The advent of the Internet has had an impact in our lives in all sorts of ways such as in the manner in which we communicate, flirt, date, and most importantly, how we shop. While even in the recent past the thought of whether some day one would be able to buy an Armani outfit wearing pajamas while looking after the needs of a couple of toddlers would have seemed an outlandish idea, thanks to the increasing sophistication of the technology of the 21st century, practically everything is virtually possible, and shopping from the comfort of one’s home has become a part of most people’s daily lives.
When retailing on the web started, sometime in the middle to the late 1990s, it gave rise to the debate which is still ongoing, about online vs. traditional shopping. And even though shopping centres are still being thronged by shoppers, just as they do on the Internet, the question still remains – Whether online shopping will conquer all, or if traditional shopping will survive this increasing onslaught of e-shopping? In order to study this, let’s examine a few pros and cons of online vs.
traditional shopping: One of the main advantages of shopping online is the elimination of the need to drive somewhere to buy something. So, no frustrations of dealing with traffic snarls and no parking problems. Besides, you could use up half your petrol merely shopping for the stuff you want. With the price of petrol being what it is these days, the money you save by shopping online will often be enough to pay for a few items or gifts you were thinking of buying. Online shopping saves precious time. With the busy lives that most of us lead these days, anything that saves time is a boon.
When you shop online, it will take you about a minute to log on to the Internet, about a minute or two more to access the website of the store of your choice, it may take another ten to fifteen minutes to select the items you want to buy, and about five minutes more to fill in the information about your payment and get a print out of your receipt. Voila! It would take you just about thirty minutes to do your shopping. Imagine all the things you could do with all the time saved, like spending quality time with the kids, or perhaps even catching the movie you have been meaning to see.
Online shopping offers a sense of ease and comfort; as opposed to trudging all through the highstreet hunting for the things you want. You can truly understand the difference between online vs. traditional shopping when you step into a brick and mortar shop, especially during holiday shopping season. You have to struggle your way through crowds of jostling people, wait in queues to make your purchase, and you usually have to go from one store to another to find some item you may be looking for. And that is one of the main problems of a traditional shop.
Usually, if you are looking for a particular item, you will find only limited choices of it. Having a limitation of shelf space, brick and mortar shops simply cannot afford to provide large varieties of products. For them, it makes economic sense to fill the limited space on their shelves with items that sell most. These products may not necessarily be the best, but probably are the ones that are marketed the best. Online stores, on the other hand, do not have this problem of limitation of shelf space.
“Shelf space” that is virtual is limited only by the web server’s storage capacity. Hence, an online store can have innumerable varieties of a particular product, which would use up negligible hard drive space. With suppliers providing same day shipping facility, virtual stores need not even carry the stocks of all the items, hence they require no shelf space for warehousing either. Since online shelf space happens to be so plentiful and cheap, it means online shops can also cater to particular niche markets.
For example, an online store can afford to sell just intercom systems such as video intercoms, wireless intercoms, wireless infant monitoring systems and the like, which would not be possible for a brick and mortar retail store. Even if it were located in a large city, while it would perhaps sell some intercom systems, the sales would not be able to cover the overhead expenses involved in brick and mortar stores. This is where online stores win hands down against brick and mortar stores. Compared to a building made of brick and mortar, online websites are incredibly cheap to set up.
And to top it all, unlike a building which is accessible only to the people of the locality, websites are accessible to the whole world. When you shop online, you have the ability to scroll quickly through several stores to locate the item you want to buy. Most of these websites are very user friendly and simple to navigate through. All of which implies that the advent of online shopping has provided consumers the facility of making infinite choices in getting exactly the product they want.
The demand and supply bottle-necks of the past no longer exist; hence everyone has access to everything. With shelf space not costing much, everyone’s shopping requirements can be catered to. The next important factor of online vs. traditional shopping is the price. You will hardly ever find actual sales when you shop in a traditional retail store. More often than not, the so called “sale price” tagged on a product is its actual price, and is just put there each weekend to entice customers. Whereas, when you shop online, you can hop from one store to another, comparing prices.
Thus, when there is an actual drop in prices, you can actually benefit from it. Another feature that online stores offer which traditional stores don’t is wholesale. When a product is sold at or less than the retail price, it is referred to as wholesale. Such sales are never available in brick and mortar retail outlets. In addition, besides being to able to shop from the comfort of your home, you can shop online any time during the day. Shops on the Internet never shut down for the night, unlike traditional retail shops and shopping centres.
This means that you never have to think about having to wait for the right time to shop, to avoid crowds. You can shop whenever you have the time and feel the need to. However, traditional shopping does have certain plus points. Immediate gratification that local brick and mortar shops provide is still liked by many people. If you want something right away, just now, getting it from a retail store is the only option. Seeing and touching a product is also an important factor for many people when they buy things.
For example, most people would not buy a piece of expensive jewellery only on the basis of a picture on a website. The chances are slim for the Internet to capture a share of the market of industries which are more suitable for traditional shopping. While consumers can carry out research online for high priced items like properties and cars, people usually want to see the piece of real estate or visit a car showroom and test drive a car before finalising a deal. A traditional retailer bestows the personalised human contact which is not available on the Internet.
Besides, for many people shopping is a source of entertainment, almost a social rite. People like to handle things, especially clothes, feel the texture, and try them on to see how they look in them. But the rising popularity of shopping online proves that for an increasing number of people factors like avoiding the inconvenience and crowds, incompetent shopping assistants in the store, going all the way to the shop only to find the product they are looking for is out of stock outweigh the few advantages that traditional shopping has to offer.
Practically everything that can be bought at a shopping centre or a retail store can be obtained online with ease in addition to being priced competitively. The only extra expense is the delivery but this could be outweighed by the savings you make shopping around online. So, if you really want an easier time when shopping, then doing it online is the best way to go about it.