The advantages and disadvantages of shopping online

online shoppingShopping online is becoming more common everyday, and spans every type of product and every type of shopper. Online shoppers are all ages, come from all types of backgrounds, and both men and women. So, why do people shop online? And why don’t people only shop online? Exploring the advantages and disadvantages of shopping online versus traditional in-store shopping will answer these questions.

Price

When it comes to price, this tends to be an advantage of shopping online. Because of the plethora of competition, prices online tend to be lower and there are more deals and promotions available online. Retailers and online sellers know that you have other options just a click away, so in order to stay in the game they need to keep their prices competitive. Prices may also be lower because in many cases with online shopping no state tax applies.

Convenience

Obviously online shopping wins when it comes to convenience. First of all, you can do your shopping from home, or anywhere really, and there is no need to get dressed, drive to a store, search for the item, wait in line, and then return home. By shopping online you remove all of those additional tasks that take up time and energy. Purchasing online only requires a few clicks. Shopping online is also more convenient because you can do it anytime of the day or night, and are not restricted by store opening and closing hours. Also, when shopping online you can buy a variety of items and products at the same time, which saves you the inconvenience of having to go to more than one store to get everything you need.

Variety

Another advantage of shopping online is variety. You would have to visit many, many stores, which could take days, or weeks, to find the same selection variety that you can find online within an hour or two (or less). On the internet, you can find pretty much anything you are looking for. In fact, the amount of items available for sale on the internet is astounding, and many of those items aren’t even available in traditional stores. So not only do you have access to more variety in less time, but you have access to more variety in general, regardless of how much time you spend physically going from store to store.

Discreet shopping

Sometimes we want to buy something somewhat personal or private, and we don’t want anyone to know, or at least we don’t want to have to come face to face with a salesclerk when we purchase this particular item. Maybe we want to buy some diet products, or a self-help book, lingerie, or even sex toys. By ordering these types of items online, we can have them delivered to our home discreetly and never have to feel judgment from anyone for our purchase.

Reviews

Another advantage of shopping online is the opportunity to read reviews from other customers that have purchased the item or product that we are considering buying. By reading reviews we can make a more informed decision about the purchase, or save ourselves from making a mistake by buying something that will most likely be a disappointment.

Salespeople

Sometimes the help of a salesperson can be an advantage of physically going to a traditional store, especially if they are knowledgeable about the item you’re considering. In fact, if you are confused about a certain purchase (an new electronic item, for example) then going to an electronics store and talking to someone may be wiser than making your own purchase online without any expert help. However, pushy salespeople that aren’t helpful, but rather try to pressure you to make a purchase are a disadvantage of physically going to a store; if you shop online you can skip the interaction with salespeople entirely. Again, whether this aspect is an advantage or disadvantage has a lot to do with the type of purchase you want to make and how informed you are about it.

Trying or inspecting the item before you buy it

Although you can find a wide variety of clothing, shoes and accessories online, not being able to try them on in a dressing room can be a disadvantage. If you do shop for these items online, you usually have the option to make a return within a stipulated amount of time and if the item is unused, but often you are responsible for the shopping and handling costs (and the time you’ll waste going to the post office). For this reason, if you are very picky or have a hard time finding the right size, buying clothing and shoes online may be more of a disadvantage. However, at the same time the infinite choice of fashion items, in every color and every size, is certainly an advantage over a traditional store you visit physically, as they may not have everything in stock. Also, if you already have a certain item of clothing or shoes that you know you like, ordering a replacement online when the item is worn out is very convenient.

On the other hand, a disadvantage of shopping online is that there is no way to know if what you have purchased is what you will receive. When you purchase something physically from a store, you know exactly what you have purchased because you can physically see and inspect the item. When you buy something online you don’t know exactly what it is until you get it. Also, items can be damaged in transport (although in most cases the seller will refund you or send you a replacement item).

Gifts

Being able to purchase and send gifts to anyone, anywhere, anytime is certainly a major advantage of online shopping. This means that even if you aren’t able to be with loved ones on holidays, birthdays, or special occasions, you can still send them a gift with just a few clicks and small amount of time and energy thanks to the internet.

Security and privacy

The main disadvantage of online shopping is that it may not be as secure or private as going to a store. Probably the securest and most private option out there is to go to a store, physically, and pay in cash. Obviously this is not an option when shopping online, where you will usually have to give personal information and pay with a credit card. Although SSL inscription (when you see “https” at the start of the web address) protects your credit card and personal information from hackers, it is not 100% safe and your information can be stolen. Because of this disadvantage, make sure you only use reputable websites that have SSL encryption, install and update anti-spyware and anti-virus programs on the electronic devices you shop from, never shop from a public computer or public Wi-Fi network, and don’t click on any suspicious emails or links.

Enjoyment

For some people, and generally more women than men, they enjoy shopping in the more traditional sense. They may see it as a social activity, and may like the instant gratification that comes from buying something and having it in their possession immediately. This is as advantage of traditional in-store shopping, and a disadvantage of online shopping.

Since both online shopping and traditional in-store shopping have their advantages and disadvantages, the right choice is probably a combination of both which is why online shopping hasn’t completely taken over, and probably never will.