The Pros and Cons of Online Shopping
The internet can be a great resource for shoppers looking to expand their choices of products to buy and an invaluable way for saving money. Online stores are highly competitive not only with other online stores, but also with brick-and-mortar competitors. Price-comparison websites make deal hunting easier and also help guide shoppers to online stores with the best reputations by posting reviews submitted by other shoppers.
Point-of-sale advantages include stores offering no shipping charges and free ship-to-store charges. A lot of online stores do not pass on sales tax (unless required by the state) to customers, which can add up to substantial savings for those shoppers who buy primarily online.
Other advantages of shopping online include:
- The stores are almost never closed.
- Shoppers can shop in their pajamas.
- Online shoppers save on gas.
- There are no parking hassles.
- Online shoppers rarely have to deal with aggressive salespeople.
- There are no annoying crowds.
- Online shoppers do not have to wait in long lines to check out.
- Many online retailers allow shoppers to post reviews about the products that they purchased.
- There are more choices for buying refurbished products.
- Online sales representatives often receive more intensive product training than those at the local stores.
- Online sales representatives often have more flexibility with making decisions such as applying coupons, meeting competitors' prices and expediting shipping at no extra charge.
The Disadvantages of Shopping Online
Sometimes a deal that looks great falls short of what has been advertised. Communicating dissatisfaction can be difficult online and often takes enormous patience and tenacity to achieve satisfaction. Problem-solving face-to-face with local store employees is often faster and more satisfying.
Contacting the next level of management is much easier at local stores than online.
Other disadvantages of shopping online include:
- Online shoppers do not have the ability to physically inspect or try on the items being considered for purchase.
- Online shoppers sometimes lose the power to negotiate the price and payment terms that may exist in local stores.
- Items ordered online are sometimes back ordered, but shoppers may not find out until weeks later. This is particularly problematic when buying gifts.
- Online shoppers do not always know if a site is a legitimate retail store and if is safe to shop.
- Restocking and shipping costs are often charged on returns.
- Online shoppers often do not have a person (or the same person) to talk to when dealing with a problem.
- It is sometimes easier to get money refunded locally when the item purchased drops in price within the guaranteed price period.
- Online shoppers do not get to take advantage of seasonal statewide tax-free shopping events.
Other Pros and Cons of Online Shopping
Pros: Many online stores sell products at really low prices because of the lack of money spent on overhead. Local stores have operating costs like water, heat, and air that are figured, at least partially, into the markup of the products.
Cons: Online stores advertising free products will sometimes increase the cost of shipping so that they profit from the purchase. For example, shoppers may get three free software programs, but paying $14.95 in shipping or handling charges is higher than what would normally be charged and likely covers the cost of the three items plus shipping.
The Bottom Line
Shoppers will save money and frustration by taking the time to learn the policies of both online and local stores before making a purchase. Sometimes there are hidden charges like restocking fees for some online and local stores. The restocking fee may increase the longer it takes the shopper to return an item.
Since it takes longer to ship a product back to an online store than it does to return it to a local store, this might be the deciding factor on where to make the purchase.
The small print on return policies will sometimes state that shoppers must pay to ship products back, even when it arrives with a defect. It is also not uncommon for online stores to deduct the original cost of shipping the product from the return invoice. If a shopper is uncertain of a purchase they are making, knowing the return policy of the online store might affect their decision to shop locally instead.
Another point to consider is how repairs are handled on the products being purchased. It might be easier to return a faulty product to the local store for repair, rather than going through the trouble and expense of shipping it back to an online store.
Reading the customer service policies online and at local stores should provide shoppers with clear answers on all fees and guarantees. If a store's policies are vague and employees seem uninformed, shoppers may want to shop elsewhere. Shoppers have never had such an abundance of choices of online and local stores to buy from.
Online shopping is defined as the act of purchasing services or buying goods over the internet. It is a way to shop for multiple items or compare the rates of service providers from the comfort of home or on a personal mobile device.
The benefit of shopping online is that it saves time because there isn’t a need to travel to a physical store. Some customers may save money as well, when the cost of an internet connection or data plan is compared to the wear-and-tear costs of a vehicle traveling to a store.
The disadvantage of shopping online is that you cannot see the physical product being purchased or meet the service provider in-person. One must trust that the description of the goods or services is accurate so that personal needs can be met.
Here are some additional key online shopping pros and cons to discuss.
What Are the Pros of Online Shopping?
1. It is easy to compare prices.
Multiple websites often sell the same product. Imagine needing to travel to Walmart to check on the price of a board game and then needing to travel to Target for a comparison. Thanks to the internet, both stores can have their websites pulled up in a separate tab so that the prices can be instantly compared.
2. Customers have more access to a variety of products.
There are no local restrictions in place when shopping online. Consumers can shop globally for the goods or services that they want or need. Although shipping costs for international purchases will be higher and delays of up to 12 weeks may occur, there are few limitations. That means there is a greater variety to the shopping process.
3. There are no checkout lines to worry about.
Shopping online is simple and easy. Just add the wanted goods or services to the shopping cart on that website and then checkout when ready. The desired items are itemized with clear pricing. Sales taxes are automatically populated, though some purchases may not require taxes to be charged. Shipping charges, if they apply, are automatically calculated as well.
4. Sending gifts to others is cheaper when shopping online.
Traditional shopping requires customers to purchase an item, package it up, and then pay for shipping so that it can be delivered as a gift. When shopping online, customers only need to change the shipping address to have the package delivered. With a service like Amazon Prime, that means free shipping.
5. Products sold online are often cheaper than those sold in stores.
To encourage online shopping, many stores offer discounts on products purchased online compared to products purchased in their stores.
What Are the Cons of Online Shopping?
1. Products can’t be tried before they are purchased.
If someone is unsure of how much value a product may have, there is no way to relieve that concern when shopping online. Clothes or shoes cannot be tried on. Electronics cannot be verified until they are received. That means there is a certain risk to an online purchase, even if the product description is accurate.
2. There may be shipping costs or delays.
Many websites offer free shipping, but only if the order meets a purchasing threshold, such as $75. Other sites charge a flat shipping fee for every order, no matter what. At the same time, the availability of the product may not be what the website reflects. You may pay for an order, only to receive a message that it is backordered or unavailable. A refund is then processed, but that could take 5-30 business days to complete.
3. There is no guarantee of delivery.
Websites rely on third-party shipping companies to deliver their products. There is no guarantee provided that the product will arrive in usable condition. Insurance, returns, and replacements are usually provided, but if these options must be used, it delays a customer’s use of that item. When you go to a store, you know exactly what you’re bringing home that day.
4. Shipping charges can be higher than the product cost.
The item a customer wants to purchase is $4.95. The cost to ship that item is $5.95. That means the consumer cost of shopping online is more than double for that item when compared to shopping in-person.
These online shopping pros and cons show that this process is usually beneficial to companies and consumers. Prices are typically cheaper, shipping is fast, and the products arrive in good condition. There are times, however, when online shopping can also be a negative experience.
What is the best deal you have ever found while shopping online?