Are you doing your holiday shopping online?

Holiday shopping has dramatically changed over the past several years where purchasing gifts by the click of the mouse or the tap of a finger from the comfort of your living room chair has replaced the hustle and bustle of gift buying at brick and mortar stores. The new age of online holiday shopping has gotten easier with apps that streamline research and purchasing from mobile devices.

According to Google, online shopping has spiked in the past few years. Last year, 40 percent of all holiday shopping was done online while 78 percent of shoppers used the Internet to research potential gifts. More than half who shopped online used smartphones or tablets, a 41 percent increase from 2013. This resulted in about $1 trillion or 28 percent of all holiday retail sales from mobile related searches last year.

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Preview products

Videos are becoming more popular for checking out products. Eighty percent of those who watched online holiday shopping videos last year viewed product ratings and reviews. More than half of those watching online product reviews and ratings favor videos produced by ordinary people instead of experts.

There’s an app for that

There are 10 apps that can help you research and buy those perfect gifts. They range from organizing advertisements and comparing prices to connecting you directly to merchants and paying for purchases.

  • PeeqPeeq is an app that collects all promotional email ads and creates a catalog where you can bookmark the ads into categories. Pounce allows shoppers to use their iPhone or iPad cameras to scan images in print ads then purchase that item online from the retailer in 30 seconds. Poshmark helps you get rid of those unwanted clothes cluttering your closets. Just take a picture of the item you want to sell or swap, write a description, set a price, and then post it in an online “closet.” Poshmark takes 20 percent of the sale.
  • TalkTo puts you in touch with a local retailer. It compares prices and inventories and allows you to text questions to a business. The app is also useful in booking reservations and appointments. PoachIt will track a particular product you’ve flagged and will notify you if there is a price change. It also sends coupon codes for product discounts. With Redlaser, you scan an item’s bar code in a store and will notify you if it can be found cheaper elsewhere or online.
  • ShopKick can get you a discount for trying on clothes, making purchases, or scanning product codes while in a store. You get points or “kicks” that can be redeemed for gift cards. Users can create an account and link Visa credit or debit cards to received automatic points for certain purchases. Clutch has many features including a mobile wallet that connects to Apple’s passbook. It also has coupons, allows comparison shopping, apps for loyalty cards and gifts, and even reminders for birthdays.
  • Wanelo’s name comes from the first two letters of: WAnt, NEed, LOve. It has 10 million users and connects to 200,000 retailers. The user can click on the image of a product and the app will take you directly to its store. Fancy is a one-stop shopping app for products such as collectibles, current fashions, art, media and food.

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Watch for scammers

While holiday online shopping is convenient, it also opens the door to potential scammers who take advantage of the increased web traffic. Shoppers should make sure to have the latest anti-virus software. The Huffington Post suggests watching out for emails that claim to be package tracking companies with links to tracking information. Save your online order numbers and compare them to the emails.

Check websites for misspellings, a red flag that it is likely a scammer. Don’t enter credit card numbers on popup screens. Legitimate merchants ask to you create an account with a log-in. Shop at trusted retailers and check review sites such as Bizrate. If you believe you were scammed, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a joint venture of the FBI and White Collar Crime Center. Don’t let a scammer turn your online holiday shopping into a blue Christmas.