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Amazon seems to have taken over the world! Their dominating presence makes me a little nervous...but I still love my free 2-day shipping from Prime. Are there any alternatives out there that I should know about? I feel like I can save money shopping from Amazon and the free shipping is always a plus, but I want to be intentional about where I spend my money. What's your advice?
Leary of Amazon
Dear Leary of Amazon,
Millions like you are experiencing the same "nervous" reaction to the controlling presence of Amazon in the online marketplace. I noticed recently that they have installed pick up lockers in the Whole Foods grocery store location where we occasionally shop. They are becoming integrated in an online and traditional brick and mortar strategy. Amazon Go is a concept in development now where stores do not have cashiers or check out counters.
You are wise to consider possible alternatives.
A Growing Online Market
According to Invesp, "Global online retail sales are growing and is estimated to reach 8.8% of total retail spending in 2018 as compared to 7.4% in 2016." People can shop from the comfort and convenience of their home and with just a few clicks they can have merchandise delivered wherever and whenever they desire.
Founded in 1994, Amazon has skyrocketed to the position of most popular online retailer. It offers a broad range of merchandise from its warehouses and third-party sellers. The company has a subscribe-and-save option that permits customers to automatically reorder products, get free shipping and discounts. And, the Echo or Dash makes ordering even easier. The Prime membership provides free shipping and countless other perks.
Millions of Options
While Amazon is ever increasing in popularity, there are other online retailers and millions of the more traditional alternatives to shopping, many of which are improving their online options. (Keep in mind, these are not endorsements of these companies, but a menu of a few options for you to consider.)
- Overstock: Originally offered surplus and returned merchandise at discount prices, but has broadened its product base. Club O grants reward points and offers free shipping for items over a certain price.
- Ebay: Broad range of sellers of new and used items with a variety of payment methods.
- Etsy: a global marketplace for unique handcrafted items and vintage treasures.
- Grove.co (grove collaborative): a service that provides a schedule for customers (and price matching) to stay stocked and on-budget with home products with recurring shipments.
- Christianbook: books, music, movies, faith-based products at competitive prices.
- RainbowResource: books, toys, and homeschool supplies.
Walmart may have the potential of challenging Amazon because of the company's emphasis in omni-channel retailing. This is a strategy that allows "customers to peruse, purchase, receive, and return merchandise through any number of different channels from online to mobile apps to delivery services to physical stores."
Walmart has over 5,000 stores nationwide and Amazon has fewer than 500 Whole Foods locations for pickup, delivery, and returns to be accomplished. But, catching up from the store-side to e-commerce side has its challenges.
Business Insider reported that Sam's Club, a subsidiary of Walmart, is offering free shipping on most of the items it sells online. This is available to those with a Sam's Club Plus membership of $100 and hopes to eventually offer one- or two-day delivery.
Becoming a Better Consumer
Care and caution when shopping or spending are important aspects of becoming wise stewards. Consider the lessons from the famed Proverbs 31 woman: She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. (Proverbs 31:16) The word considers means there was careful thought that went into her spending process. Further, she had profits/earnings to make an investment in her land to ensure it would produce future profits.
Shopping has become so easy and appealing that people are buying far more than they need. We often spend without caution. Self-control is ignored and instant gratification fueled by fast shipping frenzy. Perhaps it's time we step back and take a hard look at our desires. What do we really need? Contentment is not acquired through more stuff!
We can help our local economy by intentionally supporting our local businesses. Many traditional retailers offer great alternatives to online shopping. Purchasing from reputable companies with values similar to ours is worth paying a little more and being a bit less convenient because we give our money to those we trust. Hobby Lobby is just one example of a company that is intentional about honoring God in their business.
While it is convenient to order online and have products easily delivered to our doorstep, it is also a great benefit to walk into a store and pick up a product to learn more about it. Companies that take the risk to have the inventory in a nice showroom and available for you to take home immediately are making purchases very convenient for all of us as well. Imagine that you need tires, a gallon of milk, a fuse to start your car, a tool to fix a leak right now - suddenly the value of those local retailers comes into focus. But they cannot continue to provide those convenient services if we stop considering them as a viable option to Amazon.
We all want to get the best product at the best prices, but that is not always an option for those that provide us the products in the most convenient manner. Paying a little more to the local retailer may be far better for you and your community in the long run.
Thanks for a good question. It is a tension many of us are also wrestling with and trying to find the right balance. There are many opportunities for Christians to make different financial decisions because of our commitment to live by biblical principles. If you want to learn more about what the Bible says about every aspect of your finances, join the online MoneyLife Personal Finance Study. You'll get access to 10 life lessons and an online community of others pursuing financial freedom.