On July 15, 2015 Amazon introduced their first ever “Prime Day” to promote online shopping. Advertised as having more deals than Black Friday and with thousands of items in every conceivable category, some items sold out in seconds. The pros and cons of online shopping provide for instant availability without the hassle of fighting others in person for limited products. It also means that instead of fighting with a few dozen shoppers, you’re potentially competing against millions or billions to get a good deal.
What Are the Pros of Online Shopping?
In a word? Convenience. The primary benefit of shopping online is that you can shop for specific items when you want to shop for them. You even have the choice of selecting different platforms for your online shopping. Gamers can shop through their consoles. Smartphones and tablets allow for online shopping on the go. Laptops and PCs allow for the traditional online shopping experience. You choose the site, the platform, and the product and then it comes to you. Here are the other positive key points to consider.
1. Most websites offer free shipping on most orders.
You may have to reach a purchasing threshold to receive free shipping or join a membership program like Amazon Prime, but if you do shop online a lot, you won’t spend much on shipping these days. If products get delivered to you, then you don’t get stuck with the costs of traveling to the store to purchase something or pick it up.
2. You can return items like you would to any other store.
As long as the product can be sold again or there was a malfunction with the product due to craftsmanship or material default, then most sites allow for easy and free returns on items that did not meet expectations. There may be a restocking fee applied and some sites may not offer free shipping for the return, but most sites have learned than an easy returns policy attracts more customers in the long run.
3. The shopping process is relatively secure.
More than 70 million people had their data compromised by Home Depot hacks. More than 40 million were victims of the Target hack. Online shopping may not be 100% secure, but there are fewer risks to the mass data hacks because of the system of processing that is used. Many credit card lenders offer individualized card numbers for online purchases as well to enhance security and most lenders block purchases automatically that are out of character for an individual.
4. Price comparisons can happen instantly.
It isn’t just the price between two similar products that can be compared instantly either. Customers can compare the features between two similar smartphones, check the processing speeds of two similar computers, or check ingredient lists for those granola bars that are being purchased for healthier eating. Because information is so readily available, multiple comparisons can happen within minutes. You’ve also git several different sizes and options that are available to you.
5. Shopping can happen at any time of day.
Brick and mortar stores eventually close. Even the 24/7 retailers like Walmart have times when they are not open. Online stores, however, are always available. This means you can get up at 2am, slip on a bathrobe if you wish, and begin browsing through your preferred websites for an extra special deal.
6. There is access to thousands of customer reviews of virtually any product.
More than 70% of online shoppers say that they base part of their purchasing decision on the experiences that others have had with the item in question. Most online stores today allow a place for customers to leave reviews about a product that talk about their specific experiences. Of course false reviews exist and can influence shoppers, but sites have taken steps to counter this. Amazon, for example, notes reviewers that have made an actual purchase of the product.
7. There is no wasted time standing in line for a cashier.
If you’ve ever been stuck in a busy department store where only one cashier is serving a dozen customers who are all trying to leave at the same time, then you know how long the lines can be to take your stuff home. Online shopping eliminates that entire mess, although you might miss a free look at the tabloids while checking out from your online cart.
What Are the Cons of Online Shopping?
The primary negative that comes with online shopping is that you don’t get to experience the product before you purchase it. This forces shoppers to either run down to a local store to see and/or feel a product or to order it blindly. When customers can actually engage with a product, they’re more likely to make a purchase on impulse and that revenue stream is all but lost to the online retailer. Here are the other negative key points of online shopping to consider.
1. Those pushy salespeople aren’t around to provide any help at all.
Sure – having someone pounce on you the moment you enter a store can be annoying. Online shopping gets rid of that experience, but it also gets rid of the help that they can provide. If you’ve got questions about a product, want a recommendation, or are interested in a direct comparison of products you can tangibly experience, then you have to do the research all on your own when shopping online.
2. You don’t typically receive instant gratification unless you’re willing to pay for it.
One of the best shipping deals around in the 2 day free shipping that comes with an Amazon Prime membership. Unlike the traditional store that lets you walk out with the products that you want, you have to wait for your products to arrive when you purchase them online. You can get overnight shipping if you wish on many items, but that cost is often not worth the satisfaction that instant gratification can provide.
3. Shipped items always have a chance to arrive damaged.
You’re all excited for that new item to arrive and when it finally does, your heart seems to skip a beat. You tear open the packaging only to find a massive dent in the side of your item or the clothing you ordered as a small size just came in 2XL. Now you’ve got to process a return through no fault of your own, wait longer for the new product, and hope your size or your preferred item didn’t sell out while your delivery was being damaged.
4. It can be difficult to recover payments for items that were never received.
The nightmare scenario for an online shopper is to pay for an item, receive a shipping notification, and then never have it arrive. Customers can use a chargeback in this circumstance, but that could affect their credit rating. It may also affect their ability to shop at their preferred store in the future. Many companies simply assume that the customer is trying to get a product and a refund at the same time in this scenario as well, which creates further hard feelings.
5. You don’t have the option to pay with cash.
In the United States, there is no cash on delivery option that there is in other locations around the world for online shopping. Even personal checks or money orders are rarely accepted any more. This means that you’ve got to have a credit or debit card in your possession in order to shop online. You can use cash to get a prepaid card, of course, but that means going to a store first to process that sale before returning home to spend money online.
6. There’s no way to try the products on before you purchase them.
Even when you do everything correctly, there’s still a chance that the products purchased aren’t going to fit. This is especially true for online shoppers who purchase clothing. Different sizes mean different things around the world and what may be a medium in one location is basically an extra small to someone else. Because nothing can be tried on first, shoppers won’t know the fit or what they’ll look like when wearing the item being purchased.
7. You’re stuck with plenty of packaging materials.
How items get shipped can be incredibly unique. Some stores use air bubbles. Others use packing peanuts. Some use huge amounts of cardboard to brace items. They all have one thing in common: you’re stuck recycling them or throwing them away in a resourceful way. If you receive a lot of online shipments, you may end up overwhelming your weekly recycling program in the process.
The pros and cons of online shopping generally have the good outweigh the bad for most people, but not 100% of the time. There’s always going to be that one purchase that causes an extended headache and makes you wonder if the entire process was worthwhile. The same can be said of the brick and mortar store as well, so after weighing each key point listed here, the decision as to whether or not to be an online shopper can become a little easier.