In our day and age of Amazon and online shopping, there seems to be nothing that you can’t buy online. Many of us have become accustomed to the ring on the doorbell or the sight of a new package delivered to our doorstep through the power of online shopping. The anticipation of a new gadget or beauty product or simply replenishing something you were out of. And then there are times when we see these packages and say to ourselves “What the heck did I order?”. It’s kind of like Christmas for the grown-ups!

But what about buying items with larger ticket prices like TVs and electronics? It feels like a bigger risk to purchase something online that is of greater value and could have a high likelihood of being returned. That return process can be a beast when you have opened all of the packaging to find out that you no longer want the product and you have to figure out how to re-pack the box. It’s like Tetris on steroids. The other major drawback people have against buying certain things online is that they can’t feel or see the product in person. Technology has gotten much better with 3-D views and the ability to take walking tours through homes but there is still hesitation with not being able to see what they can get.

This past year I decided to dive in and buy furniture online. While I had purchased several “assembly required” pieces in the past, this would be the first time I would make a purchase without physically seeing the finished product. I was tired of dealing with high-pressure salespeople following me around the showroom breathing down my neck. I was willing to give online buying a try. This began my search for shelving units for my great room as well as my bedroom. Once I had made those purchases, I also searched for bedroom furniture. There was a particular style that I was looking for that I could never quite find in the furniture stores, so I thought that shopping online would open up my options.

I learned a lot in my first online furniture shopping venture and found the overall experience to be relatively easy with few hiccups. Here are eight tips to help you navigate your shopping experience:

  1. Don’t let the fear of not liking the furniture and having to return it deter you from purchasing online. This was one of my biggest roadblocks to buying furniture online. I was worried that I wasn’t going to like it and that I was going to have to deal with the crazy tasks of trying to return what I didn’t like. So far, it has yet to happen. I think the biggest key to make sure that you do enough research so that you know what you are getting in terms of the product. The next two tips address how to avoid having buyer’s remorse after making your purchase.
  2. Start small. I didn’t start buying furniture with an entire bedroom set. I started by buying simple shelves to help me organize my home. The shelves were a much smaller investment that helped me build confidence in making larger purchases later on. So, start with something small – like an organizer or some small shelves that will ease your mind with the process.
  3. Begin with major online retailers. My first online furniture purchase was a shelving unit from Target. I had never seen the shelves in the store, but they had a fairly simple design, easy to put together (Target furniture has never been a problem to assemble), and not much financial investment. When I searched for my bedroom set, I know I wanted something that was a little higher end than Target. I searched Wayfair, Hayneedle, Overstock, and Houzz (which is where I ended up purchasing my bedroom set). You can also shop the major furniture retailers in your area online without every stepping foot in their showrooms.
  4. Know what you want in terms of style and budget before you begin searching. This will be a huge time saver before you go down the rabbit hole of online shopping. I knew that I wanted to purchase a more tropical style of furniture and that I had a certain dollar limit that I did not want to exceed. I knew that I wanted a headboard vs an entire bed because it would fit better in my bedroom. I was also in need of nightstands and a dresser for additional storage.
  5. Measure, measure, measure! Don’t go falling in love with a piece of furniture only to find out that it won’t fit in the space you are intending for it to live. There was one particular bedroom set that I absolutely ADORED. The nightstands, however, would have never fit along the sides of the bed so I was able to immediately cross it off the list. Get comfortable with using a tape measure and string to physically mark off how much room the furniture will take up before you begin your search.
  6. Read the reviews of others that have purchased the same pieces. I know that online reviews can be notorious for being a playground for trolls. The key is to sift through the reviews that are simply complaining to complain and find the reviews that are the most useful. Many times, you can find an overall theme in the reviews about a particular problem area or something that may not be reflected well in the listing – like what the actual color may look like in person. Reviews can be a great resource to avoid making a costly purchase mistake.
  7. Be prepared to invest some time and sweat into assembly. I have assembled furniture from purchases I have made in-store. It takes a little bit more time to assemble a piece the first time but once I mastered the first shelving unit purchased online from Target, purchasing and assembling the subsequent shelving units was a piece of cake. The bedroom set, however, was a whole other animal. Because of the quality of the furniture, the individual pieces were very heavy. The sheer amount of space the boxes occupied took up my entire entryway outside. I had to pace myself a little more with the assembly, so I worked on one piece a night. I felt like I was getting a good workout as part of the assembly process – bonus!
  8. Missing or damaged pieces can happen – pack your patience! Unfortunately, one of the risks of buying online and having parts delivered to your home is that they may arrived damaged – or not at all. I had a part that was damaged with one of my Target shelving units that had to be resent twice because it was not packaged properly to prevent damage in transit. And with my bedroom set, I had one damaged piece and one missing piece. However, in both instances, each of the respective companies’ customer service departments were able to quickly expedite new parts to my home.

Shopping and purchasing furniture can feel new and awkward and sometimes overwhelming. However, if you use the tips above, I am sure that you will be able to find the experience freeing and empowering. Happy shopping!