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TNPS' CLICK TEST

These days, you can buy virtually anything online. New kid on the block Sosoon.com.sg, launched last month, promises to be the fastest online retailer here. BENITA AW YEONG puts the new site and four other shopping platforms to the test

If you have no time to travel to shops, and some patience, online shopping has its advantages. You may even reap some savings because of the relatively lower prices. Just reign in your expectations about the delivery speed.

Considering the non-fragile nature of a paperback book, the company sure puts a lot of effort into its packaging.

Enclosed in a layer of thick bubble wrap, surrounded by wrapping paper and placed in a cardboard box, my read arrived without a scratch.

Sosoon.com.sg

Touted as Singapore's fastest e-retailer, it promises to deliver purchases within 24 hours.

It offers products ranging from clothes and household items to electronics, with a 14-day free return policy, including a pick-up from your doorstep.

What I ordered: A glass water pitcher and cups set.

Price: $19.90

Shipping: $5.50 (before a deduction of $3.98 in complimentary credits given by the site)

Zalora.sg

The two-year-old shopping portal offers fashion clothing and accessories with a range of price tags. Recently, it launched an option to collect purchases at selected 7-Eleven stores and promises to deliver within one to three working days.

What I ordered: A pair of shiny blue flats

Price: $7.96

Shipping: $3.90

Qoo10.com.sg

Owned by the Giosis Group, a joint venture formed with e-commerce giant eBay, Qoo10 is known for hosting individual sellers, who offer a wide range of products at rock-bottom prices.

What I ordered: Ceramic cup with a rabbit motif.

Price: $2.49

Shipping: Free

While browsing the site, I came across one book - The Husband's Secret - with two hardcover versions listed. Both looked identical, but one cost $50 more than the other for no apparent reason. I had to e-mail the website to find out that the more expensive one was the large print version.

While the reply was very prompt and polite (thumbs up for customer service), a basic product description could have saved me the step of getting clarification.

Also, the book - not a rare tome - took a long time to arrive.

No one enjoys waiting, and this one took a full week. Including shipping, buying just one book ended up costing the same (about $19.90) as it would at major brick and mortar bookstores.

This may be a portal for hard-to-find books or for buying many books at one go.

They made good their promise and delivered within 24 hours of ordering. Indeed, they were about six hours ahead of the deadline.

I was not at the office when they arrived, so they returned later in the day. Kudos for the flexibility.

I like the wide range of products offered by Zalora as there is something for every style and budget.

The site has a clean look and each product has photos from different angles, a feature I appreciate. The short paragraph introducing the product's brand and a section for user reviews are nice touches.

The shoes I chose also arrived in mint condition.

The sheer array of goods available on the website is mind-boggling. From phone covers to home furnishings - and usually for a steal. Great news for a skin flint like myself!

Shortly after I made my order, the seller sent me a text message to say that the item could be sent out only the following week as he was out of town. While the delayed delivery was a bummer, I appreciated the early head's up.

The product arrived in great condition, packed in bubble wrap and a cardboard box.

I opted for "cash on delivery", but the delivery man did not have change. The inconvenience of hunting for the exact amount of money put a dampener on the experience.

And worse, the item arrived broken.

I was initially told by customer service that the return and exchange process had to be separate.

That is, they would collect the broken item, but I would have to order the product again through the website. My original payment would be later refunded.

But after some friendly feedback - and this was a major redeeming factor - Sosoon agreed to an on-the-spot exchange. The broken product would be replaced with an intact one the following day.

The customer service team sent an apology e-mail, and the replacement item was sent with reinforced protective packaging.

I was excited to try out the 7-Eleven collection option, but Zalora offers only 19 pick-up locations and I couldn't find one that was convenient for me.

It is early days for the scheme, but considering that there are more than 550 7-Eleven stores islandwide, it would be nice to expand the number of outlets participating.

Opentrolley

This local online store sells books imported from the UK and US. It carries more than 10 million titles.

What I ordered: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (paper back version)

Price: $14.97 (discounted from $17.61)

Shipping: $4.90

The interface and user experience offered by this website needs a facelift. It is so busy with banners which keep blinking and changing.

In addition, the homepage is littered with a glut of thumbnails accompanied by different-sized fonts. Pretty overwhelming for a first-time user, I would say.

Even buying an item is a hassle. Browsing the shop's selection requires you to scroll down some distance. When you decide what to buy, you have to memorise the item's code, scroll back up and enter it manually.

Not very user-friendly.

Redmart.com

A Singapore-based online grocer offering more than 8,000 non-perishable items, including pet food and detergent. Launched in 2011, it counts Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin as one of its investors and recently moved base to a 12,000 sq ft warehouse.

What I ordered: A pack of papadum (Indian crispy snack) and a pack of Teddy biscuits.

Price: $1.60 (papadum) and $1.35 (Teddy biscuits)

Shipping: $7. Delivery is free for orders above $75.

The site is neat and a breeze to navigate.

The search field at the top of the page works wonderfully, ensuring you find the exact brand or item you need within seconds. I especially like that you get to pick your delivery slot, which is set to two-hour windows.

There is also a field on the order page where you can add specific instructions, such as asking the delivery man to knock on the door and not ring the bell. Pretty thoughtful.

I was a touch sneaky in choosing products that could easily crumble if thrown around, but the package arrived in good condition.

I ordered two items, but was informed only two hours before my requested delivery window that one was out of stock. This was via a text message with a number to call if I needed "further assistance".

Considering that inventories these days are electronic, they should have let me know sooner about the product's unavailability.

Also, I would like an immediate option to cancel the entire order (given that half of it was not going to turn up) rather than a cold text pointing to extra steps.