17 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. While shopping online is convenient and fun, there are some disadvantages. Know the cons to realize the benefits of shopping at a traditional store.

Woman shopping online with credit card
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The Pros of Shopping Online

There are, of course, 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

Shopping from an app is a convenient luxury. 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 coupon code sites—are also extremely popular when shopping online.

Infinite Choice

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

No Size Limitation

Another benefit is when the product you want to buy is too big to haul in your 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 do the job.

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. When it's really busy, you might not even remember where you parked your car!

Home Delivery for the Disabled

Buying oversized items and not having to worry about parking are benefits everyone can take advantage of, but if you're physically disabled to the point that you can't drive or walk through a store, online shopping might be your only solution to ordering food, essential items, and other goods.

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. If you're not sure if you're up to buying something, conduct a little research by checking out customer reviews.

No Pressure Sales

If you don't want to experience awkward approaches by eager salespeople, you don't have to put up with that online. While you could consider pop-up ads a similar experience, they're a bit easier to suppress. Car auction websites are a great example of this.

Fewer Impulse Buys

This one depends on your shopping habits. If you find it easier to buy things you see in passing as you walk through a store's aisles, online shopping could save you money and even help you make healthier choices.

More Payment Methods

Another benefit of online shopping is that you can pay for things differently than you can at a physical store. Some retailers support PayPal or 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

When you buy 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 be a bad experience. Most online stores make it easy to return items for this reason. Clothing websites 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 or automated bot-answering screen 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. Some online shopping sites take weeks to deliver your order (though, they're in the minority).

Shipping Costs

Depending on what you buy, 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 the site uses HTTPS is one example.

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