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 buying the things you want in a brick-and-mortar store cheaper? The answer may surprise you.

Table of Contents [Hide]

  1. Online Shopping Has Exploded
  2. In-Store Shopping Still Has Its Benefits
  3. Is it Cheaper to Buy In-Store Or Online?
  4. Visiting Stores Before Purchasing Online
  5. Researching Online Before Purchasing In-Store
  6. Final Thoughts on Whether it Is Cheaper to Buy Online Or In-Store

Online Shopping Has Exploded

Online shopping has become more popular worldwide because of its variety of available products, convenience, and contactless nature. Shoppers of all ages increasingly use 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 most outstanding 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 the lockdown – and the trend continues to move upward.

And the online shopping boom doesn’t end with everyday consumer retail products. You can order groceries, deliver your prescriptions, and even have your favorite takeout 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, you can expect to experience pressure from salespeople in certain shopping situations. However, in-person shopping often provides a more personalized experience while supporting local businesses.

Is it Cheaper to Buy In-Store Or Online?

The simple answer is it depends. You will usually find a better price online than 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 more substantial than those 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

Some specific shopping categories 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 shop 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 you can find an item that fits your budget and check all your boxes.

However, some categories 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 taking some of the store’s profits.

Many grocery stores and restaurants will increase prices – sometimes up to 30 percent to compensate for the loss. 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 crucial to factor into your overall total. After all, you could save 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. Countless browser extensions allow instantaneously comparing prices across multiple websites and platforms.

Other extensions provide coupon information to ensure you can apply all discounts to your purchase. This 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 various 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. Always keep an eye out for stores that offer a price match.

A price match is truly the best of both worlds. You can closely examine an item in-store while applying the lowest price – often found online. 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 you may want to look at before swiping your card.

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

If a store offers an item for a better price, they will likely head back to the location to complete their purchase – mainly 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 far from a shopping area. Many rural and even suburban towns don’t offer a wide selection of 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 more significant 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 will likely dig online for the best option. 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 in-store sales. But, for many, purchasing expensive items from a store that allows them to inspect an item physically is more comforting.

Final Thoughts on Whether it Is 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 to display an item for purchase in a store. Sometimes, 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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