Online shopping, officially known as ‘e-commerce’, has successfully carved a niche for itself in the hearts of businessmen and fashion lovers alike. In the simplest of languages, it is the use of electronic mediums or networks, (basically the internet) to buy and sell goods ranging from garments and jewellery to daily grocery or stationery items.
From the year 2007 to the year 2019, online shopping has taken a huge leap forward: the total retail sales have jumped up about 11% from what they were at the beginning, that is from a 5.1% in 2017 to a 16.0% in 2019. Platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra and eBay have made major contributions to this growth in online shopping or rather the growth in the popularity of the concept of online shopping.
Online Shopping and how the Pandemic has affected it:
The year 2020 has left no stone unturned to change our lives in the highest scale and in the most varied ways possible. Within a few months, social gatherings in markets and shops had been declared as “unsafe”! This has had a silent and yet a huge impact on the shopping habits of the masses. People have nearly been forced to ‘go online’ for leading a normal life.
The Covid-19 pandemic across the globe has carved a path for the growth of online shopping worldwide. This very growth and prosperity of online shopping has taken different turns and speeds throughout the various phases of the deadly pandemic. Notably, online shopping has flourished the most in those countries which had taken comparably more strict measures regarding containment and in those countries on which online shopping did not already have a grip.
These noticeable changes in the daily activities of consumers including shopping habits (people are scared to go to the market in fear of acquiring the virus) or payment methods (people do not want to exchange money physically thinking they might acquire the virus through surface transmission) may stay back even after the pandemic is over. The digital economy in particular and online shopping in general, might undergo huge changes and developments in this case.
While initially it was simply “fear” that forced people to shop from online platforms and websites, it is now the sheer joy of purchasing products at a lower price, from a distant part of the country and items which are comparably of a better quality that has sustained their online shopping activities.
In the year 2019 too, the growth of online shopping was maintaining a steady rate of 4.5% per year. The year 2020 has witnessed a sea-change in the growth rate. The sales on companies like Amazon has increased by a 37% from the earlier year.
Since this arena has gained tremendous popularity over these few years, we might as well take a quick look at the pros and cons of online shoping:
Advantages of online shopping:
- Small businesses: small businesses have always found it difficult to thrive in the regional areas. But with the help of online platforms, they can now take their businesses online and then draw customers not only in larger numbers but also from other nations.
- Convenient accessibility and speed: whereas shops around us tend to remain closed late at night or on holidays, online shopping platform are available 24×7. One can get an access to it anytime of the day. Moreover, shops and hypermarkets are more or less crowded and we have had to wait for quite some time before entering them. Here too, online shopping platforms come to our rescue: most of these websites and apps take a few seconds to load.
- Easily searchable items: we have spent hours searching for the exact spot where the items we wish to buy are piled up! But in online shopping platforms, we have what is called a “search button” which almost always finds us what we exactly want to purchase.
- Cost effective products: most products available online are exempted from costs like taxes, electricity bills, rents etc. Although
- Huge Stock of products: since this is not a physical store, there is no such trouble of fitting a huge number of products in a small space. So, the stock of products found online is endless. Our very own amazon started their business with the slogan “earth’s largest bookstore!”
- Relief from salesmen: we have all faced a few excited salesmen who wish to force customers into buying things they do not wish to. Online Shoping provides a relief from such experiences.
Disadvantages of Online Shopping:
- Time: One of the major troubles of online shoping is the factor of time: urgently required items can never be bought online since the shipping and delivery takes a day or two in the least.
- Troubles for Meticulous Buyers: There are people who prefer to check the item pretty well before purchasing it. For example, clothes require a trial before they are bought. The size of garments can differ from one manufacturer to another. This might create a hurdle for meticulous people.
- Limitation for customer services: Customer service options for online platforms are limited, unlike physical stores where one can simply visit a desk and mention their grievance to find an instant solution.
- Chances of fraud : Online Shoping offers limited opportunity for customers to double check whether the seller is authentic. This may lead to the growth of fraudulent businesses.
- Enjoyment : Online Shopping kills the buzz and excitement of shoping. In traditional shopping, one feels the sheer joy of shopping for new clothes and accessories. But online shopping has no such enjoyable experience in store for the customers.
Online Shopping or Traditional Shopping?
One of the most difficult questions that can be asked to a shopaholic in the 21st century is whether he/ she would like to shop online through various websites or traditionally from shops. Well, although online shopping has its disadvantages, there is no way in which we can deny how comfortable online shopping has made our lives day after day.
Another term that is often heard of and used alongside online shopping (and is also well-connected to the term) is m-commerce and it refers to the online shoping activities that can be carried out through a mobile phone, tablet, etc. with the help of online applications. Despite all the hurdles that we might have to face while using online shopping applications, platforms and websites, we know that it is the future personified and no matter what, it makes life easier for quite a large part of the world that wishes not to face the higher hurdles of traditional shoping.