Online shopping or online retailing is a form of electronic commerce which allows consumers to directly buy goods or services from a seller over the Internet using a web browser. Alternative names are: e-shop, e-store, Internet shop, web-shop, web-store, online store, and virtual store.
An online shop evokes the physical analogy of buying products or services at a bricks-and-mortar retailer or shopping center; the process is called business-to-consumer (B2C) online shopping.
In the case where a business buys from another business, the process is called business-to-business (B2B) online shopping.
One advantage of shopping online is being able to quickly seek out deals for items or services provided by many different vendors (though some local search engines do exist)
Information and reviews
Online stores must describe products for sale with text, photos, and multimedia files, whereas in a physical retail store, the actual product and the manufacturer’s packaging will be available for direct inspection (which might involve a test drive, fitting, or other experimentation).
Some online stores provide or link to supplemental product information, such as instructions, safety procedures, demonstrations, or manufacturer specifications. Some provide background information, advice, or how-to guides designed to help consumers decide which product to buy.
Some stores even allow customers to comment or rate their items. There are also dedicated review sites that host user reviews for different products. Reviews and even some blogs give customers the option of shopping for cheaper purchases from all over the world without having to depend on local retailers.
In a conventional retail store, clerks are generally available to answer questions. Some online stores have real-time chat features, but most rely on e-mails or phone calls to handle customer questions.
Online stores are usually available 24 hours a day, and many consumers have Internet access both at work and at home. Other establishments such as internet cafes and schools provide internet access as well.
In contrast, visiting a conventional retail store requires travel and must take place during business hours.
In the event of a problem with the item (e.g., the product was not what the consumer ordered, the product was not satisfactory), consumers are concerned with the ease of returning an item in exchange for either the correct product or a refund. Consumers may need to contact the retailer, visit the post office and pay return shipping, and then wait for a replacement or refund.
Some online companies have more generous return policies to compensate for the traditional advantage of physical stores.