Thanks to the many advancements in technology, online purchasing has become a popular convenience for shoppers around the world. According to Magento, the number of consumers who resort to acquiring new products via the computer has increased and is predicted to consistently do so. Nevertheless, there is a negative side to this seemingly simple process and it is crucial that shoppers and sellers alike maintain a guarded, professional environment when interacting online.
Online shopping has a number of advantages that appeal to its audience. First and foremost, it is an ideal, hassle-free situation for those who would rather shop at their leisure. As opposed to rushing to the local mall and fighting crowds for products on special days (like Black Friday, the most consumer-friendly event of the year and every retail sales associate’s worst nightmare), a consumer is given the option to sit in comfortable pajamas and merely click through pages of items found in stores and exclusively on business websites. As also reported by Magento, the average online shopper spent $186.33 on Black Friday (which evens out to about how much an in-person shopper spent), but had the freedom to do so without having to wait through tedious lines at registers or sifting through endless hoards of clothes for appropriate sizes.
Choosing to purchase online mainly allows a shopper to save time. Sharon Housley of Translation Directory asserts, “If you already know what you’re looking for, shopping online can save you a significant amount of time. With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can place your order and move on to other things.” Or, for those who know what they would like but not where to find it, search engines like Google or Bing are there to assist the consumer in a much more beneficial way than running around every store and asking associates where to find whatever they do not carry. Once a consumer knows where to find a product, they are also allowed the option to do price comparisons, once again preventing a run around the mall for hours on end.
Despite these appealing pros, there are a number of hidden cons that must be kept into perspective. Companies like eBay or Amazon that support amateur businesses who either auction off or sell goods have been known to handle less than legitimate transactions. Popular items to sell are secondhand, so consumers cannot be sure what they are purchasing is indeed still functioning as being advertised. Shoppers are unable to physically hold and inspect the product and must trust in a seller to provide them with an accurate photo and honestly list any potential flaws. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case.
Furthermore, a disadvantage to buying a product that must be mailed to the consumer are its shipping fees. These costs are the equivalent of transportation fees for the shopper who chooses to visit the mall. At times, sellers advertise a product and promise to pay the shipping fees themselves, in an attempt to make the item more desirable to their audience. Most of the time, however, they include the fees as an additional payment after the item has been sold. Housley states, “The additional shipping costs can make the overall cost of purchasing online, especially for larger and heavier items, much less attractive than buying locally.”
Photo by Sixninepixels
While retail companies like Forever 21 or Guess are more likely to maintain a professional atmosphere with honest guidelines and principles compared to amateur-friendly websites, they are also not foolproof in their methods. Shoppers are robbed of opportunities to sample what they would like to buy, which is especially important when purchasing clothes online. The consumer is obviously not given the article to try on and test for size and visual appeal, thus relying on a default picture of a t-shirt on a model to determine its value. Additionally, when purchasing online, there is no “instant gratification” as Housley calls it.
When buying from a website like Vans, shoppers are unable to receive their products immediately, often waiting up to two weeks for their goods to arrive. By then, the excitement of the purchase has faded and the thrill of spending hard-earned paychecks has worn off. In a worst-case scenario, the item finally arrives and comes defected, whether thrown around during the travel or sent with rips and tears that the consumer could not prepare for.
It is to be expected that shopping through the Internet requires a level of honesty that is not necessarily required when handling directly with a retail store. Due to the anonymity of purchasing from small businesses and uncertain locations, the best advice to give is for the consumer to always read the fine print involved in a transaction, before making one. For instance, there have been sellers on eBay who offer their goods at minimal prices, but charge a hefty fee for shipping. A first-time buyer may not catch the deceitful act until it is too late and the item has already been locked to them. Anyone who chooses to shop online must always be patient and expect their purchases to come up to three weeks after they paid for it, as is usually the case. Many websites also have step-by-step instructions for how to handle items that come defective, in an effort to prevent headaches and encourage shoppers to not lose faith in online purchasing. Websites like eBay also show a “Top-Rated Seller” button for sellers who have gained strong support and positive feedback from a majority of its customers, further building up trust between online sellers and buyers.
Thus, just as in-person shopping has its ups and downs, online shopping is no different.
Feature Photo found here!