One of the joys of travel is being able to directly contribute to the economies of the communities we visit, and shopping locally has always been a great way to do this.
It’s the joy of stumbling across charming little shops selling handmade jewelry and clothing you literally couldn’t find anywhere else. And seeing the joy on the face of the artisan when they make a sale.
There’s nothing quite like buying something directly from the hands that made it, and knowing that the community from which it came will be benefiting from 100% of the profits.
We often associate online shopping with faceless corporations, which is the complete opposite to the concept of buying locally, but given the current pandemic climate, more and more local businesses have started moving online.
While we’ve been forced to cancel our travel plans, and isolate in our own homes, the shopfronts we would have been buying our souvenirs from have been forced to close.
Online shopping has become the solution to supporting the communities we would have been contributing to, and still collecting our souvenirs and taste of other cultures even when we can’t leave home.
Shopping Online is the Best Way to Support Local Communities Right Now
Why is Online Shopping More Appealing?
Online shopping has only been growing in popularity as it allows you to shop from the comfort of your own home, from work, or from anywhere really. It has also quickly become the preferred way to shop so as to avoid crowds and spreading the coronavirus.
While there are some drawbacks to online shopping, the many benefits seem to far outweigh the negatives. There is no having to deal with road traffic, no waiting in checkout lines, and no trying to juggle shopping bags in one arm while you’re carrying your baby and car keys in another.
Admittedly, you do miss the personal connections you typically have with foreign store-front owners, and the fun banter of bartering and haggling depending on which country you’ve traveled to, but for all intents and purposes, there are many benefits.
Thanks to COVID, not only can you find big name brand products online now, but your local small family businesses have begun entering the world of e-commerce as well out of necessity to stay afloat.
If you haven’t been keen to switch to online shopping before, now may be the best time to start, as it’s now more possible to connect directly with the local artisans you would have been visiting on your travels.
Find Nearly Anything
While I’ve never been much into buying cheap knick knack souvenirs when I travel, I do miss some of those more unique items that reflect a destination’s culture, items that can often only be picked up by travelling to a specific country.
Thanks to online shopping and worldwide shipping, it’s now easy to get your favorite products from abroad delivered to your door.
Whether you’re looking for an Italian handbag or clutch, you can go online and find purses Made in Italy via websites like Mirta which connect you with local artisans. Shop for French fragrances like Dior and Chanel or order some delicious Cadbury chocolate bars from the U.K.
You can even pamper yourself with a silica mud mask sourced from ingredients found in Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon by going on the popular geothermal spa’s website.
With online shopping, the world is your oyster when it comes to finding just about anything you want from wherever you want. There isn’t exactly a large selection of physical shops where I live in rural Tasmania, so having access to stores and brands worldwide online is a godsend.
You’ll also find that your options are exponentially higher shopping online when it comes to finding sizes, colors, and specific models of items.
Online Shopping Saves Time and Money
While it’s easy to over-shop online after a few too many wines one night, for the most part shopping online saves you both money and time, and you can support local communities right now – you don’t have to wait for borders to open.
Items are often priced cheaper online as companies don’t have to pay for rental space and as much staff. You can also take advantage of online discount codes or deals that are offered by online businesses for signing up to their email lists.
You also save money in fuel costs since you aren’t driving anywhere to shop and there’s no paying for parking. And because your time can be considered money as well, you can save precious time by not sitting in traffic, navigating parking lots, or walking around trying to find stores and items within stores.
With online shopping, you get to shop whenever the time is convenient for you and you will never run into instances where you drive all the way to a shop only to find the item you are looking for is out of stock.
There is also less chance of being distracted by items you really weren’t looking for and making impulse purchases, especially those that often plague you at the checkout. You can limit your online searches to exactly what you need and nothing more.
Another bonus of online shopping is you can drop ship gifts to family and friends. This can save you the time and hassle of packaging and sending items to loved ones yourself or the cost and time involved with delivering items yourself in person.
Allows You to Easily Compare Prices
It can be difficult to know if you’re getting a good price on an item when shopping in a store since you can’t exactly look for that item in another store at the same time.
But shopping online allows you to browse a large number of stores to compare prices and get the best price. There are even dedicated price comparison sites and apps that make finding the best price on various items even easier.
Not only can you increase your chances of getting a better deal online, but you can also read reviews from actual customers that have purchased a product you’re interested in so you can get an honest idea of whether the item is quality or not.
You no longer have to trust what a store salesperson is pitching you or what product ads you may have seen or heard tell you. Shopping online allows you to not only compare prices easy but also compare similar products much more effectively.
It also allows you to read up on the story of the artisan you’re purchasing from, as they often include detailed about pages on their websites, so you can still get a sense of the story behind each product, and the hands that made it.
Online Purchases are Discreet
Shopping online also allows you to purchase items you may be too embarrassed to buy at a store in person. And I’m not just referring to items like sex toys from Amsterdam, but also other non-risqué items that you may be embarrassed to purchase in person at a store.
With online shopping, you no longer need to pray for a self-checkout register or make jokes with a cashier to cover up your embarrassment for buying a certain product.
Even better is the fact many items that can cause embarrassment can be shipped in discreet packaging as well, so you don’t have to advertise your personal life to your postal carrier or even other family members for that matter.
Avoid Crowds with Online Shopping
It goes without saying that avoiding crowds is at the top of many people’s list at the moment given the pandemic and need to socially distance yourself.
Shopping online at home means you don’t need to strap on a face mask, possibly brave public transport, and weave your way through people in stores.
Products purchased online will most likely have been handled by far less people than items found on store shelves and when you factor the time it takes to ship items to your door, your chances of picking up any viruses from a purchased item becomes almost nil.
And because online shopping involves solely using credit cards, there is no exchange of cash and possible exchange of germs.
In addition to wanting to avoid crowds to limit your chances of picking up a virus, many people prefer to shop online simply because they have social anxiety. Shopping for items in person may be just too much for some and without online shopping they may not otherwise get the items they want or need.
And while some stores have introduced quiet hours to provide customers on the autism spectrum with a low-sensory shopping experience, you can be assured of not having to face a heightened-sensory environment regardless of what time of day it is by choosing to shop online.
Now that many small family run, rural businesses have pushed to establish an online shop / presence because of COVID, it’s opening their business up to all of these shoppers who may not have previously been interested in visiting a physical store.
Online Shopping is Less Stressful
If you’ve previously been stressed about the shopping experience when traveling, online shopping is a great way to get that fix, and support local communities without having to go into the physical store.
Online shopping can also be a far easier way to shop if you have mobility issues relating to a recent injury or permanent disability. You also may not have easy access to transport to go to actual physical stores.
There is also no pressure to make a purchase when shopping online. There are no salespeople that will try to talk you into making a purchase and this allows you to only buy when you are truly ready to.
You can find items much easier by simply typing in what you are looking for online as opposed to wasting time searching up and down aisles and on shelves or seeking out a staff member who may be able to help.
No Closing Hours with Online Shopping
With online shopping, you can shop for items 24/7. No longer are you restricted to normal business hours and trying to rush to a store inbetween your itinerary and attractions while on your trip.
No need to worry about reduced holiday hours or whether a business is open on weekends, or that you didn’t realize Spanish shops close for Siesta!
And while it does take time to ship items making it impossible to instantly get your purchase immediately, a little planning or forward thinking can avoid this being a real problem.
Avoiding the Negatives of Online Shopping
Shopping online is not without its faults, but there are many ways you can minimize or avoid the negative impacts associated with it, and make sure you’re actually supporting local communities around the world.
One of the biggest things people will tell you is that shopping online hurts your local community, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
More and more small local businesses are incorporating e-commerce into their business structures and this means you just may be able to find online versions of your favorite stores that are just down the street.
Tips to Successful Online Shopping
With some products, it can be difficult to be exactly sure of what you are getting. To avoid this, always stick with online shops that provide you with numerous clear images that can be enlarged to view details up close.
Some companies even provide video demonstrations of their products which can give you an even clearer idea of what you are buying.
Always stick with brands and companies you are familiar with. Blindly purchasing from online retailers you have no history with can put you at a greater risk of dealing with a fraudulent company that sells inferior products.
Always do a bit of research into an online company you are unfamiliar with to see what their online ratings and reviews are before making a purchase. If you’re buying from an independent artisan, consider a non profit marketplace which connects them with buyers.
What to Avoid
There are also certain items that aren’t the best to purchase online like large heavy items that may cost a lot to ship or certain items of clothing if you know you require a specific fit.
Clothing and shoe sizing can be all over the place when it comes to various brands sold around the world, you should therefore always make sure an online retailer has a clear and easy return policy in place.
Know whether or not you will have to pay any return shipping or restocking fees and if there will be a bunch of forms you will have to fill out.
Items can get lost or damaged during shipping, so always makes sure you opt for a shipping option that provides insurance for more expensive items and make sure there is some kind of money-back guarantee in place if a product is damaged or faulty.
And finally, because online shopping is so incredibly convenient, it can be easy to become addicted to. If you find yourself making purchases beyond your budget, try to set limits for yourself on how much time you are spending shopping online.
While it’s always fun receiving presents in the mail, you know it won’t be long before your credit card bills make an appearance in your email inbox.