Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Shopping

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Online shopping is one of the most popular ways to make purchases, but it's not something that everyone is comfortable doing. As with most things, there are positives and negatives associated with this approach to shopping. Consider the advantages and disadvantages carefully so you can make an informed decision about what's best for you.

Four Benefits of Online Shopping

Shopping on the internet comes with a number of positives.

1. Convenience

There is no doubt that shopping online can be very convenient for busy people. You can shop from your home or office - or any other location where you have access to a computer, tablet device or smartphone and Internet access. You can browse and make purchases any time of the day or night from any location that is convenient for you rather than having to take time out of your day or evening to go to local stores in person during their hours of operation.

Smartphone Shopping

2. Ease of Comparison Shopping

When you shop online, you can compare offerings and pricing at different stores with the simple click of a button rather than having to get in your car and spend your precious time and hard-earned gas money running from one store to another to see what stores carry what product lines and how much each one is charging.

With the help of shopping comparison sites like, you can go to a central place to narrow down to the online retailers that are likely to have the best deal on the items you want without even having to run key words through search engines to find out where to look.

3. Extensive Product Mix Availability

When you shop online, you might find that there are more options available to you than if you focused your product search only on items available in your local areas. That's because store buyers have to make decisions about what items to carry in their physical stores, and those decisions are impacted by local market demand, past purchasing success and failures and shelf- space constraints.

For example, if you live in an area where snow is rare, you won't find a variety of skiing equipment in your local stores. However, if you're planning a ski vacation, you may have a real need for such items. You'll surely find a better selection online than in your home town. The same is true if you live in a landlocked area but want to decorate a room in your home in a beach theme. Your local stores are not likely to have an extensive selection of beachy decor, but you're sure to find a great variety online.

4. Identify Unique Solutions

When you start shopping for a product to address a specific need, it's possible that there's a solution you don't even know about, or that isn't available locally. Sometimes special purchase deals and highly specialized items are only available for online purchase - even from companies that operate physical stores. Walmart, for example, has items that are only available for purchase via the retail giant's website.

It's also possible that there is an ideal solution for your shopping need that has just been introduced to the market. It often takes innovations a while to make it to the shelves of traditional retail stores - especially in small to medium-size markets, but they tend to become available online very quickly. Without spending some time shopping online, you wouldn't have an opportunity to find out about these types of opportunities.

Four Drawbacks of Online Shopping

Naturally, there are also downsides to shopping on the web too.

1. Lose the Tactile Experience

When you shop online, you don't have an opportunity to touch and feel items you are considering purchasing. With some products - like books and electronic equipment - this isn't an important consideration. However, with clothing, bedding, pillows, furniture, rugs and other textile-based merchandise, it can be hard to gauge quality without hands-on contact. Fit is also a concern with any kind of apparel.

2. Shipping Adds to the Cost

What looks like a bargain might not be such a good deal when the shipping and handling charges are tallied and added to the total. Make sure that you look closely at exactly how much you are likely to need to pay to have your merchandise delivered to your door - or to the person you are purchasing it for - before finalizing your purchase decision.

Entering Credit Card Online

3. Returns Can Be Costly

It's essential to be aware of the return policy for any e-commerce retailer you are considering doing business with. The majority of sites do not pay return shipping if you have to send something back, so it often costs you more money than you planned to spend if you need to exchange an item.

Returning merchandise for a refund can also be costly. Most online retailers do not refund shipping costs - not the cost of return postage or the original shipping charge. This can mean that, for relatively low-dollar items, it can cost you nearly as much to return an item as it does to just keep the merchandise.

4. Dealing with an Unknown Vendor

When you are shopping online, unless you are purchasing from a well-known e-tailer like Amazon or Zappos or the online arm of a department store like Kohl's or JC Penney, you really don't know who you are doing business with. Anybody can open an online store - especially with products that are easy to access through a drop-shopping company - but not everyone is honest and reputable.

When you are shopping with an online store that you don't know anything about, it can be difficult to feel confident that they'll still be there if a problem arises with your order and to feel that the personal information you are required to share when making a purchase will really be protected. Online security concerns can certainly be an important consideration when selecting an e-tailer.

Is Shopping Online Right for You?

In the end, it's up to you to decide if shopping online is in your best interests. It's likely that - for some types of purchases - shopping online makes more sense than purchasing locally, but that the opposite is true for others.

The fact that online shopping is widely available simply means that consumers today have more choices available to them than in decades past. Consider your options carefully so you can be sure that you're making wise, informed purchasing decisions that meet your needs and that you feel comfortable with.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Shopping