Is it Cheaper to Buy Online Or In-Store? (Explained)

Online Shopping

Online shopping has never been more central to a customer’s buying experience than it is right now. As we all live busier lives, the convenience afforded by online shopping means we can finish almost anything we need with the push of a button. And it shows up at our doorstep faster than ever before.

While online shopping offers an incredible amount of speed and convenience, the question remains:

Does online shopping save you money? Or is it cheaper to buy the things you want in a brick-and-mortar store? The answer may surprise you.

Online Shopping Has Exploded

Online shopping has become more popular worldwide because of its vast variety of available products, convenience, and its contactless nature. Shoppers of all ages are increasingly using the internet to find their preferred products, thanks to online shopping and eCommerce.

Online shopping is a practical choice for clients who want to save time on their way to the store or additional money by locating the greatest prices. When shopping online, customers can get the exact goods they desire from the comfort of their homes.

Therefore, it was inevitable that online buying would expand during lockdown – and the trend continues to move upwards.

And the online shopping boom doesn’t end with the common consumer retail products. You can order your groceries, have your prescriptions delivered, and even have your favorite takeout dropped off right at your front door through countless services.

In-Store Shopping Still Has Its Benefits

Shopping in person still has many perks and a significant presence in retail despite the many benefits of the internet. However, some things can only be done in person, including looking at a product or talking to a knowledgeable salesperson about your needs.

Don’t forget the comfort it brings to know precisely what you’re getting when you go home with your purchases. Nobody enjoys worrying about how quickly and accurately internet orders are delivered.

Of course, in certain shopping situations, you can expect to experience some pressure from salespeople. However, shopping in person often allows for a more personalized experience while also supporting local businesses.

Is it Cheaper to Buy In-Store Or Online?

The simple answer is it depends. In most cases, you will find a better price online than you will in a store. For the most part, you can thank lower overhead costs for the savings. However, when an in-store price is lower, the savings are often much more substantial than those found online.

The category in which you are shopping also plays an important role. For example, when purchasing entertainment goods, there is a low chance of finding a lower price when shopping at a physical location. Yet, the average in-store savings are usually higher – almost 80 percent!

So, what does this mean if you are trying to find the best price? You can do a few things to maximize your savings when shopping online and in-store. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Consider The Shopping Category

There are certain shopping categories that carry a higher in-store price tag than others. For example, cosmetics purchased directly from the manufacturer can be cheaper than the same product in a store because they don’t include any retailer markups.

Electronics are another category that often displays lower online prices. At the very least, there is more competition. Think of it like this – if you are shopping on Amazon for a coffee maker, you can choose from hundreds (if not thousands) of different brands and models.

In a store, you may have ten or so options. More competition not only equates to better prices. It also means that you have the opportunity to find an item that not only fits your budget but also checks all of your boxes.

But there are categories that carry a higher price tag when shopping online. This is most prevalent when shopping for groceries or takeout. In addition, many food delivery apps charge you a service fee while also taking some of the store’s profits.

To compensate for the loss, many grocery stores and restaurants will increase prices – sometimes up to 30 percent. Unfortunately, this is often the price paid for the convenience of having food delivered straight to your door.

2. Don’t Forget About Shipping Prices

Services like Amazon Prime not only promise lightning-fast deliveries; they also help consumers like you save BIG on shipping and handling costs. For most, this means a less expensive shopping experience.

However, many online retailers have brick-and-mortar locations and often don’t ship enough volume to compete. Some will offer free shipping if you spend enough money. But few offer the same free one-day shipping as Amazon.

Shipping costs vary across shopping experiences, making it a crucial cost to factor into your overall total. After all, you could end up saving with online prices only to spend more than in-store shopping because of additional fees and costs like shipping.

3. When In Doubt, Compare Both Methods

One thing online shopping makes easier to do is compare prices. There are countless browser extensions that allow you to compare prices across multiple websites and platforms instantaneously.

Other extensions provide coupon information to ensure you can apply all discounts to your purchase. This is something that is exclusive to online shopping, while the same assurance for the lowest price is not always available while shopping in a store.

But in-store shopping has its savings perks as well. Think about the clearance section at some of your favorite stores. While online shopping platforms sometimes have sale or clearance sections, stores can offer bigger discounts for a wider variety of products.

This isn’t always the case, but it is beneficial to consider – especially if you aren’t shopping for something too specific. But, if you are looking for a particular item, compare prices across digital shopping platforms and retail outlets. And always keep an eye out for stores that offer a price match.

A price match is truly the best of both worlds. You have the opportunity to closely examine an item in-store while applying the lowest found price – which is often found on the internet. Just be sure to check the finer print if a store offers this service.

Visiting Stores Before Purchasing Online

For many, shopping in a store has become a form of window shopping. This applies more frequently to items such as clothes, electronics, and other goods that you may want to take a closer look at before swiping your card.

What typically happens is a shopper will head to a store, find an item they’ve been shopping around for, and take a closer look. If they like an item, they often go home to conduct further pricing research. If the same item is cheaper online, they will make a purchase.

If a store offers an item for a better price, they are likely to head back to the location to complete their purchase – particularly if the savings are substantial. If they are saving only a few dollars, the convenience of purchasing the item online may be enough for them to buy from a website.

This form of “window shopping” is much more difficult if you live in an area that is far from a shopping area. Many rural, and even suburban towns, don’t offer a wide selection when it comes to malls and other shopping centers.

Those living in more remote areas are less likely to spend time and transportation costs. Unless, of course, the savings are much larger than the lowest online price. Whatever your personal situation, shopping around both online and in-store has its own set of benefits.

Researching Online Before Purchasing In-Store

A similar logic can be applied to in-store purchases. It is common for shoppers to compare multiple items within the same category online before making an in-store purchase. This is common on big-ticket items.

Before heading to the store to buy a new refrigerator, you are likely to do a little digging online before the best option for your needs. Sure, stores often have dedicated salespeople to aid your decision-making. But today’s shoppers like to take a more educated approach.

In this case, shoppers will search the internet for reviews, pricing information, and even in-store sales. But, for many, it’s more comforting to purchase expensive items from a store that allows them to physically inspect an item.

Final Thoughts on Whether is it Cheaper to Buy Online Or In-Store

Most of the time, online shopping will provide a better price. It costs less for stores to ship something from a warehouse than it does to display an item for purchase in a store. In some cases, you will find a better price when shopping in a brick-and-mortar store.

This is especially true if the store is running a sale. The easiest way to ensure you pay the lowest possible price for the things you want is by comparing prices across digital shopping platforms and physical stores.

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