As many as 2.64 billion people are involved in online shopping today. This number is increasing with every passing day and is expected to hit 2.77 billion by 2025.
With that in mind, it’s clear that online shopping continues to be the preferred mode for purchasing products and services for most people.
However, although online shopping has brought convenience into people’s lives, it’s not all rosy and sunsets. There’s a cost to relying too much on online shopping, and this article will explore the good and the bad side of online shopping.
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The convenience of ordering a product or service online has dramatically impacted how people live their lives in the 21st century. With fewer trips to the shopping mall, people now have more time to take care of other pressing issues.
Another practical side of online shopping is that, unlike physical shops, there are no fixed hours. You can order whatever you want at any time of day or night. This is very helpful for people who work late night shifts and can’t find any physical store, shop, or cafe open when they urgently need something.
With only shopping, you can forget the hassles of getting stuck in traffic or finding a good parking spot. Bad weather is another inconvenience you don’t have to deal with when shopping online, and neither are you affected by holidays when most physical shops stay closed.
One of the biggest hassles of physical shopping is never knowing the prices you’ll find there, let alone finding what you want. This can throw your budget off, especially in the current economic times when the prices of products and services shoot up without warning.
Online shopping gives you a preview of the product you need and the money you’ll have to spend. Some online shops are even gracious enough to provide as many different angles and descriptions of a product for your benefit.
But the most significant advantage of previewing products and services before committing to a purchase is comparing products from as many outlets as possible. You’ll not be under any obligation to buy an expensive product or service when another outlet offers it for less.
Some online shopping apps and websites offer customers quick comparison functionalities that save them from unnecessary headaches.
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A few years ago, it was virtually unheard of for an individual to buy something from another country and have it delivered straight to their door. That was a reservation for big importers. But now, you can order anything from the other end of the world and receive it a few days later.
As eCommerce continues to grow, more online shops that ship worldwide are popping up, which is suitable for buyers in the long run. Most online shops have partnered with freight companies that ship items bought by different people in bulk to reduce shipping costs.
Most times, all you need to do from your end is find the items you need from the comfort of your house, pay for them, and ensure the shipping company covers your region. All that’s left is to count the days until your purchase arrives.
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It takes mere minutes to place an order and complete the payment on a shopping platform. The time varies depending on the number of products you’re buying.
A recent study found that it takes the average consumer about 19 seconds to purchase an item from an online shop. The time is even shorter for regular shoppers who know what they want.
Most of the time spent online shopping usually goes to item searches and comparison. But once a buyer has decided, it only takes seconds to place items into an online cart and check out.
In fact, most people tend to shop online while tackling other tasks to save time. That can’t be done with traditional shopping in physical stores.
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The thing with virtual online shops is that they’re not affected by storage limitations. They don’t need physical shelves, just sufficient cloud storage to upload all the product images.
Consequently, this allows them to showcase as many products and services as possible, providing consumers with various selections.
For instance, one of my favorite online shops, SHEIN, has the biggest clothes inventory you’ll ever come across online. The sheer number of products is so overwhelming that new batches are added daily.
If you were looking for a pair of leather pants, a simple search will return over 100 different types of leather pants. This is the kind of selection you cannot find in any physical store, and that’s why online shops are rapidly taking over.
And the best part? You don’t need to ask an attendant whether they have different varieties of a particular product; everything is only a search away.
With unlimited choices comes one problem; the inability to know whether a product you’re about to purchase is genuine. Unlike in physical shops, where you can touch and feel a product to ascertain its quality, virtual images are all you see in online shops.
Customer reviews are the most reliable way of knowing whether a particular online shop sells excellent or bad products. Most reputable online shops have a comment section for each product where customers can review their products and services.
Although some people tend to be malicious with comments, a quick scroll through the comment section will give you a good idea of what to expect.
For instance, SHEIN allows buyers to post images of themselves wearing the clothes they buy from the platform. This is very informative for other potential buyers who can use these as testimonials to conclude that the products sold are authentic.
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Nobody enjoys bumping into other people, especially in crowded places. But avoiding crowds in shopping malls and stores is impossible unless you buy your items online.
With online shopping, you can take your time to study a product in detail without holding up queues or having to fight for space with someone else eyeing the same product.
The only form of “crowding” experienced in online stores is during flash sale events like Black Fridays, where the server may be overloaded with visitors.
Other than that, online shopping is an intimate and personal affair that one can even do while lounging or eating without the discomfort of bumping into other people.
You don’t have to walk around shopping aisles like in a physical shop or queue at the cashier’s whenever you want to pay for your items. So next time you need to shop during the holidays and want to avoid being sandwiched between bodies, do it online instead.
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Although it may not seem like it at face value, online shop products cost significantly less compared to their identical counterparts in physical shops.
The reason behind this is simple; there are fewer overhead costs involved because most online shops don’t require a physical shop, so that eliminates rent. The only thing an online shop has to pay for is the website domain and the necessary certificates, which get renewed once every year.
Secondly, most online shops source their products directly from the manufacturers. Eliminating intermediaries removes a huge chunk of the expenses that would have been gobbled up as facilitation fees. Manufacturers tend to offer good discounts on bulk purchases.
So next time you see unbelievable discounts on your favorite online store, it’s not a scam. They can afford to do that.
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You can gift your loved ones and friends without ever touching what you’re buying. Online shops are a complete enterprise machine. They source the products, avail them to you, and once you make a purchase, they handle the packaging and shipping at an extra cost.
This makes it easy to send gifts to other people no matter where they are as long as they’re in areas covered by the shipping company. This way, you don’t have to inconvenience yourself and disrupt your schedule to spend hours in a store that may not have what you want.
Furthermore, you can request in advance a specific item customized with a personal touch, depending on the occasion and relationship you have with the people you’re gifting. This is how you create memories without lifting a finger.
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Impulse buying is less prevalent in online shopping compared to physical shopping. The pressure to buy is way less online because you have the luxury to make comparisons until you find the lowest price possible.
This ample time grants consumers more control, reservation, and patience as they slowly curate their shopping cart, adding and removing items as they slowly proceed.
Furthermore, the fact that you can see the actual amount plus what you need to pay for shipping in real time makes people very conscious of what they’re getting. There’s no one trying to pressure you into buying something you don’t need.
Although modern online shops bombard buyers with discount ads, closing them immediately without paying them much attention is easier.
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You may enjoy the convenience of online shopping, but that cost is paid in the form of shipping fees.
Many factors affect the total amount of money you get charged for shipping. They include the distance between your location and the dispatch center, the type and weight of the product, and the urgency.
Fragile items will cost more to ship compared to light items like clothes. High-value items like electronics or designer fragrances attract a very high shipping price. The same goes for heavy and bulky items as they take up more space in the courier.
Shipping internationally attracts a lot of charges that can inflate the final shipping fee significantly. Extra expenses like import duty tax are always transferred to the buyer; in most cases, the shipping fee alone could be half the cost of the items.
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Most online shops outsource shipping to companies with better resources. Adding a third party into the equation usually increases the time it takes for the products to reach your doorstep.
Additionally, to save on shipping costs, most international shipping companies designate specific days for shipping out products. This is to ensure they send everything in bulk. While this move makes financial sense, the downside is that it doubles the shipping time. This can’t bode well if you happen to purchase perishable goods.
Finding same-day delivery is almost impossible for most online shops, so buyers must wait for delivery. Fortunately, some online stores usually provide buyers with a means of tracking their orders in real time, which can help ease your mind.
The biggest problem with online shopping is inconsistency in product quality. Sometimes this comes down to unscrupulous shops taking shortcuts to maximize profits, but at times it’s simply an honest mistake since they deal with many suppliers and manufacturers.
To make matters worse, you cannot check or try out what you’re buying before paying. Buying clothes can be challenging if you’re unfamiliar with your measurements. Cases of people buying clothes that don’t fit are common in online shopping.
The good news is that modern online shops usually provide a virtual scale where people can check their sizes. At the same time, they offer returns and refunds as long as the item hasn’t been damaged.
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Fraud related to global payments, which includes online shopping, hit $32.39 billion in 2020, and projections indicate that this value will eventually rise to $40.62 billion by 2027. This is very concerning.
Online shopping relies on digital payment methods like credit cards and payment platforms like PayPal. Despite being converted to secure online payments, scammers are getting better at circumnavigating firewalls.
One of the most common scams many online shoppers have fallen victim to is website cloning. This is where scammers create fake websites identical to the official ones, harvesting card details and cleaning the bank accounts of unsuspecting victims.
In addition, some online shops may never deliver what you bought or, sometimes, don’t even make any delivery nor refund the money. Consumers continue to pay the price of conducting business and making upfront payments with people they don’t know and can’t meet.
So, every time you enter your card details on some online shop, you know someone could be snooping around.
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Although the self-service model that underlies online shopping saves time, the lack of human contact and interaction can sometimes be unnerving and frustrating.
Add to the fact that most online stores are now switching to using bots that give automated and unhelpful answers. Getting help is next to impossible, making shopping a hellish experience.
When dealing with established and popular eCommerce shops, getting through to support can be a hassle since they’re dealing with so many people. You may only have to wait a day for an unsatisfactory answer.
Sometimes you may have to raise hell to get the help you need; frankly, that is not worth it.
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Remember when I mentioned that most online stores outsource shipping to other companies? Sometimes this has an unfortunate ripple effect on consumers dealing with inconsiderate shipping personnel.
It’s common to receive goods damaged in transit due to poor handling. In such cases, the consumer is usually left in limbo whenever the online shop and the shipping enterprise deny responsibility without any refunds.
Some shipping companies can even hike their shipping prices without warning, and failing to meet that demand could mean losing your items, which leads to an even bigger loss.
Therefore, before you make any online purchases, find out everything you can about the shipping process and those involved.
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All that glitters isn’t always gold, so you better think twice the next time you see unbelievable discounts in an online shop.
Knowing there’s very little a customer in another part of the world can do, some dishonest online stores lure in people with mouth-watering discounts only to sell them damaged, used, or expired goods.
This is usually carefully curated as a Flash Sale, and most consumers realize too late that they’ve been duped. Again, this is where reading customer reviews can save you from a lot of pain. Never do business with any online shop that lacks or hides customer reviews. That’s a major red flag.
Sometimes, what you see displayed in online stores is never available, and you only get notified once you’ve paid for it. Some stores fail to update their inventories, deliberately or otherwise, to stop you from going to their competitor.
Getting a refund usually leads to a prolonged back and forth as they try to convince you to keep the money in the store wallet, which means you can only use it there.
Other times, you may see items on backorder, forcing you to wait a long time before purchasing. If what you need is time sensitive, you’ll get inconvenienced while losing your money too.
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The most common method of payment used in online shopping is credit and debit cards. However, this may pose a problem when making international purchases in countries that don’t support the type of card you may have.
Additionally, buying items from countries with a stronger currency may hurt you in the long run because the currency conversion uses the highest rate possible, and you end up paying more.
A few online stores allow other payment options like PayPal, Wise, Stripe, or Venmo. However, only some countries support these options, which locks out potential customers.
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When you make online purchases, you must provide a physical address to which the items will be shipped. Most people use their home addresses, and often, these parcels may arrive when they’re out working.
Shipping companies are not under any obligation to protect the goods once delivered. Everything is off their hands once they drop off the order, and this can expose you to potential theft.
In some instances, shipping personnel has been known to feign delivering an item only to walk back and carry it with them. The only way to safeguard your order is to ensure their delivery coincides with your being at home.
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There’s no denying how transformative online shopping has been over the years. But there’s still so much that needs to be done and improved to ensure everybody involved is protected and has a wholesome experience.
If this is your first time making an online purchase, take your time to vet the vendors and the shipping companies to ensure you get the best experience.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.