Benefits of Online Shopping

When it comes to shopping, more and more of us are letting our fingers (and our mice) do the walking.

Online sales are expected to hit $211 billion this year. That is a rise of 20 percent over last year and comes just three years after the industry hit the $100 billion milestone, according to the 2006 State of Retailing Online report from Shop.org and Forrester Research. Here are seven reasons it makes sense to shop online:

1. Lower prices. Online shopping can reduce overhead costs in a variety of ways, which can translate to lower prices for you. In fact, one 2004 study found online prices to be 6 to 16 percent lower than offline prices.

2. More savings with online coupons. Many times, shoppers can save even further with an online coupon or coupon code. According to a 2005 Bizrate/Shopzilla report, 71 percent of online shoppers said they were able to find better discount offers and sales online, as compared to shopping through a catalog or traditional retail merchant. Online retailers may issue a button or text link that will apply an automatic savings to your order, or they may issue a specific coupon code to be entered at checkout.

3. Research capabilities. The Internet allows you to easily compare products and prices, so you can be sure that the item you purchase is the exact item you want. Online merchants can publish much more information about their product on a website than they could affordably publish in a print catalog. And online stores give you the ability to share information and reviews with other shoppers who have firsthand experience with a product or retailer. As Internet connection speeds continue to increase for larger segments of the population, these types of interactive features will become even more important. Zappos.com, a leading shoe retailer, for example, allows you to view most shoes from as many as eight different angles, including a close up.

4. Increased selection. Warehousing logistics can be much simpler for an online retailer, and many of the online superstores have a staggering inventory to choose from. Plus, as a consumer, you can avoid the inconvenience of physically traveling among online stores to comparison shop. A simple online search can lead you to the right product at the right price, fast.

5. Convenience. An online store allows you to shop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So you can shop at your leisure, regardless of your time zone. This is particularly important for those of us who are limited in our ability to get to a brick and mortar store. The elderly, as well as parents of young children, for example, may have a more relaxed shopping experience in front of the computer screen.

6. Saves time. So much of the vast variety of products and product information is easily searchable. Plus, there is no traveling, parking, and walking involved.

7. Environmental Benefits. Recent studies are showing that shopping online leads to reduced fuel consumption and air pollution, because so much of our car travel is dedicated to shopping. Plus, shopping online reduces the need for print catalogs and excess packaging. And downloadable items purchased online eliminate the need for any kind of material goods at all.

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