Merry Online Christmas Shopping!

Online Christmas shoppingLearn how to find your Christmas presents online, and give your local economy a boost in the process. Find tips on comparison shopping for the best price, online promotional codes, ensuring safe transactions, and more.

Search your Way to an Easier Gift-Giving Season

Are you ready for some Christmas shopping? This year, instead of battling traffic, fighting the crowds at the mall and waiting in long lines, why not do it the easy way: Kick back, stay in your warm house, grab a mug of your favorite grog and let your fingers do the hard work of finding that perfect gift this holiday season. Using search engines and directories to comb the Internet is a great way to prevent shopping fatigue and find the best deals on everything from practical, everyday products to truly unique or humorous items. Consider helping your local economy by actually purchasing gifts in your own neighborhood, and use the Internet can save you the time, hassle, and gasoline used in going from store to store to find those gifts. Here are a few helpful tips on using shopping-related search sites, and for a bonus, it includes some non-search sites that may help make your home holiday shopping successful, fun and supportive of your local community.

Keeping Up With the Times

» Start elooking Now … Order Gifts Early

Time keeps on tickin’ tickin’ into the future…. In 2005, the term “Cyber Monday” was coined in regards to the first Monday after Thanksgiving. It’s said to be the major season opener for online shopping, but in reality it’s the start of something called “elooking”, when hard-working Americans (who happen to be back at work after the holiday) start to search for the gifts they want to find in time for Christmas. According to the New York Times, the busiest online shopping day in the U.S. for 2006 was actually December 12.1 You may want to keep that date in mind to ensure your gifts arrive in time. If you wait to order until after the 12th, your gift giving may not be more interesting than an IOU in a card because that special item either sold out or hasn’t arrived in time to be unwrapped on December 25. Of course you can also use the Internet just to research an item, and then pick it up at a (brick and mortar) location nearby if the same item is available locally.

Comparison Shopping For Best Price

Have you ever tried using the shopping comparison websites or search services? Shopzilla,Biz-Rate and Google Shopping, are all worth exploring. Any one of these can be helpful, but often what works best is a combination of two or more services. Each service can help you find the product you want at the best price. Shopzilla will help you narrow your search and display the prices. You can add your zip code and then search by total cost, which can make a big difference in the end price. Most of the search services like Google Product Searches can be sorted by relevance (“best match”) or by price (ascending or descending). Google prides itself on not charging listing fees or accepting payment for making certain products show up first. Any advertising space on Google Products Search uses AdWords so it looks similar to other Google network results.

Local Shopping Online

There is plenty to be learned by using comparison price web sites for savings, yet you can often find the item at a store near you. One way to do that is to see if your area has a Local First website. My hometown does and it really is a wonderful place to find great shops nearby. Shopping locally has several benefits, even when you shop online:

  • Many online stores offer in-store pick-up to avoid shipping costs.
  • If the item is fragile and may get damaged during shipping, you can be sure it’s intact by picking it up yourself.
  • You can see the size and color of the item before you buy it
  • In case the item isn’t exactly right, you can return or exchange it much easier at a local store.
  • If you find you have waited too long to get the item shipped, you can do the driving thing and pick it up, knowing that since you ordered it online, it will be in stock waiting for you.

Consumer Protection Websites

If you decide to order from an online store that you have never heard of, you might  avoid a bad deal by checking the store rating. Most price comparison services have seller ratings listed with the items on their site, or are members of the Better Business Bureau online. In addition to the seller ratings, there are consumer sites you can check including ConsumerAffairs.com, run by former Associated Press journalist James R. Hood, and RipOffReport, run out of Arizona by Ed Magedson.  Magedson has been collecting consumer tirades since 1998, and his site now includes millions of entries.  Consumer Affairs takes a different tack; it’s not a bulletin board “free-for-all” as Hood puts it. The site solicits legitimate consumer complaints, maintains a database of them, and publishes a few hand-selected rants.

Finding and Using Online Promotional Codes

Online promotional codes can be found online if you know where to look. If you’re a frequent online shopper, you may be lucky enough to get them by email. But if you do not have a promotional code for an item you start to purchase online but you notice the promotional code field on the shopping cart form, check out RetailMeNot to see if they have an online promotional coupon code for you.

Unique Christmas Gifts

And last, here are a few sites with gifts for the cutting-edge gizmo/gearhead types among us.If you’ve never been to engadget stop in to see what may capture your eye. You just might fall in love with gifts such as “Walkiebits,”  tiny turtles that crawl around on your desk and delight you with truly endearing antics.

Whether you’re looking for silly Christmas presents, unique Christmas gifts or more affordable Christmas gifts, Christmas shopping online has never been easier. Take some time to search for thoughtful Christmas gifts—relax, surf the net, see what may spark your interest and have your most enjoyable holiday season ever.

Works Cited (not including links above):

E-Looking, but Little E-Buying on Monday, Louise Story and Michael Barbaro

Scam-Fighting Websites, Bob Sullivan, msnbc.

About the Author

Beverly Mapes, Founder, President

Beverly Mapes

Founder & President, Top Of The List

Bev founded Top Of The List in 2006 and has over 25 years of experience working with technology. In her free time, she competes in dog agility competitions with her Golden Retrievers, Cosmo, and Finn.