I know, you're probably used to seeing horror stories about spouses that run up massive credit card bills and go into financial ruin because of an addiction to clicking "Add to Cart". But, there's another side to the world of e-commerce that can help provide stability and improve the life of every member of your household.
1. Easier Shopping Accountability
Have you ever gone to the store and added something to the cart without thinking? In a store it's hard to ignore those cleverly placed peg hooks. Once you feel the item in your hand, there's an attachment to it. An article published by NBC News coined this phenomenon: "...you touch it, you buy it."
The simple act of putting something in your cart can mean that you're willing to spend money on it. For me, the last time I was shopping in Wal-Mart, I ended up coming out of the store with a cart full of unintended purchases. While I only intended to look for a swimsuit, I ended up finding a pair of flip-flops, some shaving gels and a new ball-cap. These purchases weren't based off an immediate need. Instead, they were simply sitting on the shelf as I walked by and I subconsciously thought "I bet we could use that."
Takeaway: Shopping online removes the attachment that physical interaction with a product in a store brings into the purchasing equation. Easy tracking of past orders and the inclusion of contextual information online allows for a more logical purchasing decision.
2. Reduces Impulse Buys
The delay in gratification involved in purchasing items online can mean that you're less likely to purchase an item on a whim. For most of us, whenever we are perusing the aisles of a store and see an item I like, we feel pressured to purchase it before someone else does. Or, if it's a more common item, we still feel pressured to save ourselves a later trip and make the purchase right then.
I found myself blowing my weekly budget with impulse purchases at the gas station convenience store, the grocery stores and even the local bookstore. It was causing friction within my dad, who handles our family's finances. I needed to find a way to not only exercise better self-control and reduce my spending while doing the grocery, but also limit interaction with environments that encourage me to overspend.
Thankfully, there's a growing trend in the consumer space towards creating a more efficient consumer experience. A 2005 article in the Harvard Business Review stated that this trend "it's about providing the full value that consumers desire from their goods and services, with the greatest efficiency and least pain." This process involves customers with greater involvement by providers to limit inefficient consumer purchasing and consumption.
I fully embraced this trend. For example, I started using sites like Amazon because they offer automatic refills of regular household items. For example, I can order my groceries and toiletries without the need to head to the store or use mental bandwidth to remember to reorder items. Because I don't have the opportunity to add inconsequential items to each delivery, I'm less likely to overspend.
Takeaway: Utilize automated refill services on regular consumables to reduce the number of opportunities for impulse, add-on purchases.
3. Easier Access to Quality Purchasing Information
One of my favorite features that comes standard with purchasing online from reputable sites is the customer reviews. We've all been in situations where we've come home with a new item, thinking the problem has been solved, but alas the solution was total garbage. Sure, it was well marketed, but poor craftsmanship and lack of quality control is sure to ruin a good product and result in a poor customer experience.
For example, I recently purchased an air purifier for a friend's room. He has horrendous allergies and his asthma can be exacerbated by airborne pollutants. To find a great air purifier, I started looking online. Unfortunately, the majority of sites that came up in Google were affiliate sites and low-quality blogs. But, once I focused on searching within popular e-commerce sites, I was greeted by in-depth, real-world reviews from other shoppers.
Takeaway: Don't waste money on cheap solutions or a limited retail selection. Shopping online provides you with better context and allows for a more informed purchasing decision. Read the reviews and learn from other buyer's first-hand experiences.