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Advantages and Disadvantages of Shopping Online

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

Online shopping is more popular than ever, but is it all it's cracked up to be?

Online shopping is more popular than ever, but is it all it's cracked up to be?

Internet shopping has revolutionized the retail trade over the past 20 years or so, both for consumers and vendors. The internet currently accounts for over 10% of retail sales in the USA, and this number continues to rise.

Many products can be found for a more affordable price online, and having the product delivered to your door can be very convenient. However, critics note the packaging waste, time, and cost delay caused by delivery and the possible problems that occur when buyers can't inspect the product in person or communicate face-to-face with a retailer before buying.

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

10 Benefits of Shopping Online

First, let's take a look at the many advantages of online shopping. After all, it's more popular than ever for a reason.

1. Shop From Anywhere

You can shop from the comfort of your own home, your workplace, or virtually anywhere. All you need is a device that's connected to the internet and a convenient address where you can receive the goods that you order.

2. Choice

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.

3. International Availability

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. Prices Comparisons and Reviews

You have easy access to reviews of the products that you are interested in buying, enabling you to make more informed buying decisions. You can also easily compare prices at different vendors.

5. Relaxed Decision Making

There is no pressure from a salesperson when shopping online. You can proceed at your own pace, researching when necessary, without anybody trying to push you into buying something that you don't want.

6. Financial Organization

It can be much easier to keep records of what you have bought online. Online bank statements and emailed receipts are easier to keep track of than paper versions.

7. Bargains

You can make some big savings by shopping online. 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 also plenty of coupons, and other ways to save.

8. Always Open

Unlike conventional store which have opening hours, online shopping is not limited to certain hours of the day.

9. No Transport Issues

Unless you opt for in-store collection, online shopping means that the ordered goods are delivered straight to your door. You don't have to worry about driving to a destination, paying for gas, parking, or waiting in a line to be served.

10. Refurbished Options

In traditional stores, the choice is normally new or nothing, but online you often get the option of purchasing used or refurbished products, which can save you money.

10 Drawbacks of Shopping Online

Online shopping sure is convenient and easy, but it also has some downsides. Let's take a look at some of the less advantageous aspects of shopping on the web.

1. Time Delay

There is typically a time delay in receiving your purchase while you wait for it to be delivered. Buy it in a brick-and-mortar store and you can take it home with you immediately.

2. Product Description

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. Pricing

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. Delivery

You can have problems with delivery 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. It's Impersonal

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. It's Too Easy

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

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. Can't Inspect or Try Products

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.

9. Gift Delays

Sometimes they don't tell you until after you've ordered how long an item will take to be delivered. This can be particularly frustrating if it's a gift and the online store has to restock before shipping.

10. No Bartering or Negotiation

Local shops can sometimes provide scope for negotiating a deal with the owner, especially if you are a regular customer. This is rarely an option online.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is online shopping safe?

Answer: Generally speaking, yes online shopping is safe. There are some security issues that the user/buyer needs to be aware of, and some that the store/website is responsible for. The user/buyer should make sure that their computer software and operating system is up to date, that they have an effective firewall and anti-virus, passwords are secure, and that they don't give out their card information without being reasonably sure that it is secure (e.g., the URL should usually start with "https" when you proceed to checkout, also be wary of giving out info over the phone unless you are confidence in the company you're dealing with). Even if you are defrauded, you may well be able to get your money back via your bank in some circumstances. The store/website should have provisions for keeping the user's personal and payment information secure, there have been some high profile cases where this hasn't happened, but the system usually works. I personally have been shopping online for many years and not had any issues. It's important to be aware that in most circumstances, your card information is probably less secure when you pay in a restaurant, than when you pay online.

© 2013 Paul Goodman

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