I think we all can agree that technology has changed our lives in so many ways. Indeed, over the past two decades, technology has advanced at such rapid rate most individuals have a hard time keeping up with the latest trends and gadgets. It should come as no surprise then, with each technology break through, our lives are quickly transformed into new ways of doing things.
Greatly affected by technology is how we, as consumers, shop for products and services. Years ago, purchasing items in a store was the only means to obtain things wanted or needed. That is certainly not the case today! Since the advancement of technology, consumers have a whole new way to shop; online shopping. For the last 5 to 10 years, we have seen consumer behavior change from shopping in a store to shopping online how to choose the best headphones.
In fact, the projected sales from online shopping are to go from $204 Billion dollars in 2008 to an expected $334 billion dollars in 2012! (Source: Forrester Research, Inc., Cambridge, MA, US eCommerce Forecast: 2008 To 2012) This expected growth shows that the trend towards online shopping is only increasing and get stronger. For most, shopping online has made consumers move from the “brick-and-mortar” model of shopping to a virtual shopping environment. Wikipedia defines online shopping as the process whereby consumers directly buy goods or services from a seller in real-time, without an intermediary service, over the Internet.
There are so many advantages to e-commerce or shopping online. Typically, online stores are available 24 hours a day, and with many consumers having Internet access both at work and at home, most can shop when it is convenient for them. As such, shopping online can be faster than browsing the aisles of a physical store and/or alleviate the wasted time jumping around from store to store looking for a product or service.
Shopping online also has the advantage of quick comparison shopping between products and prices. Individuals now have the ability to become savvy, informed shoppers by utilizing local search engines to quickly seek out deals for items or services with many different vendors. Search engines, online price comparison services and discovery shopping engines can be used to look up sellers of a particular product or service and provide easy access to them.
Lastly, another advantage to online shopping is the freedom a customer has to purchasing items they may, or may not feel embarrassed about in purchasing in a store. This might include some over the counter medications, personal items, mens underwear, and intimate apparel for men or women, etc. By shopping online, customers can have the privacy of product selection without feeling embarrassment of going to a register with an item they would rather keep private.
For those of us who require immediate gratification, the disadvantage to online shopping is that merchandise must be shipped to the consumer, introducing a significant delay and potentially uncertainty about whether or not the item will actually arrive before the item is needed. Moreover, in the event there is a problem with the item when it is delivered, most customers do not feel it an advantageous process to return items through the mail.
Additionally, without the ability to personally inspect merchandise before purchase, consumers are at higher risk of fraud than they would have in a physical store. So too, merchants also run the risk of fraudulent purchases by customers using stolen credit cards or fraudulent disclaiming of online purchases.
Although the benefits of online shopping are considerable, the disadvantages to shopping online can be remedied through retailer policies and procedures. It is very important for online stores to post these policies and procedures, include the returning instructions, outline the shipping details and other specific information in put the customer’s fears at ease. Customers also must make sure they take the time to read through these details thoroughly and become informed shoppers so as not to have any surprises upon delivery of their merchandise.
Some additional helpful hints for consumers to consider before shopping on the Internet include:
Ensuring the site is secure with provisions to protect customer information
Ensure online stores are not keeping or sharing billing information.
Ensure the stores policies on sharing personal information on your purchase.
Look for store reviews through customer posting on the site or elsewhere.
Rely on customer testimonials or referrals though friends and family.
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