Shopping Online: What are the Pros and Cons?

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What are the advantages of online shopping?

More people than ever before in history are using the Web to shop for a wide variety of items, from houses to shoes to airplane tickets. What are the advantages of online shopping? Are there benefits to using the Web to buy what you need? Are there any cons of online shopping that you, as the consumer, should know about and be aware of? 

The pros of shopping online

Online shopping offers many distinct advantages, including:

Incredible convenience: In comparison to a brick and mortar store with fixed hours, online shoppers can choose any time of the day or night to get on the Web and shop. This is especially useful for moms with small children, people that are home-bound, or simply in times of inclement weather; not to mention if you just need to get the item within a certain amount of time and want the absolute most convenient way to go about procuring it. 

Price comparisons: When you visit a store, you most likely have to settle for whatever price the vendor has placed on a particular item. Not so with online shopping - you have the ability to compare prices from hundreds of different vendors (see The Top Nine Comparison Shopping Sites). In addition, many online stores want to keep you as a customer, and offer deep discounts if you sign up for their newsletter; this is a good way to keep apprised of upcoming sales you wouldn't have otherwise known about.

 

Infinite choice: Shelf space in a brick and mortar store is limited, which means that your variety of goods is limited. Not so with an online store - the choices are overwhelmingly abundant. Plus, if you don't see what you want in one store online, you can simply move on to the next one - as the consumer, you've got the power to do that.

Easy access to consumer reviews: It's easy to access consumer reviews for pretty much any product you can think of online, which makes for more informed purchases. Not sure you're up to buying something? Simply look at the reviews from other consumers; you'll be able to make a much more informed decision. 

No pressure sales: We've all been awkwardly propositioned by eager salespeople. You don't have to put up with that online at all. Again, you are completely in charge of the experience. 

The cons of shopping online

These are just some of the advantages of online shopping. Are there disadvantages? Let's look at a few that might deter some customers from buying goods online:

You can't try things on. If you're buying a clothing item, you don't have the ability to feel the material, try it on, and see how it's made. Unless you know your measurements and are familiar with the brand of clothing offered, this could end up being a bad experience. Of course, most stores online make it very easy for you to return your item; in addition, most stores post detailed measurement and fabric information so these kinds of situations occur less often 

You can't talk to someone immediately. If you have a question about what you're looking at, you probably will have to wait at least 24 hours to get a question answered (however, many sites have "instant chat" enabled that take care of this issue).

 

Privacy and security: Privacy and security are legitimate concerns for any online shopper, but there are precautions you can take to make sure your transaction is a safe one. For example, paying attention to HTTPS protocols, installing free spyware removal tools, knowing how to identify online scams and hoaxes, surfing anonymously, and keeping your Web usage private are all smart ways to address any privacy and security issues.

Shopping online: it's here to stay!

There's nothing quite like the convenience of ordering something online, and while shopping on the Web does have some disadvantages, the advantages far outweigh any cons.

Check out this list of the top shopping sites online to get started.