‘Tis the Season

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The holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Family and friends reunite, people tend to be a little nicer and more charitable, and the magic of the holidays can soften even the most jaded of critics. All the various holidays should be a time of joy and reflection but yet every year there seems to be an inevitable looming dark cloud waiting to ruin the festivities: holiday shopping. Sure there are some who find the packed shopping malls, long lines, mobs of people, and crammed parking lots all just part of the process. They see this as a holiday tradition and if they don’t wait too long they can survive the chaos relatively unscathed. However, for the majority holiday shopping provides huge stress and inconvenience. Time spent battling cars, people, employees, and the seasonally unkind weather could instead be spent with loved ones or by the warm fire with a glass of eggnog. In today’s society we are all about convenience and that is why we are turning to the internet to meet our holiday shopping needs.Online shopping appears to be the answer weary holiday shoppers are looking for. The advantages are endless but convenience of time, money, and effort are topping the list. The e-commerce market (online retail) provides consumers with no limitations to their product searches. If a product is out there you can find it and buy it. With traditional shopping we are limited to what is in the store or our geographical region, and we have to take time to drive and physically search for that perfect present. With shopping online, the perfect present is right at our finger tips without ever leaving the comfort of our home. Even if we happen to find that perfect present in a retail store it might not come in the right color or correct size, but online shopping offers multiple options to their products in a dropdown bar that is only a click away, so customizing what you want has never been easier.No more standing in line outside of a store at five o’clock in the morning to beat the crowds, the e-commerce market never closes. There are no time limitations to when or how long you shop. As long as you have internet access, online shopping will be open to you around the clock, twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. An excellent effect of the ability to browse freely at your own convenience is that online shopping is creating smarter, better consumers. Shopping online gives no pressure to the consumer to buy or settle for unsatisfactory products. It also provides a chance to compare products easily to find the best deal and quality with no effort. And since there are no sales people convincing you that you must buy something, people are much more satisfied coming away from an online shopping experience because they know they purchased something that they really wanted, not something they felt forced into buying.More and more holiday shoppers are realizing the many advantages of online shopping every year. Just this past 2009 holiday season, e-commerce sales exceeded $900 million. Once upon a time, the Friday after Thanksgiving or more commonly known as “Black Friday,” was the biggest shopping day of the year. People came out in droves to kick off the holiday season and spend their hard earned cash at retail stores everywhere. But online shopping is taking the spotlight and even was given its own day and name, “Cyber Monday.” So instead of braving the crowds on “Black Friday” people are finding the same or better deals at their personal computers on “Cyber Monday.” According to comScore Inc., who is the leader in measuring the digital world and a source of digital marketing intelligence, “Cyber Monday” beat out “Black Friday” in holiday sales for 2009. The numbers don’t lie; consumers reportedly spent $595 million on “Black Friday” in traditional retail stores, compared to spending $887 million on “Cyber Monday” in the e-commerce market. The pricelessness of convenience is actually pushing people to spend more during the holiday season.An interesting trend in online shopping is the availability of free shipping. Free shipping is rapidly becoming the deciding factor for shoppers in choosing competing online retail stores and it was also the critical driving force in the holiday shopping market for 2009. Free shipping is being used creatively by retailers all over the e-commerce market to entice consumers to spend more. There was once a time when free shipping felt like winning the lottery when making online purchases but now at least 45 percent of all online transactions include free shipping. This makes people feel good and gives them a chance to maybe spend a little more where they would’ve been spending in shipping charges. ComScore Inc. reported that the average order value for an online purchase that included free shipping was $134, whereas the average order value for a purchase that did not include free shipping was about $103. So don’t settle for shipping charges, if you search a little more there is probably a place that can provide free shipping on all of their products.People have accepted that the holiday season should be a stressful time. Most of this stress is a direct result from holiday shopping in retail stores. This doesn’t have to be the case; online shopping provides a quick, convenient, stress-free shopping experience. Online shopping takes the focus away from the time consuming traditional shopping and allows people the freedom to visit with friends and family, bake holiday goodies, sing holiday songs, and the ability to better enjoy the season. It looks like online shopping just might have put the magic back into the holidays.

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