If you’re looking to save money in the current economy and get a great deal (and who isn’t?) then you may be wondering, “Is online shopping cheaper than in-store shopping?”
The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Read on to find out what’s cheaper – online shopping or in-store shopping – plus tips on how to get the best deals online and how to stay safe when shopping online.
Is It Cheaper to Buy Online or In-Store?
There’s no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question.
Yes, that’s an unsatisfying answer, especially if you’re trying to save money by seeking out the best deals. But there are a few reasons why consumer prices are so hard to track right now.
Comparing Product Prices Online vs. Offline
First, there’s a lack of current, reliable data to answer this question. Older research1 found that a large majority – 69% – of consumer goods had the same price online as in-store, so online shopping is certainly not cheaper all the time. However, when there was a price difference, online was cheaper 65% of the time.
But things have changed a lot in the past couple of years since covid shut down many stores and brought people online to shop. Additionally, it’s difficult to get an accurate snapshot of online versus in-store price differences in late 2022 due to the rapid rise of inflation. With inflation rates rising faster than they have in 40 years, prices are a moving target.
Electronics Are Cheaper Online
More importantly for the individual shopper, whether prices are cheaper online or in-store varies by product. Maybe the particular item you want is cheaper online, maybe it isn’t. Electronics – including TVs, cameras, tablets, phones, and more – have long been cheaper (on average) online than in-store.
Electronics Are Cheaper Online
Some categories have been turned on their head in recent years. Mattresses are a good example. Thanks to mattress-in-a-box market disruptors like Casper, mattresses are often cheaper to buy online.
On the other hand, some categories you might have assumed are cheaper in-store than online may not be, like groceries2, which are practically the same price.
Finally, shoppers have more choices and more resources for savings than ever. A savvy shopper can find significant savings online by following the advice below on how to get the best online deals.
What Are the Advantages of Shopping Online?
Getting a great deal is definitely a goal when shopping online. But shopping online has many advantages apart from prices, including:
- Convenience. You can shop right from your phone or computer.
- Save time. You can save a significant amount of time by not going to the store in person.
- Shop anywhere. You’re not limited to the brick-and-mortar stores within driving distance from your house; you can shop around the world.
- Wider selection. You will often find a larger selection online compared to in-store, which is limited by space in how many products it can display and sell.
- Easy to comparison shop. You can directly compare the price of a particular item across multiple retailers in just a few minutes online to find the best price.
- Better for the environment. You can reduce carbon emissions in some cases by having an item shipped directly to your home rather than to a store first3.
With all the advantages of shopping online, you might find it personally worth it to you to buy online, even if the prices aren’t necessarily lower.
How to Get the Best Online Deals
While we can’t definitively tell you whether it’s cheaper to shop online or in-store, we can help you find fantastic deals and cash-back offers from your favorite brands.
Millions of ID.me members have access to money-saving discounts. Browse thousands of brand discounts on ID.me Shop, then log in or create your free account to start saving.