Online vs. In-Store Shopping: Which Is Better?

Mannequins posed in a department store window.

As the largest generation in 2019, millennials set the trends, including where and how to shop. About 60% of millennials make purchases online, which is a 13% increase from 2017. Online shopping has been gradually increasing in popularity over time.

While online shopping is a convenient way to snag some of the best deals, old-fashioned shopping trips to brick and mortar stores aren’t completely out of the equation just yet. Both of these shopping methods have their pros and cons, so it’s important to understand what online shopping and brick and mortar stores have to offer shoppers as well as what can be lost in the process.

The Changing Face of Retail

Technological innovations have drastically changed the retail industry. Online shopping for clothes, goods, products, and services provides extensive information at consumers’ fingertips. By simply browsing a search engine or two, consumers can look over thousands of customer reviews to learn more about products. They can make purchases with the click of a button and engage with brands through social media platforms and live chat features. With the fast fashion industry and the instant information the internet provides, consumers have gotten used to infinite choices and prompt responses from brands.

Online vs. In-Store Shopping

Consumers can experience unique benefits from both in-store and online shopping, which can make it hard to choose their preferred retail method.

The Benefits of Online Shopping

  • Less time and effort: Hopping online and doing a bit of research is all that’s required to find products and complete an online order to make a purchase. E-commerce retailers employ sales order management software to expedite fulfillment and get the right orders to consumers as quickly as possible — often within two days or less.
  • Price comparisons: Consumers can use search functions to compare prices on the same products through multiple retailers. Mobile shopping support from retailers means consumers can research, make selections, and even complete purchases on the go through their smartphones.
  • Recurring purchases: Online brands make it easy to schedule recurring purchases, so consumers don’t even need to place orders once they’ve signed up for these programs.
  • Fewer interactions: Many consumers feel hassled or annoyed by interactions with retail associates, so these can be avoided through online shopping.
  • More choices: With so many online brands, companies, and products, online shoppers have access to many product choices that aren’t limited by location.

The Benefits of In-Store Shopping

  • Enjoying the shopping experience: Many consumers enjoy the act of shopping and make it into a social event, which can be missed through online shopping.
  • Getting the product immediately: With brick and mortar shopping, consumers don’t have to wait for the product to be shipped and can take it home right away.
  • Not paying shipping costs: Without shipments, consumers don’t have to pay costs for shipping and handling like they usually do with online shopping.
  • Trying before buying: In-store shopping allows consumers to touch, examine, and try on/try out products before they decide to buy them.
  • Secure purchases: Online data breaches are on the rise and there were more than 3,800 data breaches in 2019. In-person store purchases may be more appealing to consumers because it’s less likely they’ll be the victims of data breaches.

How Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Adapting

Brick and mortar stores aren’t blind to the draws of online shopping. To stay alive, they’ve adapted many practices to entice consumers to continue shopping in-person. Many retailers allow consumers to shop for their products online, but ship them to local stores. In many cases, the products are available in the store on the same day the customer requests it online. This way, online shoppers can choose what they want but still visit the store to get the product.

Many retailers have also started to offer price-match guarantees for their products. Consumers can do their online shopping research to find the best prices for products but still visit brick and mortar stores to ultimately make the purchase. This allows buyers to know they got the best prices on these products but still encourages them to shop in person. Not only do consumers benefit from online savings, but they also get to touch the product and enjoy the in-person shopping experience before they buy it.

Both online retailers and physical stores are integrating their inventory tracking and sales management software with every stage of the supply chain, so they can adjust orders and update stocks to better keep up with consumer demand, fashion trends, and other marketplace variables.

How to Compare Product Prices

Whether you’re looking to purchase a product online or in a store, you probably want to get the best price possible. Consider implementing both retail methods so you can be sure you get the best price for your goods. To compare product prices thoroughly and accurately, you should:

  • Make a list of competing products: When comparing prices, make a list of every alternative brand that’s comparable so you can find the lowest price available, either online or in stores. There are several online price comparison sites you can use, such as Google shopping, to make this process easier.
  • Compare product alternatives: Compare different product types in addition to brands if your ideal product is too expensive. You may be able to find affordable alternatives, as long as you thoroughly compare the features and benefits to assess the value of your options first.
  • Use deal and price trackers: Price trackers such as SlickDeals can inform you about potential deals without you doing the research yourself. These price trackers alert you when a product or brand you’re interested in is on sale or had a price drop. If you’re willing to be patient, these price trackers can save you money on your purchases, both online and offline.

When you’re shopping for a product, both the online and brick and mortar retail options have their pros and cons. By using both resources to find the best price, company, and value, you can ensure you choose the best outlet to obtain your goods.

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