Nowadays every online store is usually available 24 hours a day, and many consumers have Internet access both at work and at home. A visit to a conventional retail store requires travel and must take place during business hours and also sometimes includes dragging your annoying children around! Searching or browsing an online catalog can be faster than browsing the aisles of a physical store. Consumers with dial-up Internet connections rather than broadband have much longer load times for image-rich web sites, and have a considerably slower online shopping experience. They are more likely to find physical retail stores more convenient. Some consumers wish to interact with people rather than computers, sometimes because they find computers hard to use. But not all online retailers have succeeded in making their sites easy to use or reliable.
In most cases, merchandise must be shipped to the consumer, introducing a significant delay and potentially uncertainty about whether or not the item was actually in stock at the time of purchase. Bricks-and-clicks stores offer the ability to buy online but pick up in a nearby store. Many stores give the consumer the delivery company’s tracking number for their package when shipped, so they can check its status online and know exactly when it will arrive. For efficiency reasons, some times online stores generally do not ship products immediately upon receiving an order. Orders are only filled during warehouse operating hours, and there may be a delay of anywhere from a few minutes to a few days to a few weeks before in stock items are actually packaged and shipped. Many retailers inform customers how long they can expect to wait before receiving a package, and whether or not they generally have a fulfillment backlog. A quick response time is sometimes an important factor in consumers’ choice of merchant.
Another problem with online stores is refund the item when it is not what the consumer ordered, or it is not what they expected – consumers are concerned with the ease with which they can return an item for the correct one or for 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.