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What changes you should expect when holiday shopping this year

Wednesday, November 11, 2020
What changes you should expect when holiday shopping this year

It’s time to talk about one of the most stressful topics of the year: holiday shopping. Yes, I know, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. But the ramp up to the holidays...not so much.

With the global pandemic and the ripple effects it has brought, holiday shopping will be a whole different beast this year. So buckle up, make a plan for your holiday shopping, and get ready for a little gloating over eggnog at your loved ones who didn’t read this list.

Do your shopping early this year

Shipping delays have already become the pandemic norm, but as retailers prepare for the first holiday season, where many consumers have abandoned shopping at brick and mortar retailers, there’s concern that delays may get even worse. Major online retailers like Amazon even moved their massive Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday deals to start much earlier this year in an attempt to mitigate shipping delays around the holiday season.

Even if you live in a place with lighter COVID-19 restrictions and plan on doing your shopping in person, you’ll still want to get a head start. With so much uncertainty around potential second wave shutdowns, things will only get more unpredictable as we get deeper into the cold and flu season. There’s no guarantee that brick and mortar stores currently open in your city will still be open when you need them.

Anticipate products being out of stock

In addition to worrying about your packages arriving late, if you wait too long you might not be able to order what you’re looking for at all. Due to stress on supply chains and the abrupt switch to online for many shoppers who weren’t previously doing so, it’s pretty safe to assume that this may affect your favorite retailer’s holiday inventory. How much it will affect you depends on the gifts you want to give.

The ecommerce experts at Pattern put together this list of the 8 Amazon categories most likely to run out of stock this holiday season. It includes popular gift ideas like clothing, shoes, housewares, appliances, and more. If you’re planning on giving any gifts in these categories it’s best to do your shopping as soon as possible.

Some experts believe that as a second wave approaches and people all over the globe bunker down again for winter, many people will return to early COVID-19 shopping habits where they did their shopping (even groceries) exclusively online. This only emphasizes the need to do your holiday shopping as soon as possible.

At the same time, as we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, some industries and brands ended up thriving. While certain categories will experience large shortages, some are positioned to be better stocked through the holidays. Categories like electronics, arts and crafts, and musical instruments may not experience the same bottleneck as others.

If you find yourself in a bind, it may be worth branching out with your gift giving and surprising your loved ones with something from these categories that they weren’t expecting.

Take extra care to make sure you’re purchasing from legitimate companies

As the holidays get closer and more popular brands face shipping delays and run out of stock, many shoppers will be forced to turn to brands they are less familiar with. If you find yourself here, just make sure you take the proper steps to ensure that the company you’re purchasing from is legitimate. The easiest way to do this is to check out their reviews and see what other customers are saying about them.

If you aren’t able to find any reviews for a business, that may be the first red flag. But there are a few other things that can help give you a better idea if a business is trustworthy. Do they have a legitimate website, or just a Facebook page? An incomplete commerce setup is a warning sign.

If you decide to look past these things, try to use a credit card instead of your debit card. Credit card companies are often more likely to give you your money back than a bank will for debit card charges if you've been been scammed and need financial compensation.

Beware of porch pirates

This year has seen huge spikes in online shopping, but it has also seen increases in package theft. The pandemic has forced many shoppers who weren’t already regularly shopping online to do so. At the same time, it nudged many shoppers into opting into contactless delivery so that they wouldn’t need to interact with anyone to receive their packages. Together, these have created a lot of opportunities for “porch pirates” to steal your packages.

To help make sure you actually get your hands on everything you’ve been ordering, the Better Business Bureau has put together this list of safe delivery tips. They include closely tracking your packages, requesting signatures, or seeing if your employer will allow you to receive packages there where they’ll be a little more safe. Try and follow these, if you can.

Take travel changes into account

A recent survey found that 72% of Americans don’t plan to travel for or around the winter holidays. The same study found that 47% of adults said their families will be canceling their usual holiday gatherings or get-togethers this year. If your family is skipping the big parties this year, this may present a few new logistical challenges.

If you won’t be seeing out of town loved ones this year, you’ll need to ship gifts to them instead of giving them in person. Again, that means shopping earlier than you normally would have and planning for shipping delays from local carriers. Remember to get tracking information for all packages you send and, when possible, consider purchasing insurance for your packages that contain pricier items.

Take advantage of reviews

The common thread here is that holiday shopping this year will be very unpredictable. Lean on reviews more heavily than you would during a normal holiday season. Check reviews for each company before you make a purchase, and keep an eye out for shipping delays or bad customer service.

And lastly, if you’ve had an experience with a business during the holiday season, be sure to leave them a review and let others know what to expect. Don’t underestimate how much you can help other holiday shoppers this year by sharing feedback about your own holiday purchases.

Want more detailed insights? Check out report Trustpilot Consumer Insights: 2020 Holiday Readiness Guide.

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