It’s hard to imagine what life was like before the Internet. Communities were smaller, people relied on technology far less and, most importantly in our consumer culture, shopping could be much more difficult. Now, finding deals is as easy as opening up Google and typing in the name of the product. The Internet revolution has changed shopping mainly by providing greater access to product reviews, allowing consumers to compare prices far more easily and giving people more choices of retailers and items.
Before the rise of the Internet, people had to rely on either friends and family for first-hand knowledge of products or gather reviews from traditional media, like television, radio or newspapers. This required a great deal of time locating reviews and examining them to determine their trustworthiness or relevance. Now, however, there are hundreds of product review sites that allow any consumer to share their experiences with others. Major retailers include product review systems on the products’ pages, too. Here, they allow consumers to post scores and discuss the various pros and cons of a product, which often results in hundreds–or even thousands–of reviews, which when averaged, can reliably show the quality of a product.
In the old days, if people wanted to compare prices at various retailers, they often had to travel from store to store, investigating the product offerings on their own or, if they had a phone book handy, could call retailers to find the information they sought. This limited them to local areas or mail order catalogs. In the wonderful modern age of technology, however, price comparisons are just a Google search away, via Google’s shopping tool. There are also many specialized deal, coupon or price comparison sites that seek to provide customers with the best bang for their buck. Most importantly, consumers are no longer limited by geographic area and can comparison shop from retailers around the world.
The Internet has given us many things, but few as valuable as the ability to buy from stores in nearly every country on the planet. In the pre-Internet age, people could only purchase items available at stores in their area or provided by mail order catalogs. If an item was unavailable, whether due to a supply shortage or just not being offered, the customer was out of luck. They could either choose to wait for the item to come in or choose an alternative. Today, consumers can often find the same product being sold online by the manufacturer and dozens of retailers; if one store doesn’t have the item they seek, they can generally find it at another with just a few keystrokes.
By giving consumers the ability to quickly find information about products written by other consumers, the Internet has made it easier to stay away from inferior products and stick with reputable retailers. The availability of price comparisons allows users to spot the best deals on items they’re purchasing without resorting to visiting or calling multiple stores. Finally, the Internet has given people more choices when it comes to retailers and items, providing more freedom and consumer choice. The deals provided to consumers by the Internet are immense and manifold, but generally fall under these three categories.