The Indian retail industry has seen tremendous growth during the last few years. From being a predominantly seller’s market it has evolved to be a buyer’s market with the advent of online portals that has created a level playing field for customers. Having raised billions of dollars from VC funds/inflows, these portals are competing with each other and in the process giving a truckload of benefits to customers. To say that the retail Indian customer is today spoilt for choice is an understatement.
However, there is a personal finance angle that this situation begets and it needs an analysis of how it is impacting the common man vis-à-vis his personal finances. Like always, there are two sides of the coin and it would be prudent to take a look at them:
Ease of shopping at your convenience (from the comfort of your home or when on-the-move)
Gone are the days when it was cumbersome to venture out to shop for things we wanted to buy, be it a pair of shoes, a blazer, sunglasses or a mobile. The biggest setback was that we had to visit multiple shops to gloss over the competitor products. One other flip side of offline buying is that offers and discounts very few and very far between. All this changed with the advent of online retail portals that sell anything under the sun for a tough-to-imagine bargain. The best part of online buying experience is the ease of purchase. Most of these portals even have apps, which can be easily installed on mobiles, and hence they greatly enhance the buying experience.
Easy payment and delivery options
Online shopping allows the customers to not only place an order at their convenience, but it also allows for flexible payment options like NEFT, Debit Card, Credit Card and COD (Cash on Delivery). It is indeed a very convenient option for todays busy professional who no longer needs to step out of their homes to buy things they need on the fly.
Choices galore (more products to choose from)
If there had to be one reason to go gung-ho about online shopping, it has to be the range of products that a customer gets to see and compare before deciding on what he needs to buy. In the offline mode, it would be nearly impossible for a customer to compare similar products of 5-6 brands under one roof. Online shopping offers this fantastic opportunity to customers to go through all the options that are available in the market before choosing what they want to buy.
Products right on your mobile, hard to resist
Offline retail industry acknowledges the importance of window-shopping as a necessary evil. It is a known and acknowledged fact that what is visible has more chances of being sold. In case of online shopping, it is very easy for a customer to window-shop. Since the penetration of the online shopping apps is right there on the mobile, it becomes all the more difficult to resist the urge to buy things which are blatantly displayed on the mobile. It would be prudent to resist the temptation and urge to buy products when we are just checking them out. It would be a good practice to prepare a list of things that we need and then start going through the products on display.
Just because it is on sale, doesnt mean you need it
We all love to shop when it is raining offers, don’t we? After all, it is during offers that we save a lot of money on things that we would normally pay more to buy normally. But is it good to buy a product when it is on sale? The answer is Yes, if you really need something which is on sale. Then you should simply go ahead and buy it. But if the answer is No, don’t buy a product that is on sale, which you don’t need.
Online shopping puts your budget off-balance
The biggest challenge that common folks face in achieving financial goals is to stick to a planned budget. Buying things that you don’t need just because they are on sale will reduce your ability to save and adversely impact your ability to achieve your future financial goals. As emphasized earlier, it would be a good practice to prepare a budget for shopping and stick to it, no matter how strong the temptation is.
Online shopping opens up a plethora of options for us in terms of choosing from a myriad number of products at our convenience, choosing our preferred form of payment and even delivery options. But at the same time, being hooked to online shopping in the name of offers by buying things that we don’t need can severely hamper our ability to save for our really important financial goals.