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Which? reveals best places to buy tech, from laptops to TVs

John Lewis, Apple, even supermarkets - there's plenty of choice when buying tech, but which shops nail both customer service and value for money?

Which? reveals best places to buy tech, from laptops to TVs

Whether you’re buying a television, a laptop or a pair of headphones, the best tech rarely comes cheap, even on Black Friday – so it’s important to shop with a retailer that will help you choose the right product and look after you if things go wrong.

We surveyed more than 12,000 people* who’ve bought tech this year from retail giants including Amazon, Apple, Currys and John Lewis on all aspects of their experience, from value to money and customer service to product quality and returns.

Below, we reveal the best tech retailers – and the worst.

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Best tech shops and websites

The best tech store of 2020, according to our survey, is Richer Sounds. John Lewis was second-best, and Apple came third.

More people have shopped online this year than ever, largely thanks to multiple lockdowns shutting down ‘non-essential’ shops for months. Apple, Richer Sounds and Samsung all scored five stars for the level of product information they supply on their websites, while our survey respondents also awarded AO.com, Richer Sounds, Samsung and Very.co.uk five out of five for the usefulness of their online customer reviews.

John Lewis and Richer Sounds’ excellent all-round performance means they’re Which? Recommended Providers for tech products.

Richer Sounds

Richer Sounds topped the table for best places to buy tech products, with almost a clean sweep of five-star ratings. The main reason customers chose it was price, but its stellar reputation, customer service and warranty were all big factors as well.

Nearly a quarter of those we asked were first-time customers since the initial nationwide lockdown in March – and they were impressed. 98% said they were happy with the way Richer Sounds communicated changes to the normal shopping process during COVID-19.

Richer Sounds offers a free six-year guarantee on most TVs and projectors, and prides itself on the knowledge and expertise of its staff. One happy shopper said it offers ‘quality products with very good honest information [and] knowledgeable, helpful staff’.

You can shop online at RicherSounds.com.

Richer Sounds store

John Lewis

John Lewis may have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons this year – closing stores, scrapping its staff bonus and planning to drop its famous ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ motto. But shoppers still rate it highly when buying tech.

Customers appreciate its aftersales and flexible returns service, as well as its product quality. And you can be confident of a good experience whether you shop online or instore, as the retailer scored well for both.

The warranties and guarantees on offer were the main reason shoppers bought their tech from John Lewis. Customers were particularly positive about the way it communicated coronavirus-related changes and queuing time (or lack of).

One tech shopper said, ‘Brilliant service and competitive prices with long guarantees. Problems are sorted out promptly and fairly.’

You can shop online at JohnLewis.com.

John Lewis store

Apple

Tech giant Apple came third in our survey. It scored well on nearly every measure, although it was on shakier ground when it came to value for money, only getting three stars.

Apple customers are loyal; the most common reason shoppers chose it was because they always or nearly always shop at Apple for that type of product. Reputation and customer service were also important reasons for choosing Apple over other tech retailers.

Shoppers rate the quality of Apple’s products. Those shopping online think the amount of product information offered is good – indeed, those shopping with Apple online rated their experience better than those instore.

One happy Apple MacBook customer said, ‘Excellent tech support, in-store knowledge is brilliant and very accessible even with COVID restrictions.’

You can shop online at Apple.com/uk.

Apple store

Worst tech shops and websites

So which retailers are falling behind when it comes to buying tech? Supermarkets.

Bottom of the table was Asda, followed by Sainsbury’s and Tesco. All scored a mediocre three stars for product range and availability, product quality and customer service. Sainsbury’s and Asda did fairly well for value for money though.

One customer buying wireless headphones at Tesco said: ‘A “proper” electrical store would have a much better selection and staff trained specifically for electrical products, but it served the purpose of what I needed on the day.’

This pretty much sums it up: for a specialist or high-value purchase, you’re best off going to a Which? Recommended tech store for expert advice and reliable aftercare. But if you need something basic or have already pre-selected a product and know a supermarket is offering the best price, you might be happy to take the risk.

Asda store

Returning tech products

Tech is expensive and there’s a lot that can go wrong, so what happens after you’ve parted with your cash is just as important as the buying process.

One in 10 people in our survey said they’d tried to return a tech item they had bought. Appliances Direct had the highest proportion of customers attempting to return tech purchases (28%), although the majority were very satisfied with the process.

Customers of Very.co.uk who tried to return their purchases were the most satisfied of all.

Always check the retailer’s returns policy before you buy. And if you’re ordering online, find out whether you’ll be responsible for the cost of getting the item back to the retailer if you want to return it – this could be pricey if it’s a bulky item such as a TV.

Shopping for tech during COVID-19

The way we shop is changing. Half of UK adults shop more online than before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to our exclusive nationwide poll** carried out before non-essential shops were forced to close for a second time this year in England and Wales.

The number of UK adults who shop on their local high street more than once a month fell from 51% before the pandemic to 38% in September. And (29%) say the guidelines about face coverings have made them less likely to shop in-store.

Unsurprisingly, more than half of shoppers say they enjoy shopping less now than before.

This means shoppers are often trying out new retailers or buying online for the first time. We found about 28% of those using a retailer for the first time said it was because of circumstances relating to the pandemic.

Fortunately, many were happy with their experiences. Some 96% of shoppers at John Lewis and 98% at Richer Sounds were positive about the way they communicated any coronavirus-related changes to the normal shopping process. Even at bottom-placed Asda, this was 89%.

*Our survey of 12,419 adults was conducted online in August 2020 and included members of the Which? Connect panel and members of the public.

**Our survey of 2,010 members of the public was conduced online in September 2020 (data weighted to be representative of the UK adult population).

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