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Best Holiday Shopping Apps and Sites
Good times or bad times, it's obvious that online shopping grows by leaps and bounds from one year to the next. It's just a question of how much.
Below are our top picks for the slickest online shopping apps and sites for this holiday season.
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Should you go ahead and buy that 55-inch flat-screen TV now? Decide, a price guide and shopping portal for electronics, can tell you whether to buy it now or wait a
few weeks based on its predictions whether the price will go up or down.
Decide's pricing algorithm bases its predictions on price history, new-model production schedules and other data. You specify the product, and Decide.com will give
you a spec list, a graph showing pricing trends over the last few months and a link to the vendor's site where you can complete the purchase.
To bolster its price predictions, Decide adds a confidence rating (from 100% certainty on down).
If you're shopping in a store, you can get the data using Decide's iPhone app, but its website delivers a better experience because you can sort results many ways to
find the most meaningful data.
2. Shopycat Social Gift Finder
Walmart takes another step toward retail ubiquity with this Facebook app, which helps you buy gifts for your Facebook friends by matching their publicly shared
hobbies and interests with related merchandise in the Walmart.com database.
Once you connect your Facebook account with Shopycat, the app searches out the information your friends have shared with you (not including data they don't share with
friends) and lists gift suggestions.
Although Shopycat works like Amazon's Facebook Connect program, which also matches Facebook data with products in its database, it has a streamlining feature that
collects all of your friend's interests into a tag cloud. Click any tag in the cloud for a narrower list of products that match that tag.
One caveat: Unlike other Facebook shopping apps, you have to exit Facebook and go to the Walmart.com site to complete the transaction.
3. Sam's Club For iPad
This application raises the bar among retailers for its intuitive design, which takes full advantage of all the browsing advantages a tablet can offer over a smartphone
Instead of merely recreating the Sam's Club website navigation, the application opens with a cartoon of a Sam's Club store featuring large icons (reducing "fat finger"
mistakes) that point mobile shoppers to a few useful functions including the following:
- A "Click and Pull" feature that lets a shopper browse a select list of items available for pickup at her selected store;
- A select list of "Holiday Gift Solutions" that also marquees the promotion of the day;
- Sam's Club membership management, which also allows nonmembers to buy a membership during the visit and avoid the regular 10% nonmember up charge.
The app's landing page also features several time-saving navigation tabs for features such as complimentary shipping and instant online savings.
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4. Watch with eBay for iPad
So there you are on the sofa, watching TV with your 12-year-old nephew, the one for whom you still don't have a present. He loves the show you're watching; so, you
open up the eBay application on your iPad, click the "Watch with eBay" button and type in the show name.
Within seconds, you'll have a results page full of products related to the show, such as licensed merchandise, collectibles, game tickets and the like, which you can
sort several ways for greatest relevance.
A few clicks later, you've taken care of another present. If you managed to restrain your glee, he'll never know what you were up to.
This feature, which is not available on eBay's iPhone app or at its website, mashes together your local TV listings (broadcast, cable or satellite network) and
eBay's database of auctions and "Buy It Now" merchandise.
All transactions take place within the app; you can browse and pay without getting kicked out to the website.
Note: At time of writing, this feature is available only to US users because of program data constraints.
5. JCPenney Santa Tag
JCPenney continues to shake off its semi-frumpy image with jazzy new websites, tablet applications and this little gadget, which puts your voice on a gift tag.
All you need to use it, whether you're the gifter or the giftee, is a smartphone with a barcode scanner and a basic understanding of how to use it.
Before you try this, watch the YouTube video to which this review links. Any gift purchased at JCP, whether in-store or online, can receive a complimentary tag, but
you have to go into a store to get it.
Scan the tag's QR code and follow the online directions to record and save your message. The message itself gets saved online. (Marketing tip: JCP slides in an
email opt-in as part of the registration screen.)
When your recipient scans the tag, it launches your message in the same way as scanning a product barcode can download information or launch a web page. (Your
recipient can also go to a website to listen to your message if he/she doesn't have a smartphone or scanner.)
Once your recipients hear the message, they'll be asked to text back a thank you note. Score one for gift etiquette.
It's anybody's guess whether recordings like this will transform the greeting-card industry, but it will be interesting to watch what else JCP has up its corporate
sleeve as it continues to reinvent itself.
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