Online vs. In-Store Shopping

The pros and cons of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

While Black Friday was traditionally the year's biggest day for in-store shopping and Cyber Monday was reserved for the virtual version of the door-crasher, the lines have become blurred in recent years. Many retailers are now offering Black Friday prices to online shoppers, and Cyber Monday is less a separate event and more of an extension of the shopping weekend. Though you may be tempted to skip the lines and crowds and try your luck online, there are pros and cons to both online and in-store shopping which you should carefully consider as you plan your purchasing.

Online Shopping: Pros and Cons

When it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, there are a lot of advantages to shopping online. Not only will you avoid the notoriously thick Black Friday and Cyber Monday crowds, but you'll also save time, since you won't have to drive to the store or the mall and find a parking spot.

In many cases, online retailers are able to offer lower overall prices, especially during major sale events. This is primarily because online stores have lower overhead costs: they don't have to maintain an attractive storefront, pay wages to sales associates, or put up intricate displays. They can leverage that cost competitiveness by offering consumers lower prices on the same brand-name merchandise available in stores. Online retailers also offer and accept Black Friday coupons, just the same as in-store retailers will.

However, there are some limitations to shopping online. You can't physically inspect the merchandise, try it on or try it out, or have it demonstrated to you. Access to help resources are limited and generally don't take place in real time. Online retailers generally tend to have more restrictive return and exchange policies, and returning or exchanging an item can be very difficult and time-consuming. You will also have to wait for the item to be shipped to you instead of being able to enjoy it right away.

Finally, don't discount security issues. With so many people shopping online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, scammers are out in full force trying to get a sniff of unsuspecting consumers' credit card or bank account information. You should always be sure to clear your web browser's history and cache and close all browser windows when you've completed your purchases.

In-Store Shopping: Pros and Cons

Essentially, the pros and cons of in-store shopping are the same as those for online shopping, but in reverse. When you shop in-store, you'll be able to touch, try on, or try out the merchandise you're considering. You can also have any questions answered on the spot while enjoying a more secure shopping experience. You may also happen upon bargains on things you need that you didn't see advertised.

However, the in-store shopping experience can be notoriously stressful on Black Friday. Crowds are thick and lines are long. At times, it can feel like controlled chaos in the store, and you may have to wait a long time to get help from a sales associate if you need it. Item quantities are also limited, and stores only have so much warehouse space; there's no guarantee that the item you want will still be in stock by the time you get there to buy it.

In the end, it comes down to what you're shopping for. If you're looking to snag a great deal on that snazzy outfit you've had your eye on for months, in-store shopping might be a better bet. On the other hand, if you're looking for the bottom-line best deal on a new laptop, shopping online may be the best way to go, even after you factor in shipping. Don't wait until the last minute to choose how you're going to shop; do your research and plan well in advance. You'll save time, money, and headaches that way.