Online shopping has brought about a new wave of consumer purchasing power, making everything seem smoother, faster and much less of a hassle.
Shopping now means not having to worry about going out in the rain or whether the items you want are in stock at your local store.
We’re now able to make purchases at any given time, anywhere in the world. The sheer ease has made the experience unbeatable and we’re not afraid to spend more for an even better experience. Next-day delivery subscriptions are featuring on more and more sites as we’ve become impatient, knowing we can get our purchases delivered to our house the next day. We no longer have to plan a visit to a store outside of working hours, knowing we can shop in the comfort of our own home and receive our purchases almost as quickly as if we’d gone out and physically brought them back with us.
We can even control our parcel’s journey through our fingertips, with GPS systems telling us how far away it is, in case we need to rush home to meet the postman.
But is this advancement in technology and internet browsing all positive? Is there a future for the ‘old-school’ way of shopping?
Charlie Stapford-Saville, the founder of price drop alert tool, PIWoP, shares his thoughts on where online shopping is going.
'In early 2018, a reported 6,000 local high street shops were forced to close down as a result of the success of these online business giants, a number that’s heart-breaking for many of the older generations, who may regularly have visited these shops in their day-to-day lives. One UK giant that’s been hit is House of Fraser. Bought by Sports Direct for £90m, owner Mike Ashley vowed to keep 47 of the 59 stores open. Whether this will last is another question, as turning around high street shops seems to be an impossible task.
'Amazon and eBay were launched in 1995, with an average of 16 million internet users. Fast forward to 2018 and that number stands at more than 3 billion. Shopping has become easier, quicker, more efficient and a more enjoyable experience for many, especially with the increase in videos of clothing or furniture to help visualise how they’ll look.
'And the inexorable rise of the online leviathans doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Amazon recently hit the $1 trillion value mark, becoming only the second business to do so behind Apple - and is soon to take over the number one spot.
'Amazon recently opened their new ‘4 star only’ store, which features products that are rated 4 stars and above, a top seller, or new and trending. These stores are set to overtake anyone in their path who sell similar items as they carry their audience built up through the website.
'And even when we turn to traditional, offline shopping, we might still be being manipulated by online sources; a 2018 report found that $1.4 trillion worth of offline retail sales were influenced by digital media in some way. This staggering figure shows the impact online stores and social media has.
'As you’ll notice too, even when we visit the high street, many shop assistances are being replaced with iPads or self-service desks where the need to queue is minimal - in turn speeding up the whole process. Whether we like dealing with a screen over an individual is to be debated, but it seems it’s only going in one direction as it stands.'
6 worrying things about online shopping
To make the most of shopping online, here’s what you need to look out for and consider before buying.
1. Read the returns and cancellation policies carefully
It’s a good idea to look at the small print before you agree to purchase anything online.
Know what your rights are in terms of cancellations, in case you change your mind or find the item cheaper elsewhere.
And make sure you read the returns policy thoroughly, to avoid being stuck with something that doesn’t fit.
2. Know your sizes and measurements
When online shopping for clothes, use a tape measure and jot down your measurements, then keep them handy to avoid sizing errors and disappointment. Bear in mind that clothing sizes can vary from brand to brand – and even item to item – so check it with every purchase.
Remember to check measurement conversions too, if you’re buying from another country.
If you’re buying items, such as household goods or furniture, make sure you know whether measurements are in metric or imperial. And how much it will cost to ship heavy goods.
3. Look at the reviews
If it’s your first time buying from a particular online store, spend a few minutes looking at online reviews, or ask a friend what their experience has been with that vendor.
You’ll want to know about things like the quality of their goods and services, what their customer service record is like, and whether there have been any issues with credit card security. Before you click ‘purchase,’ be sure you want to do business with them.
Read our guide to staying secure online
4. Fill your cart or start a wish list
Throw everything you like the look of in your online shopping cart, or add everything to a wish list, and cull once you’ve finished browsing. Then leave it for a day or two, if the purchases aren’t urgent.
Retailers are constantly monitoring your shopping experience. They want you to buy from them, so they’ll do everything they can to seal the deal, even sometimes sending you discount coupons or reducing the prices of your chosen items.
5. Look for the best deals
Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted! And with online shopping, the more time you put into your search, the more fruitful and economically savvy your purchases will be.
You don’t have to buy from the first or most beautiful-looking website. Keep on trawling and chances are you’ll find bargains, coupons, sales, loyalty points, free deliveries, new customer deals and many more ways to keep prices down and find what you really want.
Millions of items drop in price each day, so if you use a price-drop engine like PIWoP it will alert you when their prices drop.