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Compare and Contrast: Online Shopping vs. Traditional Shopping

Historically, traditional shopping practices dominated the field of selling and purchasing goods and services. If anyone needed to buy a new pair of shoes, a new dress, or even a new house appliance, they would go to the market, or visit a dedicated store, to make a purchase. While a rewarding experience, it was time-consuming as well as region-locked, with customers from rural areas having to travel great distances to purchase even the most basic of goods (Markham, 2016). Smaller companies, incapable of exporting their items abroad, were naturally oriented towards domestic clients. The 21st century saw the development of the Internet as well as the globalization of the supply chain, enabling sellers and customers to engage in online shopping from the comfort of their homes (Markham, 2016). Although the two premises share some basic traits attributed to shopping, the processes are inherently different one from another, making them suited for different types of purchase.

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Comparison Point: Costs

Traditional shopping is associated with a plethora of costs for the sellers as well as for the clients. A brick-and-mortar store would need to be built or placed inside of an existing structure, which is expensive. Warehousing and regular supplying also add to the costs of operation and maintenance. Finally, traditional stores have to afford to pay shopkeepers, consultants, janitors, and other support personnel. All of these expenditures increase the costs of final purchase for the end customer (Markham, 2016). Online shops do not have to face such issues. The only costs they have to endure are warehousing and good transportation from the seller to client, without having to worry about structural maintenance, paying sellers and supports, and dealing with numerous other issues that brick-and-mortar shops face (Markham, 2016). Because of these factors, buying online is typically much cheaper than doing so in a store.

Comparison Point: Immediacy

One strong advantage traditional shopping has over online purchasing is the immediacy of purchase. The client can buy the item or service they need from a retailer and use it immediately, without any lag or waiting time (Markham, 2016). Online shopping, due to the nature of their business model, cannot offer the same. Usually it takes between one day to several months before the product reaches the end customer, the conditions depending on where is it purchased from and what company is handling the deliveries (Markham, 2016). Such waiting times can be too much for some customers to accept, as the items they need are often required immediately. An example of products that require immediacy include foodstuffs that have short shelf lives. Although online purchasing of foods exists, it is dominated by cooked food deliveries, whereas most customers buy their food products from traditional shops.

Comparison Point: Tangibility

Another strong suit of traditional marketing is the ability to see and feel the item a person is buying. In case with clothes, the customer can try it on to see if it fits their body complexion. Online marketing cannot offer such an advantage, and has to rely on pictures, videos, and numbers in order to accurately describe the sizes of a good or an item. While in most cases it is enough to commit to a purchase, other times it becomes a significant obstacle, especially in cases where the appearance of a delivered item is significantly different than that on the picture. Clothes industry remains largely dominated by traditional marketing for those very reasons (Markham, 2016). In comparison, over a third of all clothing items being sold online is returned to the seller or exchanged for a different item due to a mismatch of some kind (Markham, 2016). At the same time, tangibility plays less of a factor when purchasing items that do not need to be held or felt to ensure quality. Electronics purchases are often done online due to price range differences.

Comparison Point: Convenience

Traditional shopping is a time-consuming process. Even the simplest purchases require leaving the house, traveling back and forth, and spending time selecting goods, paying for them, and bringing them home (Markham, 2016). A simple run to the store for groceries can take a whole hour. More significant purchases might take an entire day. In some countries, like the US, the lack of a personal vehicle is a significant obstacle, especially to the poor, who find it hard to reach the nearest Walmart. Online shopping is much more convenient, as the purchase can be achieved from the comfort of one’s own home, with the goods delivered to the client’s doorstep (Markham, 2016). The time spent waiting for the delivery can be focused on other tasks, especially when said delivery is not required to be urgent.


Traditional and online shopping offer their own distinctive sets of pros and cons when it comes to purchasing goods. Brick-and-mortar shops offer immediacy, tangibility, and the “true spirit of shopping, whereas convenience and cheapness are the primary selling points for online marketing. Depending on what types of goods are needed, customers may choose one over the other. It is unlikely for either one to replace the other in full, thus ensuring the harmonious coexistence of both types of shopping.


Markham, J. E. (2016). The future of shopping: traditional patterns and net effects. Springer.

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