Shopping on the Internet is the fastest-growing sector in the British retail market. 'E-tailing' now accounts for something like 9% of all retail commerce in the UK, and is set to continue its meteoric rise. This is particularly astonishing given that the phenomenon of Internet shopping began only in 1994, little more than a decade ago.
Now people regularly use the Internet to buy books, CDs, DVDs, food, wine, concert and theatre tickets, travel tickets, insurance – in fact, just about anything.
With online shopping, you can do your shopping from the comfort of your home, any time of the day and night, any day of the week. You can find just about any product you can wish for, anywhere in the country, or even abroad, and see there and then if it is in stock. You can research products by looking at what other users have to say about them. You can go to price-search shopping sites (which compare prices from a broad range of suppliers) to look for the most competitive prices and deals. And these prices are often considerably better than those offered by conventional 'bricks-and-mortar' shops and other outlets.
Online shopping works well when you know exactly what you want to buy. But it is not so good for buying consumer products that you need to see and handle, to test their quality. Try buying a ripe melon on the Internet! This caveat also applies to a wide range of products from fresh fish to clothes, cameras and cars. Here traditional bricks-and-mortar shops have the edge, and they also present similar hands-on advantages for browsing.
In addition, with conventional high-street shopping you can buy a product there and then, and walk away with it. With online shopping, you have to pay for it to be delivered, and then wait for it to be delivered (often the cause of much frustration).
Lastly, online shopping cannot replace the human contact and social experience of high-street shopping – if you like that kind of thing, and it is available to you.
Predictions suggest that, although online shopping is growing apace and competes strongly with many forms of conventional shopping, it is unlikely to replace it altogether.