Better Business Bureau Offers Holiday Shopping Tips
While retailers may lure customers with discounts, glitzy merchandising, and upbeat music, Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers tips to help consumers shop smart in step with 2014 holiday trends.
2014 Holiday Trends and BBB Tips:2014 Trend: Consumer enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping has reached its highest level in eight years, according to Accenture’s survey, with two-thirds of respondents saying they are likely to shop on Black Friday. In addition, plans to shop on Thanksgiving Day and evening rose to 45 percent.
BBB Tip: Make a list and stick to it. Experts agree that Black Friday hype is often exactly that, as deals can still be had throughout the shopping season. Frenzied sales can create impulse buys.
2014 Trend: Even though holiday shoppers intend to spend more, they remain keenly focused on discounts and sales. Nearly all respondents said discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions, and more than one in four said it would take a discount of 50 percent or more to persuade them to make a purchase.
BBB Tip: Price isn't everything. Make sure to do your due diligence and consider at least the product's quality and the company's reliability. CheckConsumer Reports, bbb.org and talk to friends.
2014 Trend: Retailers could also see a shift in sales in the post-holiday season this year, as more than half (57 percent) of consumers plan to purchase gift cards - the top item on consumers' shopping lists.
BBB Tip: Avoid buying gift cards on the secondary market. Look for discounted multi-card packs or incentives through a merchant or your credit card company. For example, American Express ran a promotion for cardholders where the company offered 10 percent off a number of popular retailer gift cards. Remember to always get a receipt of activation when buying gift cards in-store and hang on to it for proof of purchase.
2014 Trend: Loyalty programs. When asked how likely they would be to share more of their personal information, such as contact details and preferences, in order for retailers to be able to provide them with personalized and customized offers during the holidays, one-third of consumers said they would be likely to do so.
BBB Tip: Guard personal and financial information. Watch out for "free" online subscriptions that may turn into monthly charges after an introductory period. Do not fall for "phishing" emails from "phony" retailers or shippers that try to trick you into exposing passwords or financial information.
2014 Trend: More than half of consumers surveyed (63 percent) indicated they will use a laptop or home computer to make purchases or assist in their holiday shopping this season - up 16 percent from last year. In addition, 24 percent plan to use a smartphone. Also, 13 percent of respondents said they intend to use social networking sites to assist them in their holiday shopping.
BBB Tip: Avoid making purchases on public Wi-Fi. Only use secure, encrypted, "https," sites when buying online. Don't use the same password for shopping or "user accounts" as your bank account.
2014 Trend: Seventy one percent of consumers plan to participate in "webrooming" - browsing online and then going into a store to make their purchase. While researching online offers convenience, checking online to determine if a product is in stock was respondents’ top reason for “webrooming,” followed by being able to touch and feel a product before purchase and the desire to avoid shipping costs.
BBB Tip: Place online orders early. For items and letters to arrive by December 24, the U.S. Postal Service recommends the following deadlines:
Dec. 15 - Anything sent Standard Post
Dec. 20 - Anything sent by First Class Mail or First Class Priority Mail
Dec. 23 - Anything sent Priority Mail Express
Additionally, to close the 'loophole' on shipping complaints against online merchants, the Federal Trade Commission has updated a longstanding rule governing mail and phone-based retailers to explicitly include e-commerce vendors, meaning that online retailers must abide by a 30-day shipping requirement or refund customers' payments.