Massachusetts Daily Collegian

In-Store or Online: A Shopping Guide

By Ashley Beam

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As the winter season begins, so does the infamous holiday shopping frenzy. While in the past customers had to wait hours in line and fight amongst crowds in their favorite stores, the rise of technology has lead to the increase in online shopping. Which mode of shopping you choose depends on your preferences and availability.


Online Shopping

Online shopping requires an internet connection, a computer and a credit card. Most stores – with the notable exception being H&M – allow consumer to shop online and some offer online-only specials. By shopping online, you are able to browse an entire store without leaving the comfort of your home and may do so at your convenience. The websites are typically organized into sections, such as Women, Men, Children, Accessories, Shoes, Sale and Other for easy and simple browsing.

To view the items for sale, they are shown in a thumbnail style. This makes it easy for customers to see their options in an organized manner. For a detailed view of a product, there is a “zoom” option to see minor details that may be hidden in the thumbnail photo. Online stores provide clear information boxes for each product listed that include information about the item, such as the sizing and materials, as well as content and care information.

A great option available to online shoppers is the review section. A priceless option for customers who wish to get as much insight on the product as possible, this is where current and previous owners of the product give feedback on the item purchased. Others may rate the comments posted, either agreeing or disagreeing with the post, helping give the most objective and well-rounded view of the product possible. In addition to writing their opinion of the product, they can rate its quality out of five stars, one being poor and five being excellent.

The online “wish list” is another great option when purchasing items online. An alternative to a shopping cart, the wish list on a website is almost like a “save for later” button. If you don’t have enough money one week but you know you will the next, you can add the item desired to your wish list and it will remain there as long as the product is available. The wish list makes it easy for saving items to your account for a later purchasing date, and they can give friends and family a peek into what might make a good holiday gift.

Although there is a fee for standard shipping, online shopping makes for an easy and convenient means of shopping. The shipping fee replaces some of the money you would be spending for gas if you were going to drive to the mall and for some the added price of shipping is well worth avoiding the hustle and bustle of a busy store. Commonly there are also sales online that may not be going on in the store. So even though the price may be a bit higher at check out, there are usually promotional codes that you can find on the store’s site or that will be sent to you if you subscribe to the stores emailing list that you can type in and submit to the store online for a percentage off of your purchase.


In-Store Shopping

In-store shopping requires transportation, money for said transportation and at least two hours of your time. Traveling to the local mall or individual store of choice is worth it — in-store shopping is the most reliable way to shop.

Whether you are in the area of your favorite store and want to window shop or need a new shirt for tomorrow night, walking into a store is can be overwhelming.

Unlike online shopping, in-store shopping is a very hands-on experience. Customers are given the option of trying on clothes before purchasing anything and are able to physically hold and touch the item they might buy, enabling consumers to get a sense of if the items feel “nice” or are might of some scratchy polyester blend. Shoppers are able to browse and see what they would like in person, making it easier to choose between one style to the next. They can receive advice from sales associates or a shopping companion before purchasing.

Colored clothing may appear different in person when compared to a photograph online. For example, if a shirt looks great on a hanger in a store, it doesn’t mean it will look the same when worn. The same goes for online shopping; something may look great online, but when it arrives in the mail it’s something completely different than expected.  The difference is that one way you have the option to put it back before you buy it, and the other way you have to go through a potentially complicated return process.

Checking out in-store can either be very fast or painstakingly slow depending on the size of the check-out line. It’s potentially slower than online check-outs, but the customers get the items immediately after purchasing instead of waiting for 4-5 business days, which can be worth the hassle in certain situations. If you need an item that day, in-store shopping is the route to take.

Depending on your availability, shopping in-store is a better overall experience of purchasing a new wardrobe, but if you’re looking for a straightforward and fast way of shopping and don’t mind the shipping wait, online shopping is probably for you.


Ashley Beam can be reached at [email protected]

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