From a sociological standpoint, the internet has transformed the way that we shop. As consumers, we now have access to a wealth of information from consumer reviews, savings strategies and varying personal finance philosophies. Most importantly, the internet equips us with the power of judgment when we make our most important investments. No matter what we buy, we're always empowered with limitless resources for sound research.
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Still, the experience of in-store shopping is important. Could you imagine spending all your time in front of a computer? For many people with desk jobs, this scenario happens far too often. Despite the convenience of online shopping, it's important for us to step outside, window shop and engage with the product that we're about to buy. (For related reading, see Is Online Shopping Killing Brick-And-Mortar?)
Online and offline, consumerism is a balancing act, and we need to be self-aware of our decisions. Next time you head to the store, remember what you've learned from your e-commerce endeavors and avoid these six common pitfalls.
You see something that you love sitting in front of you, and you decide that you absolutely need it. It happens to the best of us, even if we're champions of self-restraint. Online, we have more time to think about what we buy and to research products in depth. When you shop offline, exercise this same level of judgment and remind yourself that you'll be able to find the product elsewhere if it sells out.
The field of advertising was built upon the art of persuasion. Online, it's easy to research the validity of a "best price" ad through a quick Google search. Offline, it's tough to assess the legitimacy of a similar "low-price guarantee." Thinking with our emotional brains, we assume that we've been lucky enough to find a great price when in reality, we need to do more research before coming to that conclusion. Use a smartphone or computer to reassess that low-price guarantee. Even if you're limited to a basic cell phone, you can call a friend or family member to confirm.
Limited Access to Information
Online, Google searches seem to answer all of our shopping-related questions. Furthermore, we're able to research information and reviews from a range of sources. In stores, we tend to only have one place to find information – the store itself. Obviously, this can be a conflict of interest because stores want to sell, and they're likely to integrate advertisements with product details. Of course, there's no such thing as a bias-free review, and for this reason, it's important to weigh pros and cons from multiple places. Unless you have a smartphone, this process is less-than-straight forward in a store, and you may want to take some time to go home and do some research.
Nonexistent Negotiation and Price Flexibility
In stores, prices appear to be as-is. We forget that in select instances, it's possible and acceptable to negotiate. Car care expenses provide one example for this rule. If you're shopping for an auto body service or regular maintenance expense, you should always ask what discount options are available. Online, through platforms such as eBay and Amazon, buyers have some wiggle-room when it comes to price. In stores, this flexibility is seemingly nonexistent, and when it is possible, we seem to forget.
Forgetting the Fine Print
Return policies, promotional terms and warranty conditions are easier to find online than in-store. Generally, this information is available in a publicly accessible place. However, it can be tough to spot. While a sales associate will help you find the fine print that you need, it's often easy to overlook if you're not actively thinking about. More often than not, we forget to ask questions about the minutiae that can become important down the road.
Retail sales people are amazing communicators, which can make us feel pressured to buy something. When we shop online, we do it from the comfort of our own homes, and we can avoid the sales associate charm. Sometimes when we shop, we don't even realize where the pressure to buy is originating.
The Bottom Line
Online shopping can never replace the experience of brick and mortar shopping; however, it can help us become more aware of our weaknesses. As a consumer, your strongest asset is your mind, so use what you've learned online to make strong offline decisions too.