How to buy items online that you used to always go to a store for
While time spent outside the house is generally limited right now, many consumers have changed their typical shopping habits, opting for online retailers rather than brick-and-mortar stores.
For groceries, toiletries, clothing, and other basics, online shopping isn't all that different from shopping in a store. But some items can be intimidating to shop for online because we're so used to doing it in person.
Whether you're in the market for a new mattress, a smartphone upgrade, or a new pair of contacts, you can shop online for all of these items if you think a little more carefully before you add them to your cart.
We've gathered together some of our best tips and product recommendations for purchasing online for those items you used to get at the store. Shop with confidence from home no matter what it is you need.
How to buy a mattress online
Buying a mattress online has actually become a lot more common in recent years, with plenty of companies popping up that sell exclusively over the internet. Because they don't have the expenses of maintaining retail stores, these brands can usually offer a better deal than any you'd find at a traditional mattress retailer.
Most mattresses sold online are made of memory foam because this material can be compressed and rolled up for fuss-free shipping. The trick to shopping for a mattress online is to choose a company with a risk-free trial period that allows you to sleep on a mattress for enough time to see if it's comfortable without committing. Some brands only offer a 60-day trial period, but others offer up to 365 days for you to decide whether you want to make a return.
We love the Leesa original mattress, which is available in twin through California King sizes and offers a 100-night trial.
The Puffy Lux is a real standout, too, thanks to its firm core support layer that relieves pressure along the body and stain-resistant cover.
If you prefer a mattress from a brand with more of an established track record in brick-in-mortar stores, Tempur-Pedic offers a 90-night tryout for their mattresses. The Tempur-Cloud is an excellent option because it provides a soft, responsive comfort layer as well as a firm support layer that can help you catch plenty of Zs.
When you're online mattress shopping, remember to pay attention to a brand's removal service, too. With an in-store purchase, the delivery usually includes taking away your old mattress when the new one is delivered. Since online retailers typically leave their compressed mattresses on your doorstep, you'll be left with the old one in your bedroom. Some brands do offer White Glove service, though, so they'll set up your mattress and take away the old one for an extra fee. Otherwise, you'll have to get rid of the old mattress on your own.
How to buy a bike online
If you're trying to avoid the gym, you're probably looking for a safe way to work out. Biking is a fun, effective way to fit in a workout while socially distancing, but buying a bike without a test ride can be tough. The good news is, you'll usually have more size, color, and style options to choose from online.
Before buying a bike online, though, figure out what type you need. Ask yourself how far you plan to ride and what type of terrain you'll be riding on to figure out what style makes the most sense.
If you'll be riding around in your neighborhood or tackling some gravel roads, the Ridley X-Ride will take you from smooth pavement to off-road easily.
If you want to take on more technical dirt trails, a mountain bike like the Santa Cruz Chameleon is durable and easy to handle.
It can also be a good idea to use the chat feature on the retailer's website to talk with a salesperson to figure out which bike features might not be worth the investment -- and which features you might regret skipping after cycling around for a few weeks.
It's also essential to do some measuring so you can be sure to get the right bike size. Most manufacturers have a sizing chart based on height or inseam measurements to help you find the right option. Decide where you stand on assembly, too. Some bikes come mostly assembled, but you can pay extra to have your bike delivered fully assembled.
How to buy a phone online
You've probably at least window-shopped for a new phone online, but when it comes to actually making the purchase, most of us usually want to check out the goods in person.
But the fact is that shopping around for the best price for a smartphone is easier online -- and if you're willing to switch phone carriers, you can usually score a pretty sweet new customer deal. If you're not a new customer, you may want to purchase directly from the phone manufacturer rather than through a carrier. Manufacturers often feature deals that include no-interest installment payments or add-ons like wireless earbuds, a wireless charging pad, and access to for-pay apps.
Whether in person or online, you should always do your research before buying a new phone. Make a list of must-have features so you can check that any phone you're considering has what you need. Even if you're pretty sure a phone is right for you, you can't really know until you have it in your hands. Read up on the retailer's return policy so you know how much time you have to return the phone if it's not the right fit. Some brands only offer a 15-day return policy, while others allow you to return a phone within 60 days of purchase.
Pay attention to a phone's warranty information, too. You want to be sure you're covered if your phone develops any issues after you purchase it. Some brands even allow you to mail the phone in for service so you don't have to visit a store in person if you have issues.
You can't really go wrong with an iPhone, and we're big fans of the 11 Pro Max because it offers up to five hours more battery life than previous models and allows you to shoot 4K video for truly high-resolution images.
If you prefer an Android, we love the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, which offers 8K resolution for its videos and can support 5G connectivity for super-fast streaming and downloading.
How to buy contacts online
You might be used to buying your contact lenses in person from your eye doctor, but it's fairly easy to make the transition to online shopping for contacts. The most crucial thing to do before you purchase contacts online is to make sure that your prescription is up-to-date. It's generally recommended that you get an eye exam once a year, but some contact prescriptions may be good for up to two years.
Keep in mind that prescriptions for glasses and contacts are different, so if you have one for eyeglasses, it won't work to buy contacts. You'll need to get a new prescription from an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
If you have a prescription ready to go, there are plenty of good online retailers for contacts. Warby Parker is probably better known for their eyeglasses, but they also offer contacts from popular brands like Acuvue. They also have their own brand of daily contacts, Scout by Warby Parker, which provide lasting hydration and comfortable wear. You can get a six-day trial for $5 to see how you like them, too.
Waldo is another excellent option for online contact shopping, and the brand offers a free trial that includes 10 pairs of their contacts for the price of shipping.
How to buy wine online
Even if you don't usually buy your wine at a vineyard that does tastings, you may prefer purchasing in person to get recommendations from a clerk. But buying wine online doesn't have to be intimidating if you just do a little research so you know exactly what you want. You'll probably have an easier time tracking down the type or brand of wine you want online, too, since there are usually more options.
The critical thing to consider with online wine shopping is the temperature issue since wine can break down pretty quickly when exposed to heat. In the summer, you'll want to be especially careful that any online retailer you buy from uses climate-controlled shipping to get your wine to your doorstep without getting too warm.
Wine Access is a great online wine retailer, offering free climate-controlled shipping for free with every six bottles or $120 spent. We love the Grawlix Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley Sonoma Country because of its light, slightly fruity flavor. If you prefer reds, the Domaine Marius Delarche 2017 Corton Renardes Grand Cru Vieilles Vignes Reserve is a lovely option with rich notes of cherry, strawberry, and white flowers.
Interested in discovering new wines? Winc is a wine club that delivers a curated box of wine to your doorstep each month. The brand tailors the selection to your tastes based on a short quiz that helps determine your palate.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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