The benefits of online shopping are truly striking, and must account at least partially for the enormous rise of Internet usage since the 1990s. It seems that few retailers of national stature, if any, can afford to not maintain an online presence. Most obviously, the Internet permits consumers the luxury of browsing and purchasing without leaving the comfort of their homes. This in turn generates better design in websites, as retailers have learned that the best and most detailed presentation of merchandise reduces the value of “hands-on” shopping; the better the customer can fully see and know the product, the greater the confidence to purchase online.
Tied to this advantage is the savings the customer enjoys from not having to pay for travel to shop, which in turn reflects another potential saving, that of time. For example, the employee wanting to make a purchase, but unable to leave the workplace, may now simply use a few moments of break time to buy. There are also other ways online shopping promotes savings, most notably through the inevitable – and easily assessed by the buyer – aspect of competition. This Internet marketplace is enormous, and retailers are well aware that a single click may bring a potential customer to a competitor.
The obvious disadvantage of the credit card being jeopardized has been largely addressed through security measures, and shoppers are typically at ease in trusting their credit information to online sellers. While some of this is likely the result of simple changes of mind, it seems that the security measures themselves, along with residual fears regarding financial account safety, frighten consumers away from committing to online purchases. Then, there is the disadvantage that, no matter how well a product is described and pictured online, people still tend to enjoy the satisfaction of literally seeing and feeling an item before they buy.