While you may be just beginning to start your holiday shopping, retailers began plotting their holiday marketing schemes last St. Patrick’s Day. Surely you remember stumbling over those huge Christmas displays while shopping for Halloween candy! Retail sales prognosticators predict a 3.5% increase in sales this year. Internet sales estimates are much higher, ranging between 11% to 24% increases this year.
Total consumer tech spending for the US 2016-holiday season will approach $36 billion. Fully 68% of holiday shoppers plan to purchase new tech toys, with smart home devices (thermostats and digital assistants), virtual reality (VR) headsets, wearable technology (smart watches and fitness bands) and drones representing the leading edge of emerging technologies. Sales of desktop computers are expected to continue their six-year decline while tablets and smartphones will slow to “only” a 45% growth rate.
Big and smart high definition televisions have been perennial favorites for several years. Now that 4K (ultra high definition) TV prices are finally affordable and, broadcast 4K programming is becoming more widely available, these coveted TVs are expected to be best sellers. 4K shipments are already up 70% this year.
More than half of holiday shoppers will do their buying on line. Cyber Monday is the heaviest online shopping day in the United States, with last year’s sales exceeding $3 billion within 24 hours. Unfortunately for over-eager consumers, the splurging season is also a bonanza for cyber criminals. Online fraud attempts were up 30% last year! Increased website traffic means more potential targets, making the holiday season the perfect time for predators to target online shopping sites.
Cyber security experts have plenty of shopping tips and reminders for on line shoppers:
Choose large, trusted retailers who are more likely to have adequate security measures in place. Look for the HTTPS prefix in the address bar, indicating a secure, encrypted website. Always use a credit card, not a debit card and check your transaction records regularly. Ask your credit card provider if they have an internet anonymous shopping application that only uses a virtual or masked credit card number for a limited amount of time instead of your actual account number. Make sure you’re keeping up with security updates for your system and security programs.
Avoid clicking on links in advertisements or embedded in emails, especially from unfamiliar sources. Use strong, unique passwords for each website. Never shop on public Wi-Fi, especially for secure transactions – it’s like shouting out your credit card number in a crowd.
Beware of websites that offer spectacular bargains or fabulous freebies. Mom was right after all! If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is!