Online Shopping vs. In-Store Shopping: Pros and Cons

May 23, 2024
A woman shopping in a store.

Shopping has evolved dramatically over the past several decades, providing consumers with more choice and convenience whether they shop in brick-and-mortar stores or browse online for their purchases. Even holiday shopping has adapted to the changing landscape, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday appealing to online and in-store shoppers. It’s easy to assume there is a generational divide between those who choose more traditional or modern shopping methods, but it involves factors ranging from accessibility and variety to local support and the shopping experience itself. It’s expected that by 2026, 24% of retail shopping will be done online. [1]

Advantages of online shopping

Although online shopping has been around for consumers since the mid-1990s, mainstream use has skyrocketed over the past several years as people grow increasingly comfortable with it and get accustomed to the ease and speed of online retail. It’s hard to dispute the advantages of online shopping. After all, the availability of extensive online research and reviews promotes buyer confidence. And few would dispute the convenience of around-the-clock shopping from the living room sofa. Unfortunately, all this online activity also creates ample opportunities for scammers, so it’s important to always follow safe online shopping practices.

1. Grocery delivery and pickup

The benefits are clear, especially for those who may struggle to find an hour or more a week to spend browsing the store shelves for groceries. Not only can you fill your cart from the comfort of your home, but you can also clip coupons online and even speed up the process by saving regular items in your app. Grocery stores have made pickup a breeze, allowing shoppers to schedule a pickup time that ensures their vehicle is packed and ready to go within minutes of parking.

2. No sales pressure

Although sales representatives can provide helpful knowledge and expertise, they can make some in-person shopping experiences nerve-racking for consumers. It’s no surprise that some shoppers prefer to remove the pressure altogether by relying on online shopping sites where they can take their time and not feel forced into a sale by somebody working on commission or just trying to help.

3. Research and product reviews

The internet is a great place to research and compare products before pulling the trigger on a purchase, especially a big one. Blogs and other online articles from trusted, unbiased sources can take a lot of the work off your plate by testing products, outlining the pros and cons of different brands and comparing prices. Customer reviews are also a great resource for finding a reliable product that fits your needs.

4. More variety

While brick-and-mortar stores must deal with the limitations of shelf space and retail agreements, online shopping presents few restrictions. There are many options to choose from, such as whether your product comes from brands or sellers — both local and international. You can even reach small independent shops that may have been far off your radar before the development of online shopping.

5. Convenience

When it comes to online shopping versus in-store shopping, the convenience of online shopping stands out. A shopping list that once might have required an entire day of shopping can now be completed in one sitting thanks to online shopping platforms — if you can wait for delivery. You can also squeeze in some shopping whenever you have the time, whether that’s during a 15-minute break at work or after the kids are in bed for the night. And with front-door delivery, that’s one less thing to fit into your schedule.

6. No crowds

Crowds have been a shopping headache for a long time. It’s almost impossible to browse the shelves of an aisle without running into other shoppers. Online shopping also saves you the time of waiting in long lines to check out.

Disadvantages of online shopping

While online shopping provides the convenience of exploring and buying items from the comfort of one’s home, it does come with certain disadvantages. These include shipping costs, delivery delays, the risk of impulse buying and difficult returns.

Shipping costs

While some online retailers offer free shipping, others may not. Some retailers require you to reach a minimum dollar amount to qualify for free shipping. Or, depending on the item you buy, the shipping cost may be the same amount as that item. [2]

Delivery delays

When you shop in person, you get the instant gratification of going home with the purchased item that day. However, when you shop online, though it’s now possible to receive some items the same day, you may have to wait days, weeks, or even longer to get your purchased item. If you’re in a time crunch to get a gift, it might be easier to just go shopping in person. [3]

Missing, broken, or stolen items

While online shopping is convenient, receiving a broken package (or not receiving the package at all) is not. Fragile items like mirrors or other glass products may arrive broken if you opt to purchase them online and have them shipped to your home. Even worse, if your package is delivered in an open area, someone may attempt to take it. [2]

Lack of product inspection

Unlike in-store shopping, you can’t physically try on a piece of clothing when shopping online. And clothing sizes can vary across different retailers. On the other hand, if you purchase a large piece of furniture, there’s a chance that the item’s listed dimensions may be incorrect. [2]

Advantages of shopping in-store

Despite the many advantages of the internet, shopping in stores still has many benefits and a prominent place in retail. Some products are unique to an in-person experience. Let’s not overlook the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what you’re getting when you leave the store with your merchandise in hand.

1. Try on or test products

Some items are easier to buy if you can check them out in person to ensure quality. When it comes to perfumes and cosmetics, stores offer the opportunity to test the products to make sure they’re right for you. It’s also nice to be able to try on clothing at the store so you can choose the best style and fit for your body. Bigger purchases, ranging from eyeglasses and mattresses up to a new car, are also worth the extra time and effort to test before you buy. Even in-person grocery shopping has its perks, as you can pick out your produce or compare labels more easily and choose alternatives when your first choices aren’t available.

2. In-store promotions

In-store promotions are designed to attract customers and build brand or product awareness. If you’re not physically visiting these stores, you may be missing out on discounts, free giveaways, and other promotions.

3. Instant gratification

When you shop in-store, there’s no waiting around for an item to arrive. You immediately have what you need — and there are no shipping costs. For shoppers who like to quickly eliminate items from their shopping list, it may be appealing to visit the store and leave with your purchase.

4. Personalized experience

A friendly and knowledgeable sales associate, combined with an up-close look at the products, creates a more personal shopping experience. This is especially true for local and specialized stores where you’ll probably talk to somebody who’s keenly familiar with the products. From bookstores to car dealerships, personal recommendations and expert guidance can be quite helpful.

5. Support local businesses

Another reason you may prefer to visit brick-and-mortar stores is to support a local business. Many shoppers are willing to forgo some of the online shopping conveniences in exchange for supporting their local community.

Disadvantages of shopping in-store

While shopping in stores sounds simple enough, there can be some obvious disadvantages to it. For example, in-store shopping can be time-consuming and inconvenient if the product you want is out of stock. Plus, pressure from the staff members to buy an item you don’t want can be uncomfortable enough to cause some to avoid shopping in-person altogether.


Shopping in stores can be very inconvenient due to the time it takes to commute to the store, deal with traffic, navigate the crowds, locate your items, and stand in line to purchase them.

Sales pressure

Because a lot of sales associates work on commission, they could pressure you into buying something that you weren’t necessarily going to buy. It can be extremely stressful to tell the sales associate no.

Limited availability

The store may not have everything you need in stock. You may need to spend more time going to other stores finding all your items. You can always call ahead to ask if your item is in stock, but that’s an extra step, and you could be sitting on hold for a while. And unless the store is open 24/7, your shopping time is limited to the store’s hours.

Shopping safety tips

Whether you choose to shop online or in stores, remember to do so safely. If online shopping is more your speed, remember to check to see whether the website is secure by looking for a little padlock symbol in the web browser’s web address bar. When setting up accounts for online shops, use unique and strong passwords. Lastly, don’t forget to check your credit card statements frequently for any unusual activity. [4]

If you prefer shopping in-store, always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your wallet, keys and phone. Be wary if you carry large amounts of cash. Instead, you may wish to use a debit or credit card because they typically offer security measures such as a card lock and fraudulent purchase protection if a card is lost or stolen. [5]

Remember to stick to your budget

Payment options have evolved right along with shopping trends so that now even the smallest retailers can accept credit cards and other digital payments. But as shopping online and in-person becomes increasingly convenient, it’s also easier to overspend.

You can stay on track with a monthly budget. Be realistic when planning your expenditures, both essential and nonessential, and then stick to your budget. The time and effort you put into budgeting will be worth it when you’re able to meet your expenses, pay off debt, and build up your savings.


[1] “38 E-Commerce Statistics of 2023,” Anna Baluch and Kelly Main, (Accessed March 2024).

[2] “20 Pros and Cons of Online Shopping,” Stacy Fisher, (Accessed April 2024).

[3] “The Pros and Cons of Online Shopping,” Anna Baluch, (Accessed March 2024).

[4] “10 Tips for a Safer Online Shopping Experience,” (Accessed March 2024).

[5] “Shopping Safety Tips,” (Accessed March 2024).


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