The Reasons Why People Use Online Shopping

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In recent years the internet has exploded onto the scene as a major factor in commerce. Our goal is to examine the sociological forces that explain why the internet is being used so heavily for shopping.

Recent studies have proven that online shopping is now the norm. “Roughly eight-in-ten Americans are now online shoppers: 79% have made an online purchase of any type, while 51% have bought something using a cellphone and 15% have made purchases by following a link from social media sites” (Pewresearch.org). However, it’s already accepted knowledge that most people shop online. The question remains, what are the sociological forces that influence this? One force could be marketing. Marketing plays a large role in how people act and how they perceive the attitude of society to be, particularly towards purchasing. Societal norms are motivators for people to act a certain way, and marketing portrays online shopping as a positive norm and that can affect the individual consumer and how they make purchasing decisions. Marketing portrays online shopping as a smart way to make purchases and compare products. Society is always seeking a better, faster way to accomplish things so this could lead to an increase in online shopping also because the companies can offer an immediate place to view, research, and ultimately buy the product. GOOD

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Another major factor in the sociological factors that affect online shopping is the convenience and efficiency that online shopping offers. GOOD “For an American, time is truly money. In a profit-oriented society, time is a precious, even scarce, commodity. It flows fast, like a mountain river in the spring, and if you want to benefit from its passing, you have to move fast with it.”(Richard Lewis) This could be an indicator that the popularity of online shopping is possibly a latent function of society’s drive for efficiency. This attitude of time being money drives online shopping because online shopping is generally accepted as more efficient. Finding the product, comparing prices, purchasing it, and avoiding a drive to the store and a possible wait in line are all perceived as advantages of online purchases because it saves time and is more efficient. GOOD

Another Sociological force that influences why people shop online is Globalization. “The connections between the local and global are quite new in human history. They have accelerated over the past forty or fifty years as a result of dramatic advances in communications, information technology, and transportation. The development of jet planes, large, speedy container ships, and other means of rapid travel has meant that people and goods can be continuously transported across the world.”(Essentials of Sociology, p.8) This globalization has made it feasible to buy products from far away because the internet and improved transportation means have, in effect, negated the disadvantage of buying from far away by increasing speed of delivery. GOOD Also, the internet has increased cultural diversity, so now people from different cultures can purchase items related to their culture, even if their physical location is not one where products from that culture are usually sold.

The final sociological force we will examine is the potential cost savings of shopping online, and how the societal benefit of saving money could motivate people to shop online. Saving money is one of marketing’s biggest strategies. Ads try and convince you that you are getting the best value for the lowest possible price because having more money is a large part of what brings up the standard of living. Standard of living is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the level of wealth and comfort people have in a particular society.” While there are many factors that make up a standard of living, wealth is a major factor. Therefore, saving money and being financially secure is heralded as a positive societal norm because a higher standard of living is a positive for society due to people with a high standard of living being able to spend more money on luxuries and drive commerce as well as not being a burden to others in society because they are able to provide for themselves.

In conclusion, we have examined some of the many sociological factors that influence why people shop online. We have found that Marketing, Efficiency, Globalization and a Higher standard of living are all influencers of online shopping in our society. While it is somewhat doubtful that the individual consumer considers all these factors that influence their online shopping, these factors do affect each person’s purchasing whether they realize it or not.

Works Cited

  1. Smith, Aaron. & Anderson, Monica. Online Shopping and E-commerce, 19 December 2016 www.pewresearch.org/internet/2016/12/19/online-shopping-and-e-commerce/
  2. Lewis, Richard. How Different Cultures Understand Time, www.businessinsider.com/how-different-cultures-understand-time-2014-5  

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