Even Santa does some online holiday shopping.

Online holiday shopping — technology takes over

This week, Cyber Monday marked the official start of the online holiday shopping season. But unlike other years, when Cyber Monday was pretty much the only game in town for saving money online, this year has revealed a distinct change in the holiday marketplace: Most consumers go digital to get their shopping done.

A study by digital mall Catalog Spree found 66 percent of consumers will shop for gifts via a tablet this year, and one in four will use both tablets and a smartphone. With that much opportunity to target online consumers, it’s no wonder retailers are taking extra steps to make sure their online marketplaces are as convenient as possible.

But what exactly are shoppers heading online to do this year? Shopping and browsing online are the No. 1 way consumers plan to use online resources this holiday season, according to an annual shopping survey from professional services network Deloitte. While that is a pretty basic use of the online community, what it means is that retailers are taking steps to target online consumers. The result is some pretty cool ways to shop and save from the comfort of your home or office.

Using Online Resources to Save Big

The following tips can help you get the best savings online this holiday without wasting your time (or flooding your inbox with junk)…

  1. Be choosy about email list sign ups. The holidays will bring multiple daily offers even if you’re only on one electronic mailing list — let alone several. So make sure to give your email address only to retailers whose offers you really like. If you already delete many without reading them, take a few minutes to go through your inbox and unsubscribe from those companies.
  2. Make a special offers folder in your inbox. Even after you’ve cleaned up your subscriptions, you’re probably still going to be on several mailing lists. To keep the offers from flooding your inbox and setting off push notifications on your phone 24/7, create a special folder in your inbox and set up rules to direct retailer emails to that folder. Particularly for shoppers with email push notifications set up on their phones, this will keep you from being constantly bothered by special offers.
  3. Use social networks to your advantage. Liking and following are good ways to get access to special offers without crowing up your inbox. Many retailers are offering special deals through their social networks. And this isn’t just limited to Facebook and Twitter either. For instance, Lowe’s, has been using Pinterest to promote its holiday offers, like their Black Friday Deal Reveal.
  4. Add a few apps for the holidays. There’s nothing better for savvy online shoppers than a free app that also saves you money. One example is RetailMeNot. Instead of signing up for coupon apps from individual stores, you get the coupons from almost all of your favorite stores with just one download. Cashiers can scan bar codes directly from your phone, so you can find all the deals you want and then hit the mall with all your coupons saved on your smartphone.

3 Tips for Avoiding Pitfalls in the Online Marketplace

More convenience is great, but you can’t forget the basics when you shop online, or it can wind up costing you big in time and money. These tips can help you have a happy online shopping experience this holiday season…

  1. Remember the basic cyber safety rules when shopping online. Only shop secure websites, don’t fall for phishing scams and take steps to keep your personal information private. Plenty of internet security providers like WatchGuard provide lists around this time of year that can help you brush up on Cyber safety if you’re feeling rusty.
  2. Read sign up disclaimers carefully. Many online retailers may require you to create an account to order online. Make sure to read any footnotes and opt-in statements carefully on the account sign up page, so you don’t agree to let a retailer sell or distribute your information without your permission.
  3. When shopping online, shop early for free shipping. One of most common pitfalls online shoppers run into at the holidays is not leaving enough time for free shipping options. Many treat online shopping as an excuse to procrastinate because you can order instantly and ship right then. But even two-day or three-day shipping options can really add up to bust your holiday budget, let alone next day shipping. Don’t waste your savings on overpriced shipping.
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