Money”, etc.
So in the example below, we have a reassuring distribution of scores, with most people loving it and very few having been disappointed.
You can tick on the individual scores (eg all the 1-star ratings) to learn why people gave it that score, by reading the individual comments. Sometimes you’ll find the item broke quickly, was sized in a non-standard way (clothing) or other issues. If the overall picture looks good, I tend to only dive deep into the ratings if I’m looking to buy something on the expensive side.
By way of example, below I’ve selected to view all one-star reviews so I can understand what the downside to this toy might be. You can make your own judgment based on the type and frequency of comments. For example in the below, I see that for the few customers whose toy broke quickly, the manufacturer responded to their comment (see their response by selecting the comment, circled) and offered to make the situation right. This gives me confidence.
Some people give greater credence to “Verified Reviews”. These will have those words displayed right above the actual comment. The system automatically verifies if the person writing the comment ordered the item from their Amazon account and if so, applied the “Verified Review” line. Of course it may be that the commenter purchased elsewhere or received the item as a gift but choose to write their comment on Amazon.
Buying your chosen gift on Amazon
Once you have chosen a particular gift, check whether there are other choices to be made, for example colour or size (eg clothing). Often these are in a drop-down menu, and if you don’t make a choice, you will be sent whichever option is the default (eg size Small in black).
Now you will be given a choice to “Buy Now” or “Add to Basket”. If you do not have anything else you want to buy to send to the same recipient, then you can choose “Buy Now”. Otherwise choose “Add to Basket” in which case the item will be waiting for you in your shopping cart (the icon for which can be found in the top right corner of your screen), and you can carry on browsing or searching for your next item by using the search icon or browsing by category, as described above.
Before checking out, do a final check to ensure there are no nasty surprises in terms of shipping times or delivery costs. Nine times out of ten you will find everything is as expected – free shipping or an acceptable small charge and fast delivery times. However, do look out for unexpected delivery fees out of line with the item as shown below. These should come up inside the box on the left, assuming you have either already stated the destination postal code or are shipping within the country from which you are ordering (eg within mainland US for amazon.com or within the mainland UK for amazon.co.uk).
Surely you’ll find better options than paying $16.50 in delivery charges for an item costing $6.99! Bear in mind that delivery is often assessed on items individually, so these can quickly add up. Look for items that qualify for Free Delivery. The item will state clearly if it already qualifies on its own or if it will qualify when $X (often just $20/£20 or sometimes $10/£10 in the case of books) is reached for the total order to that delivery address. Unfortunately, ordering items to be shipped to separate addresses do not qualify as a joint order for free shipping.
How to Check Out
Once you’re done shopping, you can find your cart at any time in the upper right hand corner. Access check-out by tapping the cart icon (see below, circled).
Now it’s just a matter of carefully checking that you’re sending the item to the correct address, with the correct terms (shipping time and cost). Like other online retailers, Amazon will not accept responsibility if you have made a mistake on the address; they are accountable for getting it to where you have indicated on the order.
You can also tick the small box that asks if your order includes gift items. If you tick “Yes” then you will have the option to include a short gift note, for which there is no charge. This is typed on the delivery slip. It’s not a card, it’s not fancy but it is a good way to make sure it’s clear whom the gift is for, from whom and for which occasion.
It’s important here to double check the shipping terms. There are a couple areas where I personally feel Amazon is letting customers down. And both are at the check out stage, so watch out for the following:
- Often the shipping option will default to a premium one rather than the free or low-cost option you were promised. You will usually need to tick the free (longer time) shipping option, and the premium or express option will untick and the shipping charges will automatically recalculate in the total.
- Amazon loves to “encourage” you to sign up for a free trial of Premium (their subscription delivery and entertainment streaming service). By “encourage”, I mean they will already have ticked the box to you having agreed to sign up! And guess what happens at the end of the short free trial? That’s right, you will be charged monthly without warning. If you see that mysteriously a generous amount has been taken off your expected total, it’s possible that they have “assumed” you’ve agreed and offered a discount by way of gift card. So put on your strongest reading glasses and look for the option that says something along the lines of “No thanks, I don’t want to save (with XYZ incentive) by signing up to Premium”.
You will then be taken to a payments page, where you have a choice of payment methods. Once you’ve hit “submit”, a confirmation message with order number will appear at the top of the page. Don’t worry about writing down the very long number as they will also automatically send the confirmation details to the email you’ve given for your account. You can open your email in a new browser tab and check the confirmation has arrived. Don’t worry, your recipient will not be made aware of the gift until it is about to be delivered, and the delivery slip accompanying a gift will not include the price (unless you’ve chosen a gift card). If you’re looking for the easy way to order a gift card on Amazon, you can find a blog post on this subject in our Tech Tips.
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