Disadvantages of E-commerce

Hand holding credit card and wallet by laptop
Johnnie Davis/Moment/Getty Images

To make a fair evaluation of e-commerce, we cannot stop at discussing the advantages of e-commerce. Let us also look at the other side of the coin too.

E-commerce Lacks Personal Touch

Not that all physical retailers have a personal approach, but I do know of several retailers who value human relationship. As a result, shopping at those retail outlets is reassuring and refreshing. Clicking on "Buy Now," and piling up products in virtual shopping carts, is just not the same for me.

Different people sing to different tunes. The demise of the personal touch in online transactions can be the biggest disadvantage of e-commerce.

E-commerce Delays Goods

Unless you are using a website to merely order a pizza online, e-commerce websites deliver take a lot longer to get the goods into your hands. Even with express shipping, the earliest you get goods is usually "tomorrow" (with the exception of some Amazon services).

But if you want to buy a pen because you need to write something right now, you cannot buy it off an e-commerce website. Likewise with candy that you want to eat now, a book that you want to read tonight, a birthday gift that you need this evening... You get the idea.

An exception to this rule is in the case of digital goods, e.g. an ebook or a music file. In this case, e-commerce might actually be faster than purchasing goods from a physical store.

Many Goods Cannot Be Purchased Online

Despite its many conveniences, there are goods that you cannot buy online.

Most of these would be in the categories of "perishable" or "odd-sized." Think about it, you cannot order a popsicle (also referred to as an ice pop or ice lolly) or a dining table set.

Well, you could order both of them online, but consider the inconvenience. The popsicle would have to be transported in refrigerated trucks.

Unless the seller was willing to make a huge loss, the cost of shipping that popsicle would far exceed the cost of the popsicle.

Likewise, a dining table set can certainly be purchased online. In some cases, the cost of logistics is bearable. But if you have to return the furniture, you will get well-acquainted with the inconvenience of e-commerce.

E-commerce Does Not Allow You to Experience the Product Before Purchase

You cannot touch the fabric of the garment you want to buy. You cannot check how the shoe feels on your feet. You cannot "test" the perfume that you want to buy. You get the idea.

In many cases, customers want to experience the product before purchase. E-commerce does not allow that. If you buy a music system, you cannot play it online to check if it sounds right? If you are purchasing a home-theater system, you would much rather sit in the "experience center" that several retail stores set up.

Anyone Can Set Up an e-Commerce Website

We live in an era where online storefront providers bring you the ability to set up an e-commerce store within minutes. I have tried it, and it is possible to set up a basic store in under 10 minutes.

But if anybody can set up a store, how do I know that the store I am purchasing from is genuine?

The lowered barriers to entry might be a great attraction to the aspiring e-commerce entrepreneur. But for the buyer, reliability can be an issue. This could lead customers to restrict their online purchases to famous e-commerce websites.


When making an online purchase, you have to provide at least your credit card information and mailing address. In many cases, e-commerce websites are able to harvest other information about your online behavior and preferences. This could lead to credit card fraud, or worse, identity theft.


While we might be gung-ho about e-commerce, we must acknowledge that there are disadvantages too. Only when we accept our shortcomings will we work towards overcoming them.