Are you doing any of your holiday shopping online this year? Of course you are. Out of 215 sites, we handpicked the best
ones for you below...
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Welcome to our 9th Annual Best of Online Holiday Shopping issue. It's one of our most popular issues each year. From what
people tell me, they take both a personal and professional interest in the best and brightest shopping sites.
So enjoy this issue and pass it along to someone you think will find it valuable too. Happy shopping...
Now, without further ado, here's her majesty herself, Managing Editor Eileen Shulock, with the top 11 Online Holiday sites
for 2007. Take it awaaaay, ES...
Swapagift.com has a clever tagline: "Where gift cards meet their match." And that's exactly what happens here,
as it is a virtual trading post for the ubiquitous gift cards that spawn under your holiday tree every year. At the time of
writing, the giving of gift cards was poised as a more popular choice than ever, so what's a giftee to do? Here you have the
- Buy gift cards (at a discount, silly);
- Sell gift cards at a percentage of their original value to Swapagift.com (they will give you 70% of the value for
American Express, Home Depot, Mastercard or Visa gift cards or and for a plethora of other retailers);
- Sell gift cards on the open gift card market; or
- swap gift cards with another who desires your gift card and vice versa.
We love the ticker on the left hand side of the page, which lists the most active gift cards as those from (among about 2
dozen choices) Macy's, PetSmart, Barnes and Noble, AMC Theatres, Tiffany and the Apple Store. Take that, Mac users!
Best Online Holiday Shopping Deals
Black Friday Ads
While there are many Black Friday sites out there, we have chosen this one because they get right down to the nitty
gritty -- they've developed a stripped down version of their site for mobile devices. Therefore, you can view and search
Black Friday deals and edit your shopping list directly from your mobile device. As they say, "This may prove to be
especially useful for many people on Black Friday." The site offers what appears to be every deal in the universe,
including scanned advertisements from newspapers, numbers of deals by store and a hot list of deals newly added to the site.
It also includes perks like store hours and an online shopping list, which becomes oh-so-handy when you shop from your
mobile device. Using said device, you can view stores by item lists, filter by category and Early Bird items, search for
specific items, view and edit your shopping list and check items off your list as they are purchased.
You've got your Black Friday for the in-store shopper, and then you have your Cyber Monday for the "can't take my
fingers off the keyboard" online shopper, who goes to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving, fires up the computer,
takes a sip of coffee and then dives right into the online shopping fray. Here you will find your basics from all the major
retailers, with the benefit (which is truly a benefit) that they are all consolidated in one place.
At the time of writing we had a $30 gift card offer from Coldwater Creek with your purchase of $100 or more and we had a
25% savings on a WeightWatchers online membership (if you're buying that for your spouse, we don't want to be in your house
on Christmas morning). The deals (which continue through the holiday season) are organized by category, by deal "hotness",
by merchant and more. The "and more" includes deals that are expiring soon, all deals that include fr** shipping (which is
convenient for an online buyer) and all deals with keycodes that can be printed out from online and brought into the store
for the savings.
Online Social Shopping
ThisNext is a social shopping site that offers the connection of the personal recommendation to shoppers who are looking
for that perfect gift. To do so, they have elevated their most successful shopping contributors to the position of
"Maven". Mavens are considered the influencers of the shopping world. Maven status is determined by a member
dashboard that gives all contributors insight as to their "influence" based upon the feedback and ratings they
receive from other members. Mavens may be assigned to a specific category, a specific city or the like, and their
contributions are viewed by as many as 1 million consumers per month.
As a matter of fact, the company refers to their mavens as "mini Oprahs" because of the influence they have over
the buying decisions of other consumers. At the time of writing you could go to the site and click on the Christmas Guide,
which housed 360 recommendations from ThisNext contributors. Categories to explore included Gadgets, Green, Kids and Home.
In exploring the "Green" category, this editor immediately found Envirosax Reusable Grocer Bags in pretty floral
patterns. After all, not all that is environmentally sound needs to be made from hemp. Even though each shopper can view a
slideshow of similar products, these babies are the perfect gift for her eco-sister, so off to shopping land she goes...
Social shopping gets useful at Pronto, which at the time of writing had just added Buying Guides. These shopping guides
include reviews and unbiased advice from the shopping community both on products and where to find them, and
category-specific facts on what to look for in a particular purchase. At the time of writing, categories included baby, home
and garden, electronics and entertainment.
At the site you can find products in many ways, including a list of the top 100 "liked" products posted by
members over the past few hours. You will find a list of top reviewers, including a little about them (remember, these are
just normal people who shop a lot). You will find top brands and top stores. And then once you get down into the nitty
gritty you will find one top recommended product per category, five key points to keep in mind when choosing your product
and so on.
One of the benefits of these social shopping sites is that members have the pulse of what's hot, hot hot, and you will
also come across products that you never knew existed, such as TheBacteriaKiller Cleaner For Cell Phones and Mobile Devices.
Who knew? But it's probably a pretty useful stocking stuffer.
Comparison Shopping Engines
With more than 29 million products from more than 8000 stores to choose from, the MSN comparison shopping site better have
a darn good way for you to make holiday shopping choices. That's why we like their ability to allow you to dig right down
into things and see specific suggestions by category or personality/interest.
Even better, they offer "hot lists" by personality for those who want only what's hot off the presses. For
example, the hot list for the electronics and gadgets guru (and how many of you Internet marketers out there can make that
claim?) we've got the Zune 2nd Generation 80GB Media Player, which rings in (at the time of writing) for the best price of
$249.99 at Circuit City. And who can live without the iHome Shower Station and Dock for iPod to start your day? While you're
on the phone discussing important Internet marketing things, the incredibly handy Grill Alert Talking Remote Meat Thermometer
will save the day. You get the picture.
Best Online Stores
There are few Blackberry users who can actually separate their hand from their "crackberry", so what could make
a better gift than the latest model or accessory? That's why we head over to this site for everything BlackBerry. There's the
BlackBerry Pearl and the BlackBerry Curve, which inspire moments of awe for owners. There are BlackBerry accessories such as
wireless headsets, signal boosters and GPS navigators. There are forums where you can discuss your BlackBerry loves and
issues (from your BlackBerry, of course). There are BlackBerry tutorials for those who need to catch up. There are games,
there's software... and should the worst happen, there's even a recovery service. Now that's a great gift!
Urban Basket Case
When a gift basket full of apples and second-rate chocolates just doesn't cut it, you might turn to a personalized
gift basket. Urban Basket Case combines off-the-wall products with viral marketing techniques as an alternative to the
traditional ho-hum gift basket. While they target to urbanites, just about anyone could enjoy these "out of the
In terms of viral marketing, site visitors can view hilarious videos with wacky characters making gift suggestions by
personality and pass those videos along to friends or family. In terms of gift baskets, visitors can select pre-made
baskets by personality such as Grrl Power, Don Juan or the gift basket for tortured artists called Art Basquet, which
includes such goodies as a Van Gogh Action Figure complete with a severed ear and Understand Modern Art Breath Spray.
Visitors can also create their own baskets for that special someone. And as the piece de resistance, there is a sister
site called ReGift It where (you guessed it) you can barter gifts at any time and get something more to your liking -- or
do all your holiday shopping by giving away those gifts that you never wanted in exchange for gifts on your to-do list.
Circuit City has gone social for the holidays with the integration of its CityCenter community, which is a place where
people can share their questions, photos, ideas and preferences on home entertainment and electronic products, including
computers. The sharing places include ratings, reviews and discussion forums, blogs and personal profiles. Visitors have
the option of interacting directly with one another and with Circuit City employees for advice and feedback.
At the time of writing there were more than 13,000 unedited reviews and comments. These thoughts can be accessed directly
through CityCenter land, or as you look at a product. For example, this editor thought the pink
Sony VAIO VGN-CR220E/P 14.1" Widescreen Entertainment Laptop might be for her. In addition to all those bland product
specs, we can choose from many user comments, such as this helpful advice from a woman in Florida:
"Overall I am impressed with its speed, nice bright lcd widescreen and the functionality of the keyboard (I make
less typo errors with this particular type of keyboard). I would recommend purchasing the higher capacity battery, which I
did and am really happy that I made that purchase..."
On the marketing side, Circuit City uses the site to monitor customer demand, discover product issues and so on.
smart is a member of the Mercedes Car Group, which sells their smart vehicles in 36 countries, where it's the
"it" car of choice; it's also on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Over 750,000 "fortwo"
vehicles have been sold since their introduction. At the time of writing you could reserve your very own fortwo vehicle for $99 in
preparation for its US debut... what a great holiday gift idea.
Not only is it tiny (8.8 feet long and 5.1 feet wide) and gorgeously designed in your choice of color combos; it is made
from recyclable materials and is extremely fuel efficient. The models that will be available in the US are:
- The smart fortwo pure (entry-level, starting at $11,590);
- The smart fortwo passion coupe (well-equipped, starting at $13,590); and
- The smart fortwo passion cabriolet (well-equipped convertible, starting at $16,590).
The $99 online reservation will secure your place in line while a dealer network is established.
Holiday Shopping Research
To Click or Not to Click?
In many cases it's never too late to make a few changes to your website or marketing plans in order to better drive
sales. What's worth making changes for? According to a study from GSI Commerce (a leading e-commerce platform), the first
thing online marketers need to do is understand the generational gap between Internet users.
For example, 42% of younger adults (18-34) were willing to consider alternative forms of payment such as Bill Me Later,
Google Checkout or Paypal, versus 29% of those 55+. And all marketers should know that 21% of the younger generation rated
professional site design as very important as compared to 8% of the older set. Forty percent of all respondents reported that
a convenient return policy was a very important feature; in terms of gender difference, 46% of women versus 34% of men
considered the return policy to be of major importance. Guess who's generally in charge of holiday returns? Women. ;) The
study was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of GSI.
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