Twenty years ago, online shopping was barely a glimmer of a market. There were signs that it potential to be an alternative way to buy things, but by and large, people still did their shopping at traditional brick-and-mortar stores. In 1994, a site called Amazon launched, selling books and music online; as we now know, it would transform the world of ecommerce. Today, consumers around the world are much more likely to buy everyday items like food and toiletries online. Things as essential as toilet paper can be delivered to your door within 24 hours. The days of people going into shops and browsing traditional clothing racks are also disappearing fast, and that comes with its own set of pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at a couple.
Pro: A wider selection of sizes and styles
Women who wear a size 6 or 8 can walk into just about any department store and find something that fits and flatters their body type. But for a long time, women who wore plus-sized clothing risked shame and self-loathing if they walked into the mall looking for an outfit. The selection for plus-size clothing at traditional brick-and-mortar stores was often limited or non-existent. Internet retailers have capitalized on this underserved market, providing an array of options for plus-size shoppers, as well as atypical body types. Women of every shape are abandoning their local mall in favor of online merchants that can serve a wider variety of figures.
It’s not just body types, either. If you’re shopping for a dress in a traditional store, the store may only so many style and color options, and may not even have your size, whereas they have a wider selection online. Physical stores often lack room for extra merchandise. Alternatively, online boutiques are more likely to have a similar dress in all sizes, and even 20 different colors and styles. In some cases, you can find better prices online as well. We like having choices, and shopping for fashion online gives us a lot more options than the clothing boutique down the street.
As a bonus, you won’t need to bother with an eager salesperson pestering you with questions in pursuit of commission.
Con: You can’t try it on before you buy
The biggest disadvantage to shopping for clothes online is inability to try something on before you buy it. How many times do you find a shirt you love on a hanger, only to try it on and have it not fit right? Unfortunately, when you buy clothing online, you are unable to make these realizations before your purchase. Be sure to read the return policy very carefully before you hand over your credit card information. If you fail to do that, you risk being left with few options to get your money back, and may be left with a garment that doesn’t fit or looks much different than it did on the website.
One way people get around trying things on before purchasing them is to buy multiple sizes of the same garment. They try them on at home, and return the size that doesn’t fit. Again, being mindful of the return policy is crucial so that you know you can get your money back for the clothing you have no intention of keeping.
Research indicates that close to 40 percent of clothes bought online get returned — that’s a very high return rate. It means retailers have to spend more time and money hiring employees who can process all those return packages. It also means that customers have to consider things like paying for return shipping if they wish to get their money back, rather than just driving down to the store and telling the sales clerk, “This didn’t fit right.”
Online shopping isn’t going anywhere
Online shopping is a regular part of consumer behavior now. There’s no going back, and most people wouldn’t want to even if they could. There is work that remains to be done, especially when you consider the environmental impact of online shopping. Customers must encourage online retailers to adapt more earth-friendly shipping policies. Consumers can also work to consume less in their everyday life by using more solar power and SeQuential biodiesel at the pump, since both are better for the planet than traditional energy. That’s not to say you should feel guilty about shopping online, only that you need to realize it’s all part of a much larger environmental picture.