PhotoEach year more consumers do more of their shopping online. A recent study by UPS found more than half of all shopping now takes place on the web, increasingly from a mobile device. The company's “Pulse of the Online Shopper" study found 51% of purchases made by its respondents were made online.

“This year’s UPS study revealed that 45% of online shoppers love the thrill of hunting for and finding great deals, and that physical stores continue to play an important role in that experience, Teresa Finley, Chief Marketing Officer at UPS, said at the time.

You tend to notice this trend most around the holidays. Last year, industry sources reported online retailers enjoyed a 16% jump in holiday sales over the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend, while in-store sales dropped as much as 10%.

Saving money or saving time?

But it isn't clear whether consumers are buying online to save money or as a matter of convenience. While online retailers make it much easier to comparison shop to find the lowest price, many brick and mortar retailers are quick to match an online price. And unless consumers are taking advantage of a free shipping promotion, getting the purchase sent to them can eat into any savings.

The simple answer is that buying some things online may save you money, but others might not. If you are making the purchase through a deals site, or using a coupon, your purchase might be well below what you would pay in a brick-and-mortar store.

But when the online purchase is more about convenience, don't expect to save as much money. Online grocery shopping is well on its way to becoming 12% of all grocery purchases, according to one study.

Timothy Richards of Arizona State University, who has co-authored a study on the growth of online grocery shopping, says there is less wiggle room for food retailers, which are already dealing with very small margins.

“People are really concerned about the price of groceries,” Richards said. “But if they think buying everything online is going to mean lower food prices, they have another thing coming.”


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