Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Pro and Cons of Online Shopping 2/2

online+shopping+with+credit+cardThis is a continuation from an earlier post. As mentioned earlier, online shopping has taken North America and much of Europe by storm in the aftermath of the dot com bust just a decade earlier. So what is exactly luring people like you and me part with our cash for something seemingly that we see on a computer screen?

The Convenience

Face it. There's a crouch potato lurking in everyone of us. Given a choice, we would love to have the life's convenience delivered to our door step. With online shopping, there's actually no need to step out of your house.

There was an experiment done sometime back with a person locked up house surviving only with a fast broadband connection for a month. With online grocery shopping, magazine subscriptions, food catering and even rubbish collection arranged online, she was not only survived but was reluctant to leave the comforts of her dwelling at the end of the experiment.

Prior to the advent of online shopping, it would be next to impossible to book your flight, choose your hotel and even book a car all within the hour. That frees up a large chunk of your time.

Also, as Martin has pointed out, in more remote and inaccessible parts of the world, online shopping is the only way of getting certain items.

The Range of Products

Another great advantage of online stores is that it allows you to view the entire range of products on one screen. Looking for chairs? A decent word engine will link you to thumbnails of all the chairs available - from a simple stool to an elaborate rocking chair.

Not only that, there will also be helping links to other accessories that might be of interest to you; a sidetable, a lamp to go with it, a small rug and even matching cushions. Your dining hall could be conceptualized with a single click of your mouse button.

Details, details and more details

A simple picture and a price tag do not say it all. For those who are more hands on, there will be specific dimensions (packed and assembled) with weight displayed.

Can't make up your mind as to which colour is to your liking? Select the colours using a simple applet and you would be able to see whether that sofa looks good in magenta.

Return policy

Don't like it after the merchandise is delivered to your home or simply regretting your purchase at the spur of the moment? Well, send it right back and get a refund through your credit card.

Most reputable online stores has a fair return policy. Most will offer at least a week's grace provided that there is no obvious wear and tear

Price

Maintaining a website is definitely cheaper than upkeeping a physical store. In that aspect, the retailer is obliged to pass on the savings to the online consumer. Not only that, by the virtue that there is no need for you to incur transport costs to and fro the store and the time saved, shopping online saves more than just the difference in the tagged price.

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All that said, why hasn't online shopping replace the traditional brick and mortar businesses? Let's look at how shopping online just doesn't measure up.

The Shopping Experience

The experience of making a purchase doesn't just include the paying for and the reception. It includes browsing and the physical touching and even trying out the items. Curiously, many of us wouldn't consider something of value and should thus be cherish unless we spend a long time and much effort in the selection. Clicking on a couple buttons just wouldn't cut it.

What you see is not what you get

Unless you actually have the physical item when paying, there is no guarantee that you are getting what you want. Order a couple of men's t-shirts and you just might end up with a ladies XXS cut. Even the colours displayed on your screen pretty much depends on the resolution of the screen. That's not even taking into account of the texture.

Then there's this issue with freshness of groceries obtained online. Although there are complaints of food nearing to their expiry dates being delivered, some others (including Emm) are perfectly happy with the services.

Hidden costs

Yes, it may be cheaper but beware of hidden charges. Most of us would be willing to pay for postage but not many would be willing to take a day off and wait for delivery at home. What's worse is that the delivery man doesn't turn up and you'll have to go through the hassle all over again.

In most return policies, the consumer would have to pay for the return postage unless the goods arrived damaged. If it's the latter, there is often a tedious process in getting a postage refund.

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I am sure the list above is not exhaustive. Have you got any to share with us?

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13 comments:

SheR. said...

CK!
I totally agree with you about the hidden costs. Just booked a flight with Ryanair after two years. And we were shocked to find that they charge for every single thing that they could lay their eyes on... Baggage (20 euros), Check-in (10 euros), Travel Insurance(14.50 euros), Credit Card booking (20 euros). We almost fainted when we saw the final total which came up to be 60 euros more than the flights!!!!! Cheaters!

C K said...

@SheR,
Is that flight for coming into London for S'pore Day 2009? :)

I'm surprised at the Check-in cost. Were you referring to the 'early' check-in fee? I've not tried Ryan Air before but has travelled quite a bit with EasyJet. So far, the experience has been great.

Then again, we travel light (no check-in luggage) and do not get our insurance from EasyJet as well. That cuts the fare down by quite a bit.

bingkee said...

I love online shopping. The only thing that I don't shop online are shoes. I am very particular about shoes. I also buy online those brands that I already have and brands that I am familiar because I used to buy them at stores.

Dutchie said...

Hidden costs r supposed to be phased out since April 2007 but we still get € 50 booking, € 25 ticket-pickup at airport, € 45 ecotax, € 12,50 compulsory indemnity insurance. Of course the ticket agents tries to sell medic n theft insurance as well. € 132,50 per person extra from a well regulated industry who is bleedin us dry !

Shopping online. We hv a regulation here to protect the shops from unfair trade. Online shops hv to sell their goods 30%more in price. Try importing the latest gadgets from USA which is cheaper ? Forget it, NO Cross-import. U r directed to their local agents who sells it at a much higher price.

Last sale via online was a built-in fridge in our kitchen. Had to sourced it via the local agent. We hv been battling for the right mock-door to fit in the gap where the former door was, since May 2008. Emails went unanswered once they hv exhausted ideas on how to solve this prolem.
They didnt live up to their promise to accommodate the specific measurements which we had provided. Ironic is that the local agent had to get everything from the German manufacturer n somehow they never got over the glitch. Most of our apppliances r made in Germany. I'm avoiding more headaches in future by switching to other brands.

Shinade said...

Yes my daughter ordered a Christmas present from a company online for a friend. It was never shipped and the online company is no longer online.

So beware that you are dealing with well known and fairly large companies!!:-)

waitingkitty said...

I still prefer the actual shopping experience where I can touch and feel the merchandise that I am buying, especially clothes and shoes! But I prefer to do online banking and online airtickets reservations.

Martin in Bulgaria said...

Rubbish collection online, that's a new one to me. do they extend to Bulagria - There's tons of it here!

Hiiden cost - tes I agree, they entice yo with seemingly offers yo cant' refuse, they then have you by the short and curlys then STING YOU! Cheap flights are a classic example!

C K said...

@bingkee,
Hey, thanks for stopping by.

Not surprising that most of us would not shop for apparels online. As I mentioned, what you see may not be what you get and that's especially important for clothings (shoes incl of course).

Have you got any issues getting stuff online?


@Dutchie,
Really? I've not encountered the 30% marked up for online prices. What's the point of shopping online then?

Like you, I tried to source for items from the US. But the shipping costs and waiting time more than make up for the difference in price.

Are there any local brands for fridges in NL? Or are those made in Germany just more popular? I recall back in S'pore, those manufactured in Japan fetch a high premium.


@Shinade,
Thanks for stopping by. Sorry to hear that. Were you able to get some sort of compensation or even a refund from the credit card company?

@waitingkitty,
Like you, banking and travelling reservations are all done online for me. Sometimes I wonder why would one go to travel agencies? Is there any value added in their services?

@Martin,
Sorry to disappoint you. The online rubbish collection is a local service actually. :)

Anyway, those budget flights that I have been on generally publish all charges before I actually pay for them. Have you encountered any that does that only after you've submitted your credit card details?

Dutchie said...

The 30% markup is probably a local rule here.

There r no dutch fridge manufacturers, it's all imported. Korean is making a dent in the european markt from cars, PC's to electrical appliances. I dont know if it's out of habit but hubby only buys european brands.

Premium Japanese ? Wow, I thought their marketing strategy is to sell at affordable prices. Last 10yrs I see my family going for those humungous American fridge with a chroom casing. The interior is not any bigger than a moderate Japanese brand. In NL we tend to opt for appliances that is energy-efficient, so such models will hardly be seen here.

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C K said...

@Dutchie,
Heh? I think the low cost strategy was adopted by the Japanese after WWII. In the last few decades, they are known for their quality and more recently, their price.

China made goods, on the other hand, is banking purely on their low costs.

Lucie said...

I love shopping online. Such a good way to spend your lunchbreak hihihihihi. :o))

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