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When to Buy Online And When Not To!

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, online sales for the fourth quarter of 2016 grew 14% when compared with the fourth quarter of 2015. Further, online sales as a percentage of all retail sales have doubled since 2009. That shouldn’t be surprising for anyone who hasn’t been under a rock these last eight years. Online stores allow shoppers to quickly and easily browse through an almost infinite variety of products. There’s no need to deal with pushy salespeople, and you can compare product details more easily than in-store. However, brick-and-mortar still accounts for a great deal of sales, and for good reason. Sometimes you just need to check something out in person. Here’s a guide on when it’s good time to a purchase online, and when it’s not.

When to Buy Online

  • Electronics: Any significant electronics purchase, like a laptop or new cellphone, usually requires some serious research to find the best option. There are too many variables to make a complete comparison in-store. If you want the best gear for your money, online is usually the only way to go.
  • When you’re not in a rush: If you don’t need something right now, there’s a good chance you’ll find the best deal online. Standard shipping options are usually cheap, if not free.
  • When you can’t find it locally: Need a reasonably priced medical-school-grade replica skull? What about a microcontroller smaller than a quarter with USB 3.0 support? Good luck finding those at the local mall. If you’re in need of something really specific, the internet is your best bet.

When to Buy In-Store

  • When you need it now: Sometimes you’re in need of an item today. Maybe your laptop charger fizzled out and you have to submit a project tomorrow morning. Overnight shipping is almost always more expensive than the gasoline you’ll burn to pick something up from a store.
  • When you want a salesperson’s help: Salespeople aren’t always pushy. Sometimes, you might not have time to do the research on a product you need right away. For example, you might not know which engine oil is best for your car. In such a situation, a knowledgable salesperson can get you set up in no time.
  • Groceries and edibles: Food and supplements obtained online can be of questionable integrity. For example, there are reports of imitation protein powders being sold in packaging that is almost exactly the same as the legitimate product. No matter what the discount, it’s not worth risking your health.
  • “In-store only” sales: Sometimes you may come across a coupon or promotion that’s (almost) too good to be true. When you do, don’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity!

This list is great to keep in mind for now, but things are changing fast. If you want the best deals, you need to be ready to change with the times. A few years ago, the best way to purchase clothing was definitely in-store. However, more and more fashion companies are allowing their customers free shipping and returns so they can order items, try them on, and return them if they don’t fit. Some services even allow you to try before you buy!