15 Pros and Cons of Shopping Online

Find great deals online, but be safe about it

There are tons of online shopping sites where you can buy everything from plane tickets and flat-screen TVs to food, clothes, furniture, office supplies, movies, and lots more.

However, while shopping online is clearly convenient and sometimes even fun, there are also disadvantages of online shopping. You should know the cons to online shopping if you want to realize the benefits of shopping at a traditional store.

The Pros of Shopping Online

Woman shopping on tablet
Tim Robberts / Getty Images

There are lots of distinct advantages of online shopping:

Time Convenience

In comparison to a brick-and-mortar store with fixed hours, online shopping venues are available any time, day or night. This is especially useful for parents with small children, anyone who works throughout the day, and during times of inclement weather.

Shopping Apps

No matter who you are, shopping from an app is one of the most convenient luxuries. Whether you're homebound or able to visit a store, shopping from your phone is a uniquely awesome experience.

Price Comparisons

When you visit a store, you most likely settle for whatever price the vendor has placed on a particular item. With online shopping, you can compare prices from hundreds of different vendors. Grocery store price comparison apps are one example.

Discounts and Notifications

Online stores want to keep you as a customer, so they may offer deep discounts, rewards, and cash back if you sign up for their newsletters. This can keep you updated on all the best upcoming sales. Coupon codes—like the ones you can get from these coupon code sites—are also extremely popular when shopping online.

Infinite Choice

Shelf space in a physical store is limited, which means your variety of goods is limited. This isn't true with online stores where choices are overwhelmingly abundant. If you don't see what you want at one store online, you can move on to the next one. As the consumer, you have the power to do that.

No Size Limitation

Another benefit to online shopping is when the product you're wanting to buy is too big to haul in your own vehicle. Buying a boat from an auction site or ordering a tiny home online are just two examples of situations where your car just won't cut it.

Zero Parking Struggles

Finding a parking spot can be a big reason you don't stop at a store. Especially around the holidays, there's a major benefit of no congestion when shopping online.

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 informed purchases. Not sure you're up to buying something? Conduct a little research by checking out customer reviews. 

No Pressure Sales

We've all experienced awkward approaches by eager salespeople. You don't have to put up with that online.

More Payment Methods

Another benefit of online shopping is that you can pay for things differently than you can at a physical store. There are lots of retailers that support Bitcoin, for example.

The Cons of Shopping Online

Here are a few disadvantages of internet shopping that might deter you from making your next purchase online:

You Can't Try Things On

If you're buying clothes online, you can't feel the material, see how it fits around your waist, or notice 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. Most online stores make it easy for you to return items for this reason. Clothing websites also usually post detailed measurement and fabric information to minimize returns. 

You Can't Always Talk to Someone Immediately

If you have a question about what you're about to order, or what you just ordered but want to return, you may have to wait a full day or longer to get your question answered. This situation is improving, however, as many sites have added an instant chat service to address concerns and answer questions on the spot.

Must Wait for Delivery

Need something no later than this afternoon? Not many online shopping sites have same-day delivery, and none of them offer the on-the-spot, take-home advantage that a physical store does. In fact, some online shopping sites take weeks to deliver your order (though, they're in the minority).

Shipping Costs

Depending on what you're buying, you could spend the same amount on just shipping costs, or sometimes even more. In-store shopping has no need to charge extra for shipping.

Privacy and Security

Privacy and security are legitimate concerns for any online shopper. Your payment information could get stolen from the site or someone who works there could copy your bank details and use them later on their own purchases. It's also hard to immediately recognize whether an online store is real or just there to scam you.

There are precautions you can take when shopping online to make the experience more secure. Paying attention to whether or not the site is using HTTPS is one example, as is learning how to identify email scams. Learn the top tips for shopping safely online for some more advice.