To make a fair evaluation of ecommerce, we cannot stop at discussing the advantages of ecommerce. Let us also look at the other side of the coin too.
Ecommerce Lacks That Personal Touch
Not that all physical retailers have a personal approach, but I do know of several retailers who value human relationship. As a result, shopping at those retail outlets is reassuring and refreshing. Clicking on "Buy Now," and piling up products in virtual shopping carts, is just not the same for me.
Different people sing to different tunes. For me, the demise of the personal touch in online transactions is the biggest disadvantage of ecommerce.
Ecommerce Delays Goods
Unless you are using a website to merely order a pizza online, ecommerce websites deliver take a lot longer to get the goods into your hands. Even with express shipping, the earliest you get goods is "tomorrow."
But if you want to buy a pen because you need to write something right now, you cannot buy it off an ecommerce website. Likewise with candy that you want to eat now, a book that you want to read tonight, a birthday gift that you need this evening... You get the idea.
An exception to this rule is in the case of digital goods, e.g. an ebook or a music file. In this case, ecommerce might actually be faster than purchasing goods from a physical store.
Many Goods Cannot Be Purchased Online
Despite its many conveniences, there are goods that you cannot buy online. Most of these would be in the categories of "perishable" or "odd-sized." Think about it, you cannot order a popsicle (also referred to as an ice pop or ice lolly) or a dining table set.
Well, you could order both of them online, but consider the inconvenience. The popsicle would have to be transported in refrigerated trucks. Unless the seller was willing to make a huge loss, the cost of shipping that popsicle would far exceed the cost of the popsicle.
Likewise, a dining table set can certainly be purchased online. In some cases, the cost of logistics is bearable. But if you have to return the furniture, you will get well-acquainted with the inconvenience of ecommerce.
Ecommerce Does Not Allow You to Experience the Product Before Purchase
You cannot touch the fabric of the garment you want to buy. You cannot check how the shoe feels on your feet. You cannot "test" the perfume that you want to buy. You get the idea.
In many cases, customers want to experience the product before purchase. Ecommerce does not allow that. If you buy a music system, you cannot play it online to check if it sounds right? If you are purchasing a home-theatre system, you would much rather sit in the "experience center" that several retail stores set up.
Anyone Can Set Up an Ecommerce Website
We live in an era where online storefront providers bring you the ability to set up an ecommerce store within minutes. I have tried it, and it is possible to set up a basic store in under 10 minutes.
But if anybody can set up a store, how do I know that the store I am purchasing from is genuine? The lowered barriers to entry might be a great attraction to the aspiring ecommerce entrepreneur. But for the buyer, reliability can be an issue. This could lead customers to restrict their online purchases to famous ecommerce websites.
When making an online purchase, you have to provide at least your credit card information and mailing address. In many cases, ecommerce websites are able to harvest other information about your online behavior and preferences. This could lead to credit card fraud, or worse, identity theft.
While we might be gung-ho about ecommerce, we must acknowledge that there are disadvantages too. Only when we accept our shortcomings will we work towards overcoming them.