Benefits and Disadvantages of Online Shopping

Published: 4 years ago, Last Updated: 6 months ago
Daniel Brown
Writer: Daniel Brown

The first documented online purchase was made in 1994 when entrepreneur Dan Kohn sold a Sting CD to a friend on a website called NetMarket. Since then, online shopping has grown from a new and unusual concept to a multi-trillion-dollar industry. 

According to Statista, e-commerce sales are expected to reach around $8.1 trillion by 2026. However, with the increased popularity of e-commerce, this blog will take a look at the benefits and disadvantages of shopping online.

Disadvantages of Online Shopping

Opting to do your shopping online can come with some unforeseen monetary and material costs that could have been avoided if you were shopping in person.  

Here are four disadvantages of online shopping:

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, which is one of the main disadvantages of online shopping.

Although some delivery costs are low, they can add up over time. As a result, some consumers might find it more cost-effective to buy an item in person than to purchase the same item online with an added delivery fee. 

Being Unable to Try Things On

In terms of shopping for clothing, one of the biggest disadvantages of online shopping is that 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 20% to 30% of online purchases are returned, compared to just 8% to 10% for in-store purchases. This can cost additional or unforeseen expenses for merchants and consumers alike.

Online Shopping Addiction and Overspending

Advantages of online shopping

About 400 million people worldwide are affected by a shopping addiction, which can lead to overspending and debt.

Online shopping can make matters worse for consumers that already have trouble budgeting and keeping their expenditures in check. 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, one of the biggest disadvantages of online shopping is that it can be challenging 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. This major disadvantage of online shopping 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.

Benefits of Online Shopping

Online purchases with tablet

Even though online shopping has its disadvantages, it also offers many benefits to consumers, especially those who prefer to deliver items. That said, here are eight advantages of online shopping:

More Selection

One of the significant benefits of online shopping is that it offers more options than your average department store often can. Amazon and eBay, for example, may offer a broader 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 purchase customized or personalized items that they may not otherwise be able to in stores.

Shop Around for the Best Price

Individuals who are dedicated to online shopping may be able to pay less when purchasing goods or services online. 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. In addition, price alerts are sent via email or text, making it more convenient. 

Online stores can have different prices for identical items, which is the main advantage of shopping online. You can ensure that you get the best deal by using price comparison sites.

Be the First to Know About Online Sales

Customers who sign up for an e-commerce newsletter or follow their social media platforms can receive regular updates from the store, such as the arrival of new products, promotions, and sales. Additionally, many retailers also offer exclusive discounts for online purchases than they do in the store. This is one of the biggest advantages of online shopping because you will never miss out on updates, particularly seasonal sales.

Online and Distance Selling Rights

Companies that sell online owe a duty of care to their customers and must follow specific rules.

Online customers are protected by consumer rights, which means, for example, that they have the right to cancel their orders within a certain timeframe after the order has been delivered.Online sellers must communicate these rights to consumers to comply with distance selling rules. This will also increase the website’s trustworthiness and, in turn, increase online sales.

Find Coupon and Voucher Codes

Vouchers for online shopping

Most online stores offer coupon and voucher codes to their customers. Saving money and getting your desired items at a lower price is one of the biggest benefits of shopping online. 

In addition, most websites offer coupons for first-time customers and those who abandon their cart upon check-out to give them an incentive to complete their orders. However, coupons and voucher codes also benefit online businesses because they increase customer acquisition and generate revenue.

Support Stores You Like

A significant advantage of online shopping is directly supporting stores and brands you like. Also, it can allow discernment regarding where you spend your money. For example, your preferred retailer may not be within a reasonable distance, making it challenging to shop in person. With online shopping, you have more freedom and accessibility to shop from companies that are located across the country or even the globe.

For example, consumers who prioritize eco-friendly shopping may have many benefits from online shopping and more options that better align with their beliefs.

Other examples include buying wine from a supermarket or a local vineyard or supplier 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 things directly to their doorsteps.

Cashback Schemes

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

Cashback percentages vary depending on the card company but usually range from 0.5% to 3%. Additionally, some credit card companies offer cashback rewards based on the amount you spend or where you spend it. 

For example, Rakuten is an online browser extension that helps shoppers find cashback deals based on the online retailer they are purchasing from.

Sum Up

Shopping online has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, it may be better to shop in person when purchasing expensive items such as furniture to understand better the item’s quality, scale, and color. 

On the other hand, online stores often offer more selection than department stores in addition to the comfort of shopping from home. That said, it is up to the consumer to decide which option suits their needs and weigh the pros and cons of shopping online.

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