Online Shopping Has Taken Over Our Lives, But is it Actually Better Than In-Store Shopping?

Opinions on Debatable Issues #22

Online shopping is more prevalent today than ever. COVID pandemic caused the spike in the demand for buying things virtually and delivery of goods. Companies like Amazon has even monopolized the selling industry, creating an empire of digital shopping. Yet, is online shopping actually better than traditional in-store shopping?

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Shopping is not just about saving money by avoiding car trips to the store. In-store shopping provides the experience that online shopping cannot. Shopping is more than just browsing, deciding, and purchasing. It is also about the fun and excitement of finding a good deal or a special experience provided only in-store. One kind of in-store experience is brand experiences. According to Retail Customer Experience, “Tiffany opened a store in London’s Covent Garden to engage with customers who may have previously found their brand too expensive or inaccessible. In this store, visitors are able to personalize jewelry and there is even a Tiffany perfume vending machine. These concepts have driven customers to the store and encouraged social media conversation in a way that an online experience may have struggled.”

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Face2Face Marketing

Another fascinating experience that online shopping cannot provide is the sense of treasure hunt. People become excited when seeing a great product or deal. When people know that they’ll come across amazing offers and products and that those items won’t be around for long, they feel lucky and benefited. They would come again to seek the sudden spike and dopamine when they came across a desirable product with a discount in-store. According to MediaPost, “roughly 20% of the Kartar center store is devoted to ‘Lidl Surprises,’ an array of unexpected nonfood items, such as diaper bags and dress shoes. These items are available in limited quantities and rotated weekly with the aim of driving a treasure hunt mentality.”

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In addition, In-store shopping allows customers to buy the products that fit them best and control the loss of the retailers. We all know that online shopping cause uncertainties and confusion because we cannot see the product directly, look at the details, and touch it to check the quality. When it comes to clothes and shoes, people cannot ignore in-store shopping’s advantage. It is hard to see if clothes will look good on someone by only looking at the picture. You might say there are size charts and pictures of models wearing the clothes. However, those all cannot allow people to make an accurate prediction of what it looks like on ourselves. Worse, we might be misled by the fit models and photoshopped pictures to buy things that do not suit us. Most people end up feeling disappointed and have to spend the extra energy and time to return it, causing a loss for the seller as well. According to CNBC, about 5 to 10 percent of in-store purchases are returned. But that rises to 15 to 40 percent for online purchases, according to David Sobie, co-founder, and CEO of Happy Returns. In the next several years, as e-commerce grows globally, “the amount of returns is going to be over a trillion dollars a year,” Tobin Moore, the CEO of Optoro said. “Many retailers end up throwing away over 25 percent of their returns,” Moore said. “Holistically, that ends up being over 5 billion pounds of goods that end up in landfills a year from returns.”

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Besides harming the profits of retailers, online shopping poses more threats to the customers as well. When we make a purchase online, the website automatically obtains our information, increasing the chance of identity theft. In contrast, in-store shopping decreases the probability of fraud, such as Chargebacks, which leads to additional fees, loss of inventory and services, First Party fraud, gaming & wireless fraud, and account takeover. Some people do not think it is a big deal, but statistics tell us otherwise. It was found that online shopping frauds grew at a rate of 30% in 2017. And, from 2016 to 2017, losses due to account takeover (ATO) rose 122% and reached $9B in 2019, according to Forbes. Worse, in 2020 October, the Federal Trade Commission reported that the number of complaints about scams that started on social media has more than tripled in the past year, with reported losses adding up to $117 million in just the first six months of 2020. Many citizens are unaware of the technological tricks behind transactions and online deals. They become much more susceptible to scams when they shop online. Those scams are also harder to detect and trace. You can find the seller if you bought it in-store, but you might not be able to get in touch with a company that only exists online. Thus Online shopping not only incurs extra loss for retailers but also harms the customers.

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Critics of in-store shopping accuse physical stores of tricking or pressuring customers to buy more. It is true to some degree, but online shops also take advantage of the customers by setting the strategic requirement, such as you have to buy $35 or $50 worth of products to meet the shipping criteria.

Furthermore, in-store shopping is an important way to socialize. The study “Shopping for Clothes: From Meeting Individual Needs to Socializing’ published in 2017 found that “although shopping in stores requires planning and time commitment, [people] regarded it not just as a transactional process of buying things, but as a social activity, and they made an extra effort to set time aside for this engagement.” They also found that people “valued the opinions of a close friend or family member, especially regarding occasion wear” and trust those co-shoppers’ choices and advise. Since “co-shopping is best supported in-store, where the shopper tries the outfit and the co-shopper evaluates their appearance”, in-store shopping is better than online shopping in terms of allowing this valued kind of socialization.

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Washington Free Beacon

Supporters of online products argue that online products are cheaper because the retailer does not need to pay the additional cost of running a physical establishment. However, many exquisite deals and discounts are only offered in physical stores. For example, people go to outlets for good deals that are usually expensive online. Also, online shopping websites like eBay may provide cheaper deals but cannot always ensure service and product quality. For example, I purchased some painting panels in October 2020 but never received them. I had to go to a physical store to get it on time for my AP art class.

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In short, the convenience of online shopping makes it more popular, but there are many advantages of in-store shopping that cannot be overlooked. Even the need for faster and effortless shopping makes online purchasing inevitable, it is unlikely that in-store shopping will lose its attraction to customers in the forseeable future.


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– Presidents should be allowed only 16 executive orders and 10 pardons in a term.

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