The biggest online shopping trend of the season has probably been the fact that everyone is doing it. This year’s National Retail Federation Holiday Consumer Spending Survey showed we’re not only eager to spend but also eager to do it online where there are no crowds and no pants required.
There are also amazing deals to be had and fun to be had, too. Here are just some of the trends that defined the 2015 holiday shopping season – along with a few tips for protecting yourself during your next online shopping spree.
More Sales, More Often
If you missed the Black Friday door busters, take heart! Most of those uber-advertised early bird, pre- and post-Thanksgiving sales were nothing more than sites’ regular weekly specials rebranded for the holidays.
Much more exciting are the ongoing rolling shopping events with limited-time lightning deals on sites like Amazon. Every day there’s something new that’s deeply discounted for one day only. That said, if you’re looking to take advantage of these markdowns have your list in hand so you’re not unduly influenced by prices alone.
Virtual Shopping Assistants
One benefit of in-store shopping has always been the helpful staff, but now today’s recommendation engines and interactive gift guides are making it easier to buy for challenging giftees.
Plenty of retail sites have added product categories for different kinds of recipients and apps like Not On the High Street’s Gift Finder make it easier to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Having trouble stuffing your own stocking? Try this interactive quiz from T-Mobile to find stocking-ready gifts like wearables and mobile accessories based on your answers.
Social Media Cred
New shopping apps like the Urban On app from Urban Outfitters are changing the retail experience by making it less about what you buy and more about who you are. Retailers are making connected customers feel good by offering access to exclusive items and giveaways and giving them the opportunity to share their style with the world.
You’re not just shopping online, you’re also joining an elite club of cool kids or helping the stores you love curate their inventory to be more in line with your personal taste.
A Chance to Save the World
This year, getting is more tied to giving than ever before thanks to initiatives like Amazon Smile which lets shoppers help charities every time they shop. It’s a win-win for non-profits and online retailers because the former get a cut of every holiday sale made and the latter get a boost in sales as customers add a little more to their carts to get the warm glow that comes from doing good.
How To Avoid Scam
If you, like most Americans, will be buying some or all of your holiday gifts online, it pays to know how to protect yourself. First, click with care and stay away from copycat websites that mimic well-known brands on social media. Stick to the big name retailers that make security a priority.
Still want to shop small? Check for complaints before buying with a retailer you’ve never used before. Look for the S, as in https versus http, to ensure you’re shopping on a secure connection. And finally, pay with a credit card instead of your debit card so you can dispute fraudulent charges if necessary.
Soon enough, the holidays will be over and there will be other, more utilitarian reasons to shop. For right now enjoy the ride whether you’re shopping online or braving the malls. Either way, there’s a lot to like about the modern retail experience!
About the author:
Jennifer Thayer is a technology writer who enjoys writing about gadgets, apps and the latest tech news.