Online Shopping Tips for the Holiday Season

E-commerce is the fastest-growing sector of the retail industry, though sales are highly seasonal. Black Friday is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. It is the busiest day of the year for both online and brick and mortar stores. A little over a month later, on January 1st, the shopping season ends on New Year’s Day.

Though the numbers vary from year to year, holiday shopping typically accounts for around twenty percent of total retail sales for the industry. And virtual stores have been doing a much better job of attracting new customers in recent years than traditional ones. There are many obvious explanations for this.

First and most important, shopping online is safer than it has ever been. As a result, most new customers do not worry about credit card fraud or theft. People who do not regularly shop on the internet are also far more likely to buy online during the holidays, in order to avoid the long lines and the crowded stores.

After several slow seasons in the wake of the Great Recession, most experts are predicting a banner year for online sellers. One of the most respected independent research companies, Forrester Research Inc., recently released a report that says that online sales in the U.S. will rise by a whopping 15 percent this coming holiday season. By comparison, regular brick and mortar stores are only expected to enjoy a year-over-year increase of around 3 percent. Why are shoppers going online?

In addition to the safety and convenience of cyber shopping, it is also typically a bit cheaper. Because they do not have big stores, large staffs or overhead, online sellers can slash prices and pass cost savings along to their consumers. With the economy in a rut, more and more shoppers are going online, as they try to stretch their dollars and get more for less. In this article, we will discuss a few simple online shopping tips for the holiday season.

Check Reviews

As we mentioned, buying online is safer than ever. But it does become a bit riskier during the holiday season. There are unscrupulous sellers that will offer incredible deals to online shoppers and then disappear the next day with their credit card numbers. Yes, it does happen. That is why it is extremely important to make sure that a specific site is on the up-and-up. This can be done with a simple web search. No matter the merchant, there should be a record of what he has done online. Since most online shoppers love to write reviews, you should be able to get the information you need. At the very least, it is important to find out if the seller delivers on time and if his products are as advertised. If you cannot locate a single customer review for a merchant and his deals seem too good to be true, they probably are!

Read Return Policies

About a third of all holiday gifts are either exchanged or returned. Unfortunately, some online sellers have incredibly ambiguous return policies, which may lead to problems in the future. It is also a fact that items that are bought online are far more likely to be returned, since they are purchased sight unseen. For these reasons, it is important to read the merchant’s return policies and make sure he will accept returns, no questions asked. If a seller refuses to accept returns, it is probably best to find another vendor.

Look for Deals

After you have confirmed that a seller is legitimate, it is time to start shopping to save. A savvy shopper can find many ways to stretch their dollars on the internet. In addition to seasonal sales, many of the top merchants offer their customer discounts for buying more. Probably the most common incentive is free shipping. Yes, this discount was designed to encourage you to spend more, but at the end of the day both sides win. You get the merchandise you need at a lower price and the vendor gets to sell a little more.

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