Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Shopping

The number of digital shoppers across the United States has seen a rapid increase within the past few years. In fact, studies predict that there will be about 230.5 million online shoppers by 2021, which includes consumers who browse products, compare prices, or buy merchandise online.

Further, Statista reports the average cost of online shopping orders in the U.S. for the most recent fiscal quarter to be at 86.3 U.S. dollars per order. And 58% of such purchases are of apparel and accessories, while 55% are for travel-related goods.

In addition to retail purchases, consumers are also opting to do their grocery shopping online. Indeed, roughly 10% of U.S consumers say that they regularly shop online for groceries, according to NPD.

Consumers often cite convenience as the main reason they choose to shop online. Why leave your store when the store can come to you? But despite the ease digital shopping can provide, consumers should be aware of the disadvantages and difficulties that can come with the process, as explored in this guide.


Opting to do your shopping online can come with some unforeseen monetary and material costs that can be avoided with in-store shopping. Some of these include:

Paying for Delivery

While some stores offer free delivery or schemes that allow consumers to pay yearly for free next-day delivery, many others do not offer such options. This can prove specifically expensive for purchasing large or bulky items.

Although some delivery costs are low, they can add up over time. Some consumers might find it more cost-effective to buy an item in person than to purchase the same item online with an avoidable delivery fee. For consumers who are unable to make it to a store to shop in-person, due to physical disability or other factors, the prospect of delivery fees might be inevitable.

Not Getting to Try Things On

In terms of shopping for clothing, it can be particularly difficult to know how an item will fit, without trying it on. Clothing stores are often inconsistent with sizing, which can be especially true when it comes to vague sizing without specific measurements, such as “large” or “medium”.

Such difficulties can lead to higher rates of returns for online shopping. Indeed, reports show that 15 to 40% of online purchases are returned, compared to just 5 to 10% for in-store purchases. This can cost additional or unforeseen expenses for merchants and consumers alike.

Online Shopping Addiction and Overspending


Although online shopping may not be addictive in the same way that harmful substances might be, experts have found that shopping can lead to addictive behavior.

For consumers that already have trouble budgeting and keeping their expenditures in check, online shopping can make matters work. Online shopping ploys and marketing techniques can “keep you coming back for more” in a way that physical stores might not. And this can become damaging to an individual’s bank balance.

Shoppers who are worried about such addictions might consider avoiding online shopping credit cards or store cards as well.

Not Getting an Idea of Scale, Color, and Quality

While photos can be convincing, it can be difficult to determine an item’s scale, size, and quality without seeing it in person. Plus, some objects, such as furniture, might be even more difficult to gauge on a digital screen. And if an item arrives in a different condition than otherwise thought, it can be a hassle to return it. In some cases, consumers may determine it less difficult to deal with the delivery process and rather, keep the unwanted item. This may be easier to avoid with in-person or in-store shopping.

Some companies have taken to inventive ways to overcome the challenges that can come with online shopping. AR apps, for example, can make it appear as though clothes or glasses are being worn by a person or can show consumers how furniture could look in their homes.

Advantages of Online Shopping

Online shopping

While consumers should be careful when it comes to online shopping, there are certain benefits that can come with opting for a digital purchasing experience. Some of these include:

More Selection

Online shopping can offer more options than your average department store often can. Amazon and eBay, for example, may offer a wider range of selections for specific or obscure items. Want to find a t-shirt with an obscure celebrity on it? You can probably find it online. Want to find clothes in unusual sizes? You can find them online. Want to buy things that are not even stocked in the stores in your country? You’ve guessed it, you may be able to find it online.

One additional benefit of opting for an online experience is that consumers can customize or personalized items that they may not otherwise be able to in-stores.

Shop Around for the Best Price

Individuals who are dedicated to their online shopping may be able to pay less than they might have to, in person. Some consumers even opt for alerts that tell them when an item’s price drops so that they can buy it at the best value possible.

There can be differences between the prices of identical items from one online store to the next, and with the help of price comparison sites, you can be better assured that you are getting discount online shopping.

Be the First to Know About Online Sales

Some stores have newsletter systems or social media platforms that customers can sign up for and follow for updates on items. This can make it easier to be one of the first to know when a desired item is available for purchase. This can be particularly beneficial for seasonal sales.

Online sales can often be huge and warehouse clearances, for instance, often see retailers needing to shift loads of stock and having to cut prices drastically in order to do so. Consumers can find some bargains from such sales.

Find Coupon and Voucher Codes

Voucher codes

While not exclusive to online shopping, discount codes can help to ensure that you are not paying over the odds for certain items. While physical stores might release coupon codes that are exclusive to members, for instance, such codes are often usable by anyone shopping online. Such voucher codes may offer a percent discount for cheaper purchase or delivery.

Support Stores You Like

Online shopping can also allow for some discernment when it comes to where you spend your money and who your dollars go to. The physical location might limit where you go for your grocery shopping, but with online shopping, you can choose to shop smaller or more palatable companies that are to your liking.

Consumers who prioritize eco-friendly shopping, for example, may have more options that better align with their beliefs, if they opt to shop online. Other examples include buying wine from a supermarket or from a local vineyard or supplier in order to ensure that they get a bigger cut of the profit, or purchasing a t-shirt directly from a beloved band’s website so that they will see more of the profits.

Be Able to Stay Home

For some consumers, shopping can be a hassle. The queues, crowds, and distractions at physical retail stores can cause distress among some individuals. Online shopping can alleviate some of this stress, as shoppers can add items to their carts from the comfort of their homes, and expect their items directly at their doorsteps.

Cashback Schemes

Some banks and credit cards offer cash back schemes that allow customers to get a percentage of their online purchases refunded to a credit or debit card, after purchase. Incentives such as those can help companies, as shoppers will want to use online services more.

If you are willing to put the time in and perhaps play the game a little, online shopping can be an easy and alternative way to get the items you need and want.

About Daniel Brown

Daniel Brown
Daniel Brown is an experienced and knowledgeable financial advisor at He has been in this industry since 2008 and has a strong understanding of economic trends, all types of financial planning, ways of creating plans for meeting short-term and long-term financial goals, etc.

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