Shopping has always been an activity in which customers browse the shelves for available goods or services at various physical retail outlets — actual shops. Since the beginning of known history, humans have directly exchanged goods and services with one another in a system of trading (barter — this service or product for that service or product). As civilizations grew, the system of barter was replaced with retail trade involving coinage. Money. That is the system in which we have been familiar for the last few centuries — the system of our parents and grandparents, including most of our lives.
However, customers now can simply access the “marketplace” via the internet by using their computers or smartphones. No need for our physical presence, physical products to be seen and touched, or travel outside the home. This new form of market is the emerging mode of business known as e‑business. It has been active in “developed” countries for decades, but it is now operating in full force in India, and there are definitely serious effects on our way of life and the landscape of physical shops that families have spent decades investing themselves in.
In the present-day context, learning and analyzing consumer behavior is extremely vital for the success of a business. The fundamental issue which arises in front of a consumer when he/she embarks on a shopping endeavor is now, which mode of shopping should they choose to satisfy their own needs. Should they purchase online or offline? Go to a traditional marketplace or a virtual one? Who will they reward with their purchase: The actual shop-owner in their town, or an unseen, virtual one that they don’t know?
The question facing us is whether or not online shopping is better than offline. Who should we reward with our purchase? What kind of ripple effects happen to our physical town and local stores when we make our purchased online from far-off vendors? How are we hurting our local economy, and therefore ourselves?
The online shopping industry has flared up to a point where people prefer to shop online due to ease of purchase, convenience, variety of products, and tech savvy consumers able to effectively surf the net for exactly what they want. People can shop 24/7 from wherever they want, and the world is at their fingertips. There is no hustle and bustle, no rushing, no crowded shops.
But, the fact is that our online habits of purchasing goods is affecting our local business-owners, our towns, our way of living. Or is it?
The traditional way of offline is still considered best by many. People want to physically check the products and have face-to-face communication (bargaining, etc.). It is also relatively easier to return products in person than online. If we have product complications after an online shopping experience, we face more problems when trying to negotiate or return the product. There are also higher chances of shipping issues, packaging problems, mishandling by the delivery company, and risk of fraud if we enter the wrong website marketplace.
The internet was opened to the public in 1991, and soon afterwards online shopping became possible. Since that time, the online shopping experience has become much smoother and enjoyable for the consumer. People have become less skeptical of online shopping over the years.
In conclusion, it is the opinion of our student editorial group that BOTH traditional and online shopping are important to us. Despite the rapid growth of online sales in India, and the projected exponential growth of that industry, the majority of consumers in India still prefer traditional shopping — especially since a huge portion of Indians don’t hav access to online shopping methods, nor the wherewithal to understand how to navigate the internet shopping experience. People want to see the shop-owner and touch and try on the product in real time.
Both online and offline experiences have their good and bad points, problems and benefits. There is a trust issue for us when dealing with money online. However, the allure of a better product assortment and easy shopping experience is a benefit for the online proponents. There are serious responsibilities we have of taking care of our towns and local shopping centers by continuing to shop offline so that we reward our local vendors and their families — making our towns strong. Also, questions of what is better for the environment — offline or online?
In any event, how we spend our money is extremely important. Every rupee we spend is a reward to someone for something. We need to take many issues into account when we buy something either online or offline. Time marches on, and we have to adjust to modernity and yet remain true to our values.