It's getting harder and harder to remember a time when you couldn't go online and order the latest bestseller from Amazon, bid on eBay for the Batman comic book you need to complete your collection or find at your favorite retailer's online store the perfect outfit for an important event. We look back 15 years and wonder—how did we ever get by without Internet shopping?
Online shopping is expected to grow by about 10 percent a year for the next four years, and by 2017 will make up about 10 percent of all retail sales, according to a report from Forrester Research. That’s not surprising, when you think of all the advantages that online shopping offers.
What do you do when you need a present for a special occasion? While you may enjoy going out to the nearest mall or town center to cruise the stores when the weather is sunny and bright and the temperature is 75 degrees, having to go out of your home is a much less attractive option when it’s cold, dark and rainy outside. It’s so easy to sit down with your laptop or your mobile phone, curl up with a cup of coffee and wander various sites online until you find the gift that you know your recipient will love. A few clicks of your mouse, a few strokes on the keyboard—and your problem is solved!
Or maybe your daughter just announced that she’ll need a costume for her class play next week—and would you have time to take her shopping for it? Ordinarily that might be fine, but right now you’re busy trying to finish up that project at work and cope with your son’s bad cold. With a spouse that’s out of town and with a list of to-dos that keeps growing without anything getting crossed off, you simply can’t squeeze enough hours from the day to go costume-shopping at a nearby store. But you can steal 10 or 15 minutes to sit down with your child, shop a few stores online to see which costumes she likes and then place your order.
A week or so later the package arrives at your door. Online shopping has made you a smart hero because you not only found the outfit your daughter loves but also accomplished it without trying to force another trip into an already overloaded schedule.
Have you ever visited 15 or 20 stores to look without success for a certain style of winter jacket? That can be a real time waster. While you may still have to spend some time doing some comparison shopping online, you can look at a much wider range of styles in a shorter time using the Internet.
The web’s also a great place to do some research about purchasing options. Suppose you’re trying to buy a new cell phone but don't know which one is best for your needs, you can find reviews easily on the Web from other consumers who have bought it and get to know the products better before you buy it.
Balancing budgets is tougher than ever these days, and one of the great benefits of online shopping is the way that it can save you money. When you know that you’re looking for a particular product, you can do an online search to learn what e-retailer has the best price for it—and then look around a little more to see if you can find coupons that will reduce your costs even further.
Depending on where you live and on what online retailer you’re buying from, you may also be able to catch a break on sales tax.
Online shopping has become such a part of our lives that we can’t imagine ever being without it. Whether we’re searching for the latest cell phones, electronic gadgets or a perfect present for Aunt Jane, it’s likely that we’ll continue to do at least some of our looking online.