Online Shopping in India: Advantages, Disadvantages and Everything You Need to Know

On: March 15, 2018

As of June 2017, India ranks second when it comes to active Internet users. The internet has a lot to offer, one of it being e-commerce or Online Shopping as most people would call it. This competes very closely with traditional retail shopping which has predated online shopping as long as we can recall. Since online shopping is still in its infancy, it makes many people doubt its legitimacy. For a country like India, the Internet penetration is still at a mere 26% but it’s growing at a staggering rate which will surely give a boost to e-commerce.

The introduction of Reliance Jio has been especially influential in the sudden rise of internet users in India. This has provided online sellers with an opportunity over their traditional counterparts. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of online shopping which will help you make a better decision the next time you decide to shop for something online.

Advantages of Online Shopping

1. A Wide Selection of Products

You can buy off almost anything off the internet these days! This is because of leading e-commerce websites like Flipkart, Amazon, SnapDeal and TataCliQ which list products from multiple sellers spread across the country. This allows websites as such to list a wide selection of products including Home Appliances, Smartphones, Clothes, Accessories, and Health related products.

It is also good to know that one product can be offered by several sellers on the same website, further giving users the option to check which seller is better. To top that off, most websites display reviews and ratings of listed products from real people. This gives prospective buyers a second opinion from other people who are using the product, so they don’t have to blindly trust what the seller has to brag about the product.

Apart from leading websites like Flipkart and Amazon, there happen to be a plethora of other websites that specialize in selling a single type of product. For example, HealthKart or Myntra. The former specializes in selling everything you could need to maintain a healthy lifestyle including gym equipment, health supplements and vitamins. The latter has its products aligned towards fashion. It includes everything you could need to look fab! While Healthkart is a retailer on its own, Myntra also includes products from various offline sellers who wish to list their products on their site. E-commerce websites are sometimes also home to exclusive products like laptops which you cannot purchase offline. Either way, you can find a much larger catalog of products if you wish to shop online.

2. Competitive Prices

You might have noticed the same products available for much cheaper on online sites. This is possible because online sellers wade off a lot of overhead costs including shop rent, employee expenses and others. This benefit, in turn, is transferred to the end consumer in terms of lower pricing.

This over time has made online shopping more competitive. Since offline retailers are struggling to match prices, most online websites have started competing against each other, which in-turn is making things even better for us as consumers. If you are on a hunt to buy the latest smartphone, television or air-conditioner, which is probably going to be a major expense, you’d naturally be looking for the best possible price. If you do happen to check online, you will see that prices vary from each e-commerce site. To help you with this, we display prices from all the major online sellers and show you the lowest price for each product.

3. Discounts and Bundled benefits

With the online market heating up, every eCommerce website is looking out for loyal customers who would return to make another purchase. In an effort to achieve this, you may be offered discounts, buying schemes or even bundled offers while buying online.

Speaking about bundled offers with membership, the most popular one has to be Amazon’s Prime membership. This membership entitles you to free One-day delivery from a wide selection of products that are under the Prime program. Users are also offered early access to seasonal Sales and even Prime exclusive deals that appear often. The cherry on the cake has to be access to Prime content that includes Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Prime Music. These services come free of cost with the yearly membership that allows users to experience popular web shows and music. The membership is currently offered for Rs.999 per annum.

The second unheard service is offered by Flipkart dubbed as Flipkart First. This was first launched in 2014 as a premium subscription-based service to provide free fast delivery for select products available on the platform. However, unlike Amazon Prime, it failed to gain traction and faded off. The membership is expected to relaunch this year after the brand has managed to rope in bigger investment from Microsoft and SoftBank. It was also reported that they will be collaborating with BookMyShow and Ola to provide combined offers.

Memberships aside, products on e-commerce websites come with a multitude of bundled offers. For example, you can purchase a new mobile phone like the Redmi Note 5, pop in a Jio SIM and get cash back up to Rs.2,200. Most eCommerce websites have also deployed a wallet service and you can use money from that to purchase products with additional cashback.

4. Easy Returns

Have you been on the forefront of trying to replace something you bought at the local store and the vendor straightaway ignores your existence? Unfortunately, this happens more often than not. Best case scenario is the shopkeeper pointing you towards the service center if you have purchased an electronic device. This is largely due to the fact that most offline shops are resellers and wouldn’t like to pile up faulty inventory. Thankfully, this isn’t the case when you purchase things on the internet.

Almost every product you buy on the internet comes with a certain no-questions-asked returns time period. This time window varies from seller to seller and type of product. Within this period you can ask the seller to take back the product due to any reason provided it has not been damaged by you. This policy proves most helpful when you are looking out to purchase clothing items. If it’s a mis-match or you just don’t like how it looks on you, you can send it back. You can also opt for a replacement if you so wish.

In case of returns, most online sellers will refund you the amount you paid back into your bank account within 7-10 working days. This, however, is the maximum time required to process the amount. If you use a website’s proprietary wallet system like PhonePe for Flipkart or Amazon Pay on Amazon India, your refund is processed back into the wallet within 24 hours from the product’s return. On the other hand, if you’re skeptic about paying online and pay through Cash on Delivery(CoD), you will have to feed in your bank account details so the seller can revert the money there; this may take a bit longer.

However, the chances of returning a product offline is pretty less comparatively as you would have already tried it while buying, which is not the case online.

5. Convenience & 24/7 Availability

While purchasing online, you can browse and order products from the internet any time of the day, from anywhere, on any device, to be delivered to any place with a valid post code. All of this while sitting at the comfort of wherever you are, right through your smartphone.

Offline stores do not give you this convenience. If you need to purchase something from a local store, you will have to wait till 11am for that shop to open, no matter how eager you are. On the other hand, if you happen to miss that window and end up being late at work, that store is most likely going to be closed. Even product availability is an issue, you will know it only after reaching the store. All of this poses a lot of hassles which can easily be avoided while shopping online.

The closest disappointment you can get to this on the internet is when a product you desire goes out of stock. But, fret not. It is very likely for you to find a very close alternative (perhaps even better) that will be in stock ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Disadvantages of Online Shopping

With every pro, there have to be cons and this applies to shopping online as well. Online shopping isn’t perfect yet and here’s a couple of things you might want to consider before making your purchase.

1. Splurge Shopping

With brands bombarding every activity you could possibly do on your smartphone or PC, be it as nominal as scrolling through your Instagram feed or ordering food, they have your sublime attention. That’s right! You may choose to ignore the advertisements for there’s no way you can eliminate all of them, but subconsciously they will get to you. As mentioned earlier, these relevant ads can keep showing up on your devices for quite a while. Eventually, you will consider opening one and landing up at the checkout page. This product will finally land at your home and will serve no real purpose. The purpose has been served. You now have another completely irrelevant product lying around in your home.

This is one of the biggest drawbacks of shopping online where you wish to buy a product and end up not buying it. Instead you end up purchasing something you do not need. To save yourself from these targeted advertisements, the best way is to browse eCommerce websites through an incognito window on your browser. However, you may end up using their app anyway because it’s just so much easier to use and be subject to their marketing strategies.

2. COD isn’t always available

As a millennial, I am fine with online transactions knowing the fact that the money I spend will come back if I don’t like a product, but, that’s not the case with my mother. If you are someone who’s sceptic about purchasing through your debit/credit card, the fallback option is COD wherein you can pay at your doorstep. This adds more confidence for doubtful buyers as they actually can physically see what they’ve bought before paying up.

But, not all products available online can be purchased with this. In fact, if you buy an expensive product such as a flagship phone or a large home appliance like a refrigerator, you will have to pay up in advance. This is because sellers do not want to risk shipping products and the receiver not receiving it since the price includes shipping and insurance costs.

Apart from that, some sellers just can’t afford to take the risk at all and may not offer cash on delivery across all products they have to offer. In this case, you may have to take the leap of faith and pay up online and hope it shows up.

3. Lacks Hands-On Experience Before Purchasing

Online shopping is all virtual and unlike brick and mortar shops, you can’t hold and feel it before purchasing it. To overcome this hurdle, most websites have a review and ratings section for the products they offer. Users who have bought the product share their opinions to help you out. This is the closest you can get to a hands-on experience online.

If you are looking to purchase any electronic device, the walk-around to this problem is hitting the local store, getting a feel of the product and then placing the order online. However, you cannot use this hack when it comes to fashion accessories or clothes. Fortunately, there’s usually a bigger return window with most fashion products. Therefore you can check if the outfit fits you right and then opt for a size or colour replacement if it doesn’t fit your requirement. Alternatively, you could also return it for a full refund.

4. Bargaining

So you’ve managed to settle on buying that smartphone after checking it at your local store but you’re one of those people who derives inner peace after bargaining and settling for a lower price. Unfortunately, all prices on almost every e-commerce website are set and cannot be bargained for.

But since you’re still on the hunt for the perfect deal, the best way around this is to bargain. That’s right. Try to get the best offer from the local store. Once you’ve figured that’s the best price, compare it with the online price. You could also check on our website which can get you the best price from a couple of leading eCommerce websites. After this, you can make the best decision and rest assured that you’ve the best price. Victory!

5. Security & Genuineness

The most worrying aspect of shopping online – Security. To make a purchase online, you’re going to have to surrender some of your details be it your bank details, contact number and your home address. The scary part is that once you’ve entered the details you may not know where they are stored and who has access to that information. Sometimes this information could end up in the hands of telemarketers and you may end up seeing random messages showing up on your phone asking if you’d be interested in buying a new home?

The best way to avoid that is to check the privacy statement that every e-commerce website has to show. This is where the website will state what information they gather, how it’s stored and if it is shared with any third-party services. This, however, is a tedious task of reading through the wall of text. The more easier way of knowing that the information you’re putting through is secure, is by checking the presence of https:// before its URL. This ensures that your data is sent through encrypted packets and safe from pry eyes. It also ensures that it is not a phishing website that you’re giving out your data to. Popular e-commerce sites in India like Amazon and Flipkart are secure and trustworthy.

These are some of the most noteworthy advantages and disadvantages of online shopping. We are sure these factors would differ from person to person but if you are set out to shop online, you will most likely face these benefits and drawbacks. After a few years, with more people gaining access to internet, online shopping will probably become the more popular choice. Do you have any questions about e-commerce or anything related to shopping online? Let us know in the comments below.