Advantages and Disadvantages of Shopping Online

Updated on March 9, 2017
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A former teacher of digital media studies in the UK, Paul now lives and works as a freelance writer in Florida, USA.

Internet retail has become big news over the past 20 years or so, both for consumers and traders.

It currently accounts for 8% of retail sales in the USA and the annual value of online shopping has been projected to reach $279 billion in 2015.

Many products can be found for a more affordable price online and having the product delivered to your door can be very convenient for buyers.

Critics, however, highlight the time delay caused by delivery, plus the problems that can be caused by the buyer not being able to check out the product in person, or communicate face to face with a retailer before the purchase.

As e-commerce forms such an important part of many peoples lives in the modern world, I thought it would be interesting and useful to list the relative merits and downsides of this still relatively recent phenomenon.

So here are the main advantages and disadvantages of shopping online.

I do shop online! But I'm shopping online mostly in the home categories - One Kings Lane and Gilt. At a lot of architectural websites, I buy a lot of hardware for cabinetry like hinges and things like that from England. So, you know, for me, I shop at Net-A-Porter, but I don't really shop that much for clothing online.

— Nate Berkus

Advantages of Shopping Online

1. It is convenient. You can shop from the comfort of your own home, your workplace, or virtually anywhere. All you need is a device to search for and view the products that you are interested in (usually a computer, tablet, or smartphone), plus some form of internet access, and a convenient address where you can receive the goods that you order.

2. You have a maximum amount of choice when buying products via the internet. You are not limited to what an individual store sells or stocks. If a product exists, then you will almost certainly be able to buy it online somewhere, and often you will also get options of purchasing a product that is in a used condition, as well as new.

3. As well as internal markets, shopping online gives you access to international goods. If you can't find the right product in your home country, then you can look abroad.

4. You have easy access to price comparisons and reviews of the products that you are interested in buying. You can also easily compare prices at different vendors.

5. There is no pressure from a salesperson when shopping online. You can proceed at your own pace, researching when necessary, without anyone pushing you into anything.

6. It can be easier to keep records of what you have bought. Emailed receipts are often harder to lose than the paper version.

7. Last, but not least, another plus point is that you can often get some great bargains by buying this way. Big retailers often price products cheaper online than they do in their bricks and mortar stores. Many items can also be bought at bargain prices through online auction sites such as eBay. There are plenty of coupons, and other types of special offers out there.

I'm a big online everything. But for me, shopping online started with music, obviously, then it went onto books, meditation CDs, and I just recently bought these electronic cigarettes. My husband is trying to quit smoking, so I went online and I bought those BluCigs cigarettes in every flavor for him.

— Fergie
All you need to shop online is a computer, tablet, or smartphone, a way of accessing the internet, and a way of paying for your purchase.  Most transactions involve the use of a debit or credit card, but there are numerous other payment methods:
All you need to shop online is a computer, tablet, or smartphone, a way of accessing the internet, and a way of paying for your purchase. Most transactions involve the use of a debit or credit card, but there are numerous other payment methods: | Source

The terrible thing about the Internet and Amazon is that they take the magic and happy chaos out of book shopping. The Internet might give you what you want, but it won't give you what you need.

— Tom Hodgkinson

Disadvantages of Shopping Online

1. There is always a time delay in receiving your purchase while you wait for it to be delivered. Buy it in a bricks and mortar store and you can take it home with you straightaway.

2. There may be potential problems with the seller when you buy online. They can describe a product wrongly, or in a way that is misleading, as they have almost total control over how a product is portrayed. They may also be more difficult to communicate with than your local store.

3. Retailers can also use methods regarding the pricing of products that many buyers can find underhand. For instance, a product can be displayed at a certain price online, only for excessive shipping, or other costs, to be added later on in the buying process.

4. You can have problems with the mail when ordering a product online - either it arrives broken, or it doesn't arrive at all. This may happen only rarely, but it can be very frustrating and time-consuming when it does occur.

5. There is very little scope for building any sort of rapport with the seller when you go to buy a product online. This makes the process very impersonal. There is no shop owner or employee to give you specialist advice, help, or tips. Neither is there generally someone to give you follow up help in person, should you have any problems with your product.

6. There are all sorts of potential psychological and emotional problems associated with the ease with which people can buy online. Impulsive buying, addiction, overspending, and debt-related issues can all be exacerbated. Also, it is easier for people to buy products when intoxicated, or for children to purchase unwanted items using their parent's credit cards and online accounts without permission.

7. Fraud and identity theft are a constant threat when buying over the internet. There are also major issues concerning the privacy of the data that is supplied to retailers by buyers.

8. You can't try out the product in advance, when you buy online. Neither can you touch a product, or see it close up with your own eyes. This can be a considerable disadvantage when it comes to certain types of products, for example: clothing.

The more technology we introduce into society, the more people will aggregate, will want to be with other people: movies, rock concerts, shopping.

— John Naisbitt

I don't shop because I need something, I just shop for shopping's sake.

— Cat Deeley

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    © 2013 Paul Goodman

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        Peter 14 months ago

        Thanks for posting such an useful informative article, Thank you once again