The Pros and Cons of Shopping Online

Find great deals online, but be safe about it

A woman at a laptop screen holding a baby and a credit card
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Many people use the web to shop for a wide variety of items, from houses and groceries to shoes and airplane tickets. In April 2017, 40% of internet users bought several things each month online, and that figure is expected to double by 2020. Online shopping comes with several significant benefits, but it also comes with a few disadvantages you should know about as well.

The Pros of Shopping Online

Online shopping offers many distinct advantages, including:

  • Convenience: In comparison to a brick-and-mortar store with fixed hours, online shopping venues are available any time of the day or night. This is especially useful for moms with small children, people who are homebound, people who work days, and in times of inclement weather.
  • 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.
  • 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 apprised of upcoming sales.
  • Infinite choice: Shelf space in a brick-and-mortar store is limited, which means your variety of goods is limited. Not so with an online store. The 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.
  • 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 overtures by eager salespeople. You don't have to put up with that online.

The Cons of Shopping Online

Here are a few disadvantages that might deter customers from buying goods online:

  • You can't try things on. If you're buying a clothing item, you can't feel the material, try it on, or 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. 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 looking at, you may have to wait 24 hours to get a question answered. This situation is improving, however, as many sites have added "instant chat" to address concerns and answer questions on the spot.
  • 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, pay attention to HTTPS protocols, install free spyware removal tools, know how to identify online scams and hoaxes, surf anonymously, and keep your web usage private.