Shopping is always an exciting and unique experience for us. It’s the special time we set aside to acquire something we desire with our hard-earned money.
The modern customer is spoiled with choices.
Head to a favorite apparel store and check out the latest fashion garments.
This old-fashioned way of retail shopping is still a popular pick.
With the turn of the century, eCommerce has undoubtedly invaded our homes, no longer do we have to leave the comfort of our homes. In our busy lives, many of us choose to shop online.
Now the million-dollar question – which is an advantageous way to shop? – Retail or Online?
vn-parco helps you clear all your shopping doubts with a unique in-depth comparison.
- 1 A GLIMPSE INTO THE WORLD OF ONLINE SHOPPING
- 2 ADVANTAGES OF ONLINE SHOPPING
- 3 DISADVANTAGES OF ONLINE SHOPPING
- 4 IS THE RETAIL STORE DEAD? EXPLORING THE ADVANTAGES OF A PHYSICAL STORE
- 5 ADVANTAGES OF BUYING IN PERSON
- 6 FINAL THOUGHTS
A GLIMPSE INTO THE WORLD OF ONLINE SHOPPING
How big is online shopping exactly?
Let’s demonstrate a few statistics to paint a picture.
The following report was conducted by PwC’s annual survey of consumer behavior and as such the report is based on survey feedback.
- 70% of Chinese shoppers preferred to shop online once a week
- 40% of European and American shoppers preferred to shop online once a week
- 90% of online shoppers did their entertainment shopping online – books, music, and movies.
- 49% of respondents were attracted to deals and promotions
- 17% of online shoppers would begin following the brand after buying a product they liked
- 26% of online shoppers bought products based on their friend or family’s recommendation
- 17% of online shoppers went on to refer their recently purchased product to friends and family
- 28% of online shoppers were interested in purchasing a brand-new product that launched
- 5% of respondents shopped due to the convenience of having customer service via social media
The report was conducted in 2013 when online shopping was still in its infancy.
In 2018, the United States alone had an astonishing revenue of $501-million in online sales. This figure is expected to increase to $740 million by 2023. A rise of over $200 million in just 5 years.
Why do shoppers prefer online platforms?
What are the benefits of being an online shopper?
What are the disadvantages of an online shopper?
Let’s dig deep into the consumer’s mind and find out the real reasons.
ADVANTAGES OF ONLINE SHOPPING
With eCommerce tightening its grasp around the neck of consumers, the increase in online shopping is apparent with each passing year.
The internet surely has its part to play in revolutionizing the way we acquire our daily needs as well as our luxuries.
After all, the ease of adding items to your cart and hitting ‘Checkout’ is beloved by millions.
Here are 6 brief reasons why consumers prefer online shopping.
1. For the Convenience
Going to an actual physical store is a demanding task.
It requires you to shower, put on your best clothes, pamper yourself with the finest perfume and groom every strand of your hair to the perfect angle.
While buying online requires – well nothing at all.
Online shopping can be done in your pajamas, in your wedding dress or if you prefer, in nature’s modest attire.
Ecommerce dispels all the suspense from your shopping experience and provides you with an efficient way to browse through various brands without store hopping, saving copious amounts of time.
Online marketplaces are always open 24/7 and don’t have working hours. This flexible factor is the biggest positive in the modern world of convenience.
Digital items like video games and music can be downloaded instantly without the need for plastic or any physical packaging, thus promoting an eco-friendly way to shop.
Digital items are also on-demand and you’ll have full access to your product within seconds of purchasing them.
Avoid those lengthy shipping times!
2. Effortless Price-to-Value Comparisons
When buying a product, you undoubtedly compare it with another brand to get the best value and price.
In a physical store, you’ll have to gather the items together and individually find out the difference between them.
And even then, the specifications aren’t clear to your purpose.
An online store helps the consumer by listing all the specifications and product measurements in detail. This provides the buyer with enough information to choose between different products instantaneously.
Take, for example, you’ve decided to buy a television set and are at a crossroads while deciding between the top 3 brands – Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic.
By simply pulling over a price comparison chart with the product specifications, you’ll receive information on all 3 products in one single view screen. This allows you to judge which TV brand is the right one for you in a matter of minutes.
In a physical store, you’d have to arrange all 3 television sets together to get an understanding, and most stores aren’t willing to go through the hassle. Hence, you’re left at the mercy of a store representative and their recommendation.
Another advantage of eCommerce shopping are reviews left by shoppers to assist you with a product.
Websites like Amazon and Walmart have a star rating system to help other buyers decide if the product is of high quality or not.
3. Discreet Purchases
As humans, the way others perceive us is extremely important in a social living space. Hence, we live dignified lives in society while we explore our inner desires in private.
That’s where online shopping comes in.
With adult toys, provocative undergarments, and sexual wellness products filling up the shelves of online stores, it makes it comfortable for someone to explore their sinful cravings without the constant paranoia of society’s judging eyes on them.
Privacy in online shopping is one of the biggest reasons consumers prefer to shop online rather than a physical store.
Choosing an online experience eliminates the chance encounter of a nosy neighbor during one of your off-road shopping trips.
4. Discounts and Promotions via Personalized Wishlist
There’s no reliable way to find out about the latest product releases if you aren’t visiting your local mall every weekend. Doing so in a digital world is painful with so many websites.
The modern shopper has a quick fix to this problem.
Simply whip out your smartphone and browse through all the categories with the latest products and sales listed. Utilize the various filters to streamline your experience.
Thanks to wishlists, never miss out on price drops or hourly sales on your favorite items because you were too busy getting your teeth whitened at the dentist.
A watchlist or wish list is when you add an item that isn’t on sale into a specific list of items that you wish to buy in the future. Many online stores provide you with alerts when the price of the item drops, or a discount coupon is available to use.
Online shopping can save you a lot of money when you shop during sales. Many of the sales are usually customized around festive seasons like – Halloween and Christmas.
5. No Crowds No Sales Pressure
A marketplace is a daunting place for people that hate crowds. Especially, during the holiday season, when you head up to your local mall only to be greeted by a frenzy of people.
Apart from expecting a delayed delivery, online shopping sites don’t have any inconvenience of dealing with a large crowd of people.
Their websites are updated to handle a horde of shoppers with minimal downtime.
Another aspect that makes online shopping accessible is avoiding pesky salesmen that pressure you to buy a product.
Socially anxious individuals often fall prey to sales pressure and make a purchase that they later wish they didn’t.
This form of sales interaction is entirely avoidable with no salesmen present when you shop online.
6. Gifting is Painless
It’s Father’s Day!
Unfortunately, you’ve forgotten to purchase a gift for your dear dad.
To make matters worse, it’s also the middle of the night and no reputed store worth their money would be selling a worthy present for your dad at this ungodly hour.
Don’t sweat it! With just a click away and over a million specialized gifting options to choose from, occasions are no longer a chore for online shoppers.
Whether it’s a wedding anniversary or Valentine’s day, online stores are equipped to offer their customers a range of gift wrappers and ensure your loved ones receive their gifts on time.
This makes it an incredibly convenient way to gift family and friends who live over long distances or in different countries.
Many online shoppers provide gift vouchers or gift cards that can be topped up with their preferred currency. This allows for a more personalized gifting experience that allows the recipient to choose a product from their own wishlist.
DISADVANTAGES OF ONLINE SHOPPING
We’d be lying if we told you there were no flaws in the online shopping experience.
In fact, many of these red flags appear much more commonly with a billion people choosing online shopping as their preferred way to purchase products.
Let’s unfold these drawbacks.
1. Credit Card Thefts
Sure, having your purse or wallet stolen while shopping at the mall is likely.
But it’s unlikely that the thief is going to be using your credit card minutes after stealing it.
And it’s even more unlikely for you to go hours before noticing that your precious plastic card is stolen.
All it takes is a call to your bank’s customer support to have your card blocked before any damage has been done.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple when you shop online.
Online shopping is a thriving ground for virtual pickpocketers. In a report by Experian, credit card fraud increased by a whopping 30% from 2016 to 2017.
Most of the attacks take place when shoppers enter their credit card information on online sites that aren’t encrypted. A non-encrypted site is like living in a house without a door – anyone can sneak a peek and there isn’t any privacy.
Having your credit card information stolen leaves you exposed to data breach and lets criminals utilize your card multiple times before you know what’s happening.
Apart from losing money, credit cards have personal information regarding your identity. In 2017, Javelin Research demonstrated that credit cards are among the leading causes of identity theft in the United States leaving 16.7 million shoppers affected.
2. Delayed Shipping
Picture the following example.
After placing an online order for a top-of-the-line Gibson electric guitar, you excitedly spend the entire night playing air riffs with an invisible guitar. The joy is limitless, purchasing something you’ve always wanted is a thrilling affair.
The next day you wait by the window and hope for the familiar dress code of your logistics guy to pop up in the distance. After waiting anxiously for a few hours, you glance through the details of your delivery order to see if the delivery date is right.
The date seems to be perfect, what could be wrong?
Tragically, you’re a victim of delayed shipping.
It’s only a matter of time before you receive an apologetic message from your logistics partner on your product being delayed due to unforeseen circumstances.
The excitement level has all but diminished. You immediately call the customer support and after a few unpleasant conversations, the huge mistake of purchasing online over your retail store is apparent.
Welcome to an online experience that numerous individuals face daily and are the bane of good shopping experience.
Delayed shipping is a deal-breaker. Especially, when it takes a few minutes to head down to your local store and buy the item.
Unfortunately, many online stores don’t usually offer a cancellation after shipping the product unless a valid reason is provided. This leaves you with no choice but to collect your product when it reaches you.
Customers are usually at the mercy of the eCommerce site and their logistics partner. It’s even worse when you’ve prepaid for the product.
3. Hidden Costs, No After-Sales Assistance, & Lack of Bargaining Power
The very advantages that make an effortless shopping experience is a disadvantage when the need arises.
While we don’t want pesky salespeople at our faces advertising products to us, we can’t deny that there are positives to take away from this.
For example – a product demonstration is important if you wish to know what your product is capable of without having buyer’s remorse. And more reasons are listed below.
- Online products have a wall of text of products followed by an advertising video that doesn’t say much about them. The customer doesn’t physically feel the product, nor do they understand the flaws.
- Many online products have a ‘No-return’ policy, and you’re stuck with what you buy. This makes online shopping quite the gamble.
- On the off chance your item reaches you in a broken condition, not all online sellers honor the replacement policy and you must follow through with several emails back and forth leaving you wasting your time.
- Also, you’re unable to bargain the price of the item below the price tag shown, and that’s where the online marketplace reflects a place that favors sellers.
- Unlike retail stores, there isn’t any sales representative to give you an after-sales service of the product and this strips the buyer from their purchasing power.
- Clothing products when bought in a retail store provide a trial room to try out. Online shopping requires you to ship the product if the size doesn’t fit. It may take days to weeks for you to receive an exchange.
4. Don’t be Lured by Pretty Product Images
One aspect that online stores repeatedly do is to polish and add intensifying pictures on their home and product page to lure consumers. Many of these images don’t represent the actual product.
Numerous online sellers get away using this gimmick by adding a ‘No Return’ clause in the long list of terms and conditions that no buyer usually reads before they buy.
The text could be something simple like ‘Subjects in the photograph don’t necessarily reflect the actual product’. This is their ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card, quite literally.
By stating it in their TOS, the seller can refuse a claim for refund or replacement while the customer is left with a poor-quality product.
This makes online shopping a frightening experience.
IS THE RETAIL STORE DEAD? EXPLORING THE ADVANTAGES OF A PHYSICAL STORE
When was the last time you walked into a retail Polo store to explore their latest offerings?
Not for a decade?
Here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t know – Polo shut down operations on their flagship store located in New York City.
With a huge number of customers preferring to take their business online. Many brands have exited the retail store business model and have embraced the online route.
But the question still stands.
Is the retail store dead? Or are there advantages to shopping in the traditional way?
Let’s find out.
ADVANTAGES OF BUYING IN PERSON
The short answer is – No, the physical store is not dead.
Brands all over the world would shut their physical storefronts if there was no profit to be made in physical stores.
The existence of physical stores is proof that retail stores are still profitable in today’s times and provide exclusive advantages over online shopping.
Here are some of the reasons brands continue to sell their merchandise through storefronts.
1. Personalized Touch
If it wasn’t obvious to you already, there are a good number of shoppers that still love the good old-fashioned experience of physically feeling their products before buying.
The hands-on product experience offers plenty of advantages such as in-store trials before purchasing or free samples to understand the product better.
Online product images only provide a brief display of what the product is. When we shop physically, we use our senses like touch, smell, and sight to provide us with information on the quality of the product.
Product demonstrations are physical when you buy in person.
Let’s say you wanted an electronic item with many features, a store representative will perform a demo in front of you to provide you with information about the product. With this type of presentation, you’ll make intelligent buying decisions.
Online items are devoid of any physical touch and hence, you are left at the mercy of reading the product description for product information.
The personalized experience is why retail stores are a boon to shoppers that prefer a sensory shopping experience than a convenient one.
2. Impulse Purchases
Imagine you’re watching a musical film and are drawn towards the characters and plot.
At the end of the feature-length, you immediately begin to dream visions of becoming a world-renowned musician yourself. After all, the actor in the movie was loved by everyone and he too began from nothing.
All it takes is an investment in a high-quality musical instrument, and you aren’t far away from becoming the next Mozart yourself.
The euphoric state of mind induced by the movie has released a burst of excitement within you. While this excitement is temporary and fades in time, it’s caused enough damage to create an impulse to buy an online product that you don’t fully wish to utilize.
With online shopping, all you need is a credit card and your product is on its way to you. Impulse buying is at an all-time high with online shopping.
With impulse buying, your finances are mismanaged and you’ll dangerously enter a shopping addiction that many buyers dread.
With a retail store, instant gratification is out of the question. When you desire a product, you’ll still have to travel to the store and make the purchase. During this travel time, much of the excitement for the intended product dies and most individuals change their minds about buying a product.
3. Secure Payments
Payment methods such as cash payments are a much secure option for traditional brick and mortar shoppers. There is no worry about your plastic card being hacked or your customer data being leaked all over the internet.
While many retail stores employ modern methods of payment, you can be sure that if you share your card details, it’s all happening in front of you and the identity of the store clerk isn’t a mystery.
If you do end up becoming the unfortunate victim of credit card theft due to phishing, you’ll have a face, a company, and a location to pin the blame on.
These details assist in investigating the crime and with the use of CCTV footage, the culprit’s identity is revealed with a high chance of your funds being returned to you.
Online credit card hackers employ secured networks such as VPNs and other masking software to hide their identities.
An article by CSO demonstrates that cybercriminals are among the toughest crimes to persecute simply because the criminals leave no actual evidence and it’s easy to tamper with IP addresses to send the law enforcement on a wild goose chase.
Also, in an online cybercrime, the perpetrator is usually located in another country and tracking them is impossible and expensive.
The chance of tracking your funds in an online environment is an extremely difficult process and the online shopping experience is one way for people to lose all their finances.
Ideally, it’s always better to avoid the online experience altogether and choose a retail store for a much more secure experience.
4. Enjoy the Social Experience
Whether it’s simply going out with your friends or meeting new people at the mall. The retail store experience is always about human interaction and offers a social atmosphere that isn’t present in an online experience.
Having a discussion with your family and friends about what shirt goes well with your jeans are some of the treasured experiences that are lost when you shop online.
Engaging in chitchat with the store clerks creates a relatable experience for repeated visits. You’ll be provided with the latest gossip and even the biggest discounts for being a positive person. They can also provide tips on the right size and fit that is appropriate for your appearance.
Many malls host community events during holidays and offer plenty of fun-filled events for everyone to participate in. Online stores will never rival the traditional in-store experience when it comes to a social level.
Here is an in-depth video of Taylor Romero explaining how technology would revolutionize retail shopping.
There is no right or wrong way to shop. There are only sensible and extravagant shoppers to differentiate from.
Both categories of shopping experiences are diverse and are very different from each other. A good idea is to maintain a good balance between online shopping and storefront buying. Setting up a list of rules for shopping will create a positive experience.
For example – Buying online during holiday events helps you avoid crowds. However, offseason, it’s a good idea to head over to a storefront and get a real firsthand experience of the product before purchasing.
This lets you experience the joy of shopping between two worlds.
What shopping experience do you prefer – Online or Retail? Why? Comment below to let us know.