Shopping online is very quick and convenient. Because shopping online is so convenient, many people wonder if online shopping will overpower physical stores. Will society replace physical stores entirely with online shopping carts? There are clear advantages and disadvantages to both shopping in person and shopping online. While many shoppers enjoy online shopping because it is more convenient (Bogaisky, 2014), 78% of consumers still prefer to shop in-store ("In-Store Vs. Online," 2016). This means that physical store owners can still serve a large part of the market. Will that number keep decreasing? It's hard to say. In fact, they are such distinct experiences that it is hard to judge if one is better. While shopping online or shopping in a store are very distinct shopping experiences for consumers, they both stimulate the economy.
One thing that makes the experience different when you shop online or in a store is the range of options that are available. Physical stores have limitations on how much inventory they can keep in the store. Having a more diverse inventory is one of the advantages of online shopping (Adler, 2014). Shopping online opens up the available inventory to include everything that is available in the store's warehouse, rather than only what is available at one location, so it is easier to find what you are looking for. This is especially true for special sizes, which are harder to find in physical stores. According to an article in The Huffington Post, "Out of the few stores that do carry plus-sizes, even fewer of them stock those sizes in stores" ("Plus Size Clothing," 2016, para. 10). That makes it much easier for online shoppers to access the sizes they need. Online shoppers can also access goods that would not have been accessible to them before based on the location of the physical store. For example, you can purchase something from the other side of the country (or even from another country) by shopping online without having to travel to the store. Thus, a diverse inventory is a very distinct point between online shopping and shopping in-store.
Another thing that makes the experience different when you shop online or in a store is the way you evaluate the merchandise. When you go to a physical store, you can see the real size, color, or shape of something. You can try clothes on, or test how comfortable a chair really is. It has been noted that 73% of consumers want to try on or touch a product before they buy it ("In-Store Vs. Online," 2016), so it seems that in-store shopping definitely has an advantage in this aspect. While online shoppers can not physically try on or test the product before they buy it, many websites post customer reviews. About 80% of shoppers reported that they used these reviews when buying something for the first time (Smith & Anderson, 2016). Many shoppers trust these online reviews and use them to help inform their shopping (Bogaisky, 2014). These types of reviews are typically not available when you shop in physical stores. Thus, it is clear that the methods people use for evaluating the products they want to purchase are very distinct.
What these two shopping experiences share is their ability to stimulate the econ- omy. Whether you buy things online or in a physical store, the money generated by retailers helps boost the economy. Retail sales for both online and in-store purchases totaled $1,212,489,000 in the third quarter of 2016 for the United States and of that total amount, e-commerce was $101,251,000 (Denale, 2016). This information shows that e-commerce is a significant part of the market and is stimulating the economy, but in-store purchasing is still a more significant economic influence. In either scenario, shoppers are still stimulating the economy, whether they choose to shop online or in stores, so this is a shared point between the two shopping options.
As both stores stimulate our economic system, we can appreciate their distinct features. Shopping online can offer the shopper more convenience and more options, but shopping in person can make it easier to make sure you are buying what you want and you can enjoy it immediately after you make your purchase. There will certainly be some people who have a clear preference between the two, but overall, both will likely continue to be used.
The way people shopped has clearly changed since the creation of the Internet, and the way people shop in the future will probably continue to change as new tools and technology are invented.
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