Online Versus Offline Shopping: Which Is A Better Alternative?

Online versus offline shopping

As much as we hate to splurge, it happens. You can’t blame yourself because technology has left our bank accounts vulnerable to e-commerce sites, especially with the occasional discount codes and irresistible sales.

To top it off, Malaysians were coined as “shopaholics” last year with 7% making online purchases on the daily. Furthermore, Malaysia was said to have had the highest penetration of online shoppers in the Asean region, with 67% out of 19million online users in the country hopping online to feed their shopping habits (as of 2017).

However, while we love a good bargain online, nothing beats being able to feel, touch or smell your potential purchase on ground. But then again, online shopping has allowed us to buy into our desires without having to go somewhere physically – it’s a constant battle between the two methods.

To settle this ongoing match, we’ve weighed out online and offline shopping against one another to see which one is worth your ringgit.

Round one: the matter of convenience to product

The largest difference you would probably think of, is convenience. This refers to how easy it is to access the products you want and if the product matches your satisfaction.

With online shopping, you have the luxury of being able to shop the world from the comfort of your home (or wherever you are) with internet connection. Furthermore, your purchases aren’t limited, and you can switch between different websites within a click.

Another additional upside, is that, you can get anything from any website around the world as long as it ships to Malaysia.

However, the delivery time could kill your online shopping buzz as you aren’t able to enjoy your purchase right away. Shipping differs with websites, especially if you are ordering from overseas. In our experience, overseas packages could take from two weeks to a few months before they finally arrive at our shores.

In terms of offline shopping, it takes more effort than just waking up and logging onto your laptop. With this method, you put in more effort which takes up money (petrol costs/public transport) and time (getting ready/travel time).

On the bright side, you can experience the product in your hands and ensure its quality is up to par with your standards. This is a much safer option when buying items such as clothing or expensive gadgets as you are able ensure the quality and if it suits your desires.

The downside to is that you can’t shop the world and your selection is limited to the offerings of the physical shops.

iMoney Scoreboard: Online: 0/ Offline: 1

Deciding reason: Mishaps, such as a broken product or receiving the wrong product, can be avoided with offline shopping – this is one point to consider, especially if you are making an expensive purchase such as gadgets or home appliances. While you can return products when shopping online, it is time-wasting as you must send the item to the post office and wait a little longer for a replacement.

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Round two: how much you actually spend

Now, let’s talk money and how much you fork out (or save) when shopping online or offline.

First, price tags on online shopping are the same as retail price within the store. The difference in costs when it comes to online versus offline is, of course, the delivery fee.

However, if you were to fairly weigh it against the offline method, the delivery fee is equivalent to how much you would spend if you were going to go the physical shop itself – the difference is that you’re making your own delivery (which has its own costs).

For example, Tesco has given us the luxury of stocking up our pantry without having to take a trip down to the supermarket.

While the prices of the goods (including their promotional items) remain the same, your final total might differ as they charge a maximum fee of RM10 to get them packed and delivered to you hassle-free.

Unless your home is a stone’s throw away from Tesco, the costs associated with travelling to the hypermarket could be comparable to that RM10 fee. Hence, there will be extra costs either way, regardless of the method.

However, online delivery costs could prove heavy if you were to shop on other platforms such as Lazada, which calculates delivery based on weight prices imposed by the courier service. If you were to buy a bulky item, it could cost a few twenties or a hundred just to get it shipped to you because the heavier it is, the heavier the costs.

Other shopping sites, such as Zalora have different shipping arrangements which charge based on destination. Here’s are Zalora’s charges:

 Shipping fee for orders below RM75

RM10 (Sabah and Sarawak)

RM8 (Pinang, Perak, Kedah, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan, Perlis and Johor)

RM5 (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor)

Express delivery for Peninsular Malaysia


(one time payment fee for one year of express delivery)


As shown above, sometimes online shopping websites like Zalora gives the added benefit of free delivery when spending over a certain amount – this is a normal promotional method used by clothing brands to target customers.

Additionally, you can save money with discount codes which are only applicable for online shopping. Some sites will hold occasional flash sales where prices can be slashed up to 50%. This is when online shopping will benefit your wallet because these codes or sales aren’t relevant in-stores.

Unless the sale is seasonal, then the marked down prices are most likely to be reflected in-stores and online. But then again, you could use your additional discount codes to comfort your finances when making the swipe via internet.

So, for this round, we’ll give the point to online shopping.

iMoney Scoreboard: Online: 1/ Offline: 1

Deciding reason: Discount codes and free delivery for orders above a certain limit make online shopping worthwhile. This would ultimately save you the costs of travelling to the physical shop, which includes transport costs (ride-sharing, public transport, parking fee, etc). Also, members of a certain brand can collect points or be offered free delivery and promotional codes as a reward. The only financial strain you would have to worry about is a heavy shipping fee, but would only be applicable to large and heavy items or items shipped from overseas.

Round 3: The technological connection to shopping

We must bring technology into the mix, because technology is the very reason these two methods exist.

With online shopping, a stable internet connection is imperative, especially when checking out – if the connection breaks off in the midst of payment, you would have to restart the entire process all over again (we’ve all probably been there) – this is an even bigger pain if you were making a purchase from another country.

As for offline shopping, thanks to the revolutionary technology of cashless payments (think: Pay wave), shopping experiences have enhanced – not only do you skip the ATM lines, you also don’t have to carry cash in order to make a purchase.

However, sometimes the payment terminals can go offline and you’d have to end up searching for an ATM just to make the bill.

In brief, going cashless is an option for both methods. If you were still intent on going the old-school way of carrying cash or aren’t as internet-savvy with such transactions, a trip to the physical shops may be your cup of tea.

To conclude this round, both online and offline have equal amounts of pro and cons so we’ll break the point in two.

iMoney Scoreboard: Online: 1.5/ Offline: 1.5

Deciding reason: Both methods use some sort of online connection which can suffer technological failures such as a slow connection (online) or offline terminals (offline).

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And the winner is…

Neither. The points are tied, which is a fair bet as there is a different winner for each shopper out there.

Some may argue that online has their hearts, while others debate on how offline is a much better choice. To conclude, online shopping is great for the days you don’t feel like going out of your house, while offline shopping is the better option if you were going to purchase items such as gadgets, so you can test them out before bringing them home.

Nevertheless, here are ways you can save both ways

Additionally, here are some other shopping tips you can do online or offline that could save a little cash.

  • Shop with your friends: shopping with your buddies is not only fun, but it’s one way to save money. For offline shopping, you have the option of splitting costs to carpool to the mall of your choices and you can take advantage of deals such as the usual “buy two free one”. Alternatively, if you were to shop online, you can consolidate all your purchases and split the delivery fee accordingly!
  • Look out for promotional periods: apart from seasonal promotions, online shops such as Lazada who holds anniversary sales, when planning to make big purchases such appliances or gadgets. Additionally, there will also be year-end sales nationwide and you can bank in on this.
  • Sign up for loyalty programs/membership: memberships, take for example Sephora, offer discounts for members once they reach a certain point count from their membership cards. Shops will also send promotional emails with details on upcoming sale periods and online promotional codes, for you to plan your purchases.

However, the biggest tip we always harp on is, spend wisely.

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