I think we can all agree that technology has changed our lives in many ways. In fact, over the past two decades, technology has advanced at such a rapid rate that most people have a hard time keeping up with the latest trends and gadgets. It should come as no surprise, so with every technological advance, our lives are rapidly transformed into new ways of doing things.
Technology is greatly affected by the way we, as consumers, buy products and services. Years ago, buying items from a store was the only way to get what you wanted or needed. That is certainly not the case today! Since the advancement of technology, consumers have a completely new way of shopping; online shopping. Over the past 5 to 10 years, we have seen a change in consumer behavior from buying in a store to buying online.
For those of us who need immediate gratification, the downside to shopping online is that merchandise must be shipped to the consumer, presenting a significant delay and potential uncertainty as to whether the item will arrive before it is needed. Also, in the event that there is a problem with the item when it is delivered, most customers do not find it an advantageous process to return the items by mail.
Additionally, without the ability to personally inspect merchandise before purchasing, consumers are at greater risk of fraud than in a brick-and-mortar store. In addition, merchants also run the risk of customers making fraudulent purchases using stolen credit cards or fraudulently rejecting online purchases.
Although the benefits of shopping online are considerable, the disadvantages of shopping online can be remedied through the policies and procedures of retailers. It is very important that online stores post these policies and procedures, include return instructions, describe shipping details, and other specific information to allay customer fears. Customers should also make sure they take the time to read these details carefully and become informed buyers so they don’t have surprises in the delivery of their merchandise.
Some additional helpful tips that consumers should consider before buying online include:
- Ensure the site is secure with provisions to protect customer information.
- Make sure online stores don’t save or share billing information.
- Be sure of the stores’ policies on sharing personal information about your purchase.
- Look for store reviews through customer posts on the site or elsewhere.
- Trust customer testimonials or referrals through friends and family.
These are the main benefits, but not all of them are good news for online shoppers. Customers must be very selective and extremely cautious when shopping online. Here’s a look at some of the downsides to online shopping and how to tackle them.
1) Information Security – It is important to ensure that you only shop from reputable stores that respect the security of your personally identifiable information and credit card details. Buying from the wrong stores may well mean the loss of money and the risks associated with the leakage of your personal information.
2) Delivery time: Unlike offline shopping, where you carry the purchased products, doing it online means waiting for the store to deliver your products to you. This varies in time from a few hours to several days or even weeks. Certain circumstances are under the control of online retailers, however, sometimes things can go wrong in terms of couriers damaging or delaying the delivery of your orders. Always allow plenty of time for delivery and read the retailer’s delivery and return terms carefully.
3) Shipping costs: On certain low-value items, it is clearly more expensive to buy online, as shipping costs usually increase the price of the products. However, if you buy multiple items at the same time, you can make up for the loss or even save some money.
4) Fraudulent retailers – Some websites are simply fraudulent, all they are looking for is your credit card details. So instead of rushing out to buy, make sure the retailer is trustworthy. Retailers found through price comparison websites and various reputable directories tend to be fine for shopping. Avoid retailers who reach you through spam emails and other unreliable sources.
Online shopping is indeed a convenient way to shop, however, don’t just base your purchase decision on prices. Ridiculously low prices on valuable items can result in compromised service. Always base your purchasing decisions on a combined set of criteria including customer reviews, retailer information, and where you found the retailer in the first place.