Shopping websites. To some of us they make life so easy; no matter what you need to buy and when you need to get it for, online shopping normally means you can get it without even leaving the sofa. And for those of us (don’t worry, my hand’s up for this too) who are too lazy to throw on a clean shirt and leave the house under some kind of pretence that we’re actually real live adults, the ability to use shopping websites is literally a Godsend.
But are the best deals online? And is it even safe to buy online?
Oh bless you, are you from the 90s? Of course it’s safe to buy online now, everyone knows that. As long as you shop from the right places, in the right way, security isn’t really an issue. So when should you shop online, and when should you shop instore?
- 1 The Disadvantages Of Online Shopping
- 1.1 1/ Haggling Gets A Bit Difficult On Shopping Websites
- 1.2 2/ You Can Only Get So Far With Pictures
- 1.3 3/ You Can’t Ask Anyone To Hold Your Hand And Walk You Through A Sale
- 1.4 4/ It’s A Lonely World Online
- 1.5 5/ Personalisation Online Only Gets It So Right
- 1.6 6/ I WANT THIS RIGHT NOW WHY ISN’T IT IN MY HAND YET
- 1.7 7/ Your Postman Is An Idiot
- 2 The Advantages Of Shopping Online
- 2.1 1/ Believe Me When I Say – You’ll Find The Best Deals Online
- 2.2 2/ Swamping Yourself With Variety
- 2.3 3/ Avoiding Retailer Bias
- 2.4 4/ Having The Chance To Find A Better Deal
- 2.5 5/ You Don’t Need To Leave Your Bed (Or Get Dressed!)
- 2.6 6/ You Can Shop Out Of Hours
- 2.7 7/ No Heavy Shopping Bags (Or Petrol Costs)
- 3 So Should I Shop Online, Or Instore?
- 4 SEE MORE: How Does Cashback Work? – Your ULTIMATE Guide >>
The Disadvantages Of Online Shopping
Let’s start with the downside shall we? Yeah, it’s not all rainbows and roses when you’re sat in bed with your laptop and a mug of tea ordering the latest book from Amazon.
1/ Haggling Gets A Bit Difficult On Shopping Websites
It’s a bit difficult to ask an inanimate object for a lower price. No, stop screaming at your laptop, it won’t hear you. Occasionally you can get a deal instore even when there are no sales on, if you’re a savvy shopper.
Online you might be shouting abuse at your laptop, but instore you’ll be shouting it directly at the manager! And who knows, maybe he’ll cut you a deal?
You might want to be reasonable, polite and ask for a favour rather than yelling at him though. But hey, it’s up to you. Either way it takes guts to haggle at some of the big retailers, in person, and if you’re the kind of person who’d rather sit home and shop then this probably wouldn’t be for you anyway…
2/ You Can Only Get So Far With Pictures
If you’re looking through a shopping website, you’re seeing everything in terms of written dimensions, descriptions and photos. You’re not going to know how that camera performs by caressing your keyboard, or how that ice cream tastes by licking your screen I’m afraid.
And you’re not going to win any friends that way either…
Going instore will give you a chance to see what you want to buy up close and personal. You can stroke that camera to your hearts content, and sniff all the ice cream samples you want. All too often Amazon reviews start with ‘this was so much smaller/bigger than I expected!’ even though the item description clearly states the size. Us shoppers just aren’t that great at visualising things.
3/ You Can’t Ask Anyone To Hold Your Hand And Walk You Through A Sale
After watching about a million reviews on Youtube, and reading even more blogposts, you think you’ve finally decided which printer you want. But suddenly the latest review you’re watching mentions one feature it’s terrible at, and now you’re confused again.
Know what would be simpler? Actually physically walking into the shop and asking an employee for a recommendation.
But no, you’re determined to hibernate this winter and not even a global disaster would have you leaving your house right now. It’s fine, I’m sure that printer’s exactly what you were after. You know, apart from that one small thing you wanted that the other one had… But go ahead!
4/ It’s A Lonely World Online
Ok, admit it, although shopping instore is so much effort you at least get a kick out of seeing your friends when you go. Hey, if you didn’t go shopping with them every so often you’d probably never even see them. You’d be a little hermit in your house of solitude with only your laptop for comfort.
‘BUT WHAT ABOUT SKYPE?!’
What about it? You might be able to hear the other person and see them when you occasionally swap to the tab you have them on, but is it the same? I think you’ll find it’s not. Now put on a coat and be social for a few hours, then you can sleep for the rest of Christmas.
5/ Personalisation Online Only Gets It So Right
Shopping websites are normally personalised to you after a couple of visits. They take into consideration what you’ve looked at before, and they show you more of that. Or email you more of that. Or advertises you more of that. You get the idea.
But it’s not always right for you, and you can’t go ahead and tell it that. When you go instore, the lovely shop assistants can normally answer your questions and lead you to the things that are right for you. Because they’re human, and humans are awesome like that.
6/ I WANT THIS RIGHT NOW WHY ISN’T IT IN MY HAND YET
Next day delivery can sometimes feel like so incredibly long to wait for that thing you really want. Like when a new game’s out and you need it that very day. Shopping websites are awesome for letting you buy next day delivery, but not so awesome if you need something immediately.
If you’ve forgotten it’s your dad’s birthday, then you’re probably better off toddling to your local corner shop for some flowers than apologising and ordering online for the next day. Don’t be so lazy, it’s rude.
7/ Your Postman Is An Idiot
Just today I got a letter under my door. That dreaded ‘Sorry we missed you! Now you need to drive all the way to the post office which opens just after you start work and closes just before you finish’ letter. And the worst bit? I was working from home. I was inside my house. How did they miss me? I even opened the door as soon as it came through and he’d vanished like some kind of evil delivery ninja.
Sometimes I think postmen are trained runners who don’t actually have any parcels in their van, just those cards which they pop under your door then run from for the hell of it.
This will happen to you a lot when you use shopping websites. You might think you find all the best deals online, but in reality they could just be tempting you into a very irritating new relationship with your postman.
The Advantages Of Shopping Online
Don’t give up on shopping websites just yet! Maybe I was a little harsh with those disadvantages of online shopping, there are actually a lot of benefits of shopping online too of course. Like not having to fight people in the Black Friday Sales, or in the last few days before Christmas. Not to mention you can find some of the best deals online, so you’ll be saving yourself some money to buy even more stuff.
1/ Believe Me When I Say – You’ll Find The Best Deals Online
So you can’t haggle online, that’s true. But you can get a whole host of vouchers and discounts available only to online shoppers. If you’re a loyal instore shopper you might think that’s unfair, but it’s literally just a bribe to get you to start using their shopping website, don’t worry. I actually put together a list of the top voucher codes right here, just to get you started (I’m nice like that).
So you can’t ask the shopping website directly to lower the price of something, like you could instore, but you can ask Google to lower the price and it might spit you out a nice voucher code.
2/ Swamping Yourself With Variety
If you go out shopping with friends, you might go into 4 or 5 shops for a thorough look. You might fall in love with a new kettle, buy it, take it home, and oh look. What’s that? Is that the same kettle, but in a nicer colour, over on another shopping website? Ah well, you’ve bought it now so you’re committed to the colour. All of a sudden your purchase seems a little… thoughtless.
One of the best benefits of shopping online is the variety. Crazy right?
This can lead to, what I like to call, 24/7 window shopping. It’s a serious problem. Having access to so many nice things all the time makes you want to be constantly shopping. But you have to put the laptop down every now and again… Really, go take a walk, you can’t stay inside forever.
3/ Avoiding Retailer Bias
I mentioned getting shop assistants to hold your hand and walk you through a sale, but sometimes you really don’t want them to do that. They might seem all nice with pretty manicured nails and soothing voices, but look a little closer and there’s the dirt of corruption under those nails and a little too much enthusiasm in their tone. They’re biased. They’re being told to push something, and they’re hoping you’re going to gobble up all their waffle about how it’s better than the other thing you’ve been looking at.
PULL YOUR HAND AWAY. Maybe don’t go as far as shouting no in their face (that’s optional), but definitely run home and get online.
Although it might sound tedious to do your own research and see whether you’re really getting the best deals online, or whether what you’re looking at buying is really the right thing for you, it’ll pay off. Don’t be tricked into buying something you don’t really want by an over-eager saleswo/man. You don’t want to be convinced a microwave is absolutely perfect and then realise when you get it home that it doesn’t even fit on the side…
4/ Having The Chance To Find A Better Deal
When you’re out shopping with friends and you find that thing you absolutely must have RIGHT NOW, you feel like a real winner when you get it home. Especially if you feel like you got it for a decent price. But how would you feel if you fired up the old laptop and found out it was cheaper on some other shopping websites?
You’d feel like stuffing it back into the bag, throwing it back into the shop you bought it from, along with the receipt, and buying it from one of the cheaper shopping websites online. So much effort for such little results!
One of the huge advantages of shopping online is having the ability to compare prices, if price is one of the deal breakers for you whenever you buy something.
5/ You Don’t Need To Leave Your Bed (Or Get Dressed!)
Really, how could I not mention this? Shopping online is so insanely convenient. People normally get concerned, and ask if you’re alright if you shop in PJs in public. But no one can judge you in your own home. Also you don’t have to actually interact with other human beings, so there’s that.
The convenience is really one of the biggest benefits of shopping online. Being able to shop from your sofa, your bed, your friend’s house, up a tree… anywhere really, is pretty awesome. Isn’t the 21st century great?
6/ You Can Shop Out Of Hours
When you’re out shopping, the worst feeling is rushing to the place you need to go just before it closes. Even worse is getting thrown out when they shut, or not quite making it before the shutters come down. But you never need to worry about that with shopping websites.
You can shop at whatever time you want. Suddenly decide you could really use a new lamp at 3am? No problem, just hop online and order one.
In all seriousness, this actually is game changing for some people. Nurses and other professionals with day shifts so long they’d never make it to a shop while it’s open can easily buy whatever they need after work, which is incredible for them.
7/ No Heavy Shopping Bags (Or Petrol Costs)
I’m not joking when I say this is probably the main reason I do my food shopping online, let alone anything else. Shopping bag carrying is the worst. If you use a shopping website though, you don’t have to worry about that. Oh no, leave it to the postman to worry about the quantity and weight of the thing you’re buying. Don’t worry, he probably won’t end up carrying it either. You’ll just get that ‘sorry I missed you note’…
Even better, most shopping websites now offer free delivery on your orders if you spend a certain amount. Yay!
So not only do you have no petrol costs, no achey arms and no worries in the world; you also have no delivery cost. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the advantages of shopping online vastly outweigh the disadvantages.
So Should I Shop Online, Or Instore?
Well isn’t it obvious? You’re never going to pick just one or the other, that’d be really weird.
Sometimes you’re going to want to nip into a shop to pick something up, and sometimes you’re going to want to order online. In fact, what I often do is look online at a few things I want, go in store to see them up close and personal, and then go back online to get the best deal. Simples.
Picture: brandbook via Flickr