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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More people than ever before are using the web to shop for a wide variety of items, from houses and groceries to shoes and airplane tickets. In April 2017, 40 percent of internet users were buying several things each month online, and that figure is expected to double by 2020. Being able to shop and buy online comes with several significant benefits, but it comes with a few disadvantages as well that you should know about.

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 to shoppers 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. Not so with online shopping—you 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 in your pocket if you sign up for their newsletters. They, they can keep you 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. 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? Look at the reviews from other consumers, and you'll be better able to make an informed decision. 
  • No pressure sales: We've all experienced awkward overtures by eager salespeople. You don't have to put up with that online at all.

The Cons of Shopping Online

A few disadvantages 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, 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. Most stores online make it easy for you to return your item 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 looking at, you may have to wait 24 hours to get a question answered. This situation is improving 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, 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.

    Online Shopping: 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 the cons.