When Is Online Shopping Better Than In-Store?


If you’ve got money from your tax return burning a hole in your pocket, you might be wondering whether it’s better to buy your favorite items online or in-store. Online shopping is more popular than ever, but shoppers still prefer in-person store visits over digital purchases. Data suggests 40 percent of Americans buy items in physical retailers at least once a week. Meanwhile, only 27 percent of shoppers do the same at a digital store. 

So, when is online shopping better than going to a brick-and-mortar store? That depends on what you’re shopping for!

Can You Wait for Shipping?

The first question you should ask yourself is whether you can wait for shipping. While Amazon Prime promises two-day shipping on most items, you won’t always have the luxury of swift shipping. Some products, like snack foods and new shoes, are typically last-minute purchases. This means you want them right away, and the idea of ordering them and then having to wait for delivery can be a buzzkill for some shoppers.

Do You Want to See the Item?

Some people hate buying consumer goods online because they want to physically handle products before purchasing them. Record collectors want to see the condition of the slipcover. Fashion fans want to try on new clothes before committing to purchasing them. If you can’t stand the idea of buying an item without seeing it, you’re probably not a fan of online shopping.

Is the Item Rare?

Shopping in-person is great, but sometimes it’s not an option. Often, you’ll find it hard to locate rare items, like older car parts, specific game components, or out-of-print books. In these cases, you have to accept the online shopping hurdles of shipping times and being unable to see the item in person before purchasing it. 

Online shopping offers you a much wider range of options in this regard. You can access the inventories of stores all over the world, expanding your reach beyond local specialty stores.

Do You Live in a Remote Region?

Some people live far from major commercial centers and can’t make time to travel just for some shopping. If you live far from a big city, online shopping is usually your best option for buying things like new video games, seasonal fashion, and rare collectibles. Just be aware that shipping times can drag on for longer than expected when logistics services need to go far from the beaten path to reach your mailbox!