REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 20, 1999 — Strings of modem lights, never stoplights, blinking bright red and green, as shoppers stay home and buy treasures online. Has holiday shopping changed so much that old festive shopping tunes such as
need a little updating? According to Forrester Research, 8.6 million shoppers will turn to the Internet to fill their sleighs this year. Recent reports suggest this number could be even higher as the amount of money spent on the Internet exceeds expectations. On Dec. 6, PC Data’s weekly survey on online buying behaviors indicated that online shoppers spent more than $500 million in just one week between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28.
The reason to shop online is as clear as the dulcet tones of those Herald Angels. It saves the time and hassle spent navigating holiday traffic, circling the mall looking for parking, visiting store after store to compare prices, waiting in line to finally purchase the items, and eventually finding yourself back on the road fighting traffic again. Before you say
or resort to baking fruitcakes for everyone on your shopping list, here are some online shopping tips to help you find exactly the right gifts for everyone.
Plan ahead. You’ve heard it before, but taking the time to make a list and set a budget will ensure that panic doesn’t take over on Dec. 24 when that $500 leopard-print pashmina shawl seems like the only available gift to be sent via overnight delivery to your 96-year-old great aunt in Florida.
Find a favorite. The trick to shopping online is to find exactly what you want, at the right price and with the reassurance that it will arrive on time for the holidays. The key is to find a favorite service that provides a broad range of gift categories so that you can click through your gift list quickly. MSN eShop is a great example ( http://www.eshop.MSN.com/ ) because it provides links to a variety of categories including toys, books, clothing, furnishings, appliances and even auctions. MSN eShop also has gift guides and a gift finder that can help you locate something perfect for those on your list who insist that you
“just surprise them.”
Compare prices and features. One of the most painful aspects of offline shopping is trudging around to different stores to compare prices and features. Fortunately, the online marketplace makes it much easier to comparison shop. Use a single service like MSN eShop to compare prices, features and third-party product reviews across a range of vendors and categories to help ensure that you are getting the most value and the best deal.
Go to names you trust. Anything that sounds too good to be true usually is, which is why it is key to shop only with brands that you know and trust. MSN eShop puts shoppers in direct contact with high-quality stores such as 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Amazon.com, 800.COM, Eddie Bauer Online, the Expedia.com travel service, Garden.com, PETsMART.com, sears.com, ShopSports.com, Toysrus.com, ToyTime.com and wine.com.
Reliability counts. A Web site is only useful when it is actually live. During this busy time of year, find a shopping service with a good technology infrastructure. Because MSN eShop is built by Microsoft Corp. using best-of-breed e-commerce technology, the site is reliable and available any time of day.
Be secure. For the uninitiated, giving a credit card number online might make you a little uneasy. To feel confident about your purchases, be sure to use sites that comply with industry security standards, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Secure Electronic Transaction (SET). MSN eShop builds an extra layer of protection by using Microsoft Passport technology that enables consumers to shop securely with a
service that stores billing and shipping information.
Mistakes happen. If for some reason Uncle Henry doesn’t like Pok
mon and wants to return the trading cards you sent him, don’t penalize Uncle Henry for your selection. Make sure that it is easy for your friends and family to return gifts either in store or by sending the gift back to the vendor for a full refund or exchange.
Make a deal
. Many online shopping sites offer special incentives and discounts on a daily, weekly or ongoing basis. MSN eShop is offering free shipping to consumers this holiday season. Participating merchants rotate each week and offers vary, so check the site for details. (Certain restrictions may apply.)
Receive the right gift. While you are shopping for friends and family, don’t forget to make it easy on them to find the right gift for you. Many online shopping services, including MSN eShop, allow you to create a Wish List of the items that you would like to receive this holiday season
These simple steps should help you find exactly the right gift for everyone on your list from the comfort of your own computer. By saving all that time and hassle, you’ll have more time to enjoy all that is joyful and bright about this holiday season with friends and family.
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