Many of us let our fingers do holiday shopping as we click and touch our way through our gift list. Shopping online is just as convenient on Cyber Monday and all through the holiday season as it is throughout the year. And with holiday crowds in the stores, maybe even more so. There are some differences, however. One is that to entice your holiday dollars, a number of online retailers will offer free shipping on purchases or free shipping when you reach the free shipping amount minimum.
According to a recently released survey of retailers by Shop.org, the digital division of the National Retail Federation trade group, 57.4 percent surveyed say they would keep their free shipping programs the same this holiday season as they were last season and 29.8 percent say they will add some perks such as a free return policy.
The other thing to remember when shopping online is that shipping times are finite. If you want your gifts to be received on time and you don't want to go through the expense of expedited shipping, you have to be aware of holiday shipping schedules. For most online retailers this year Dec. 17 is the date you need to order by to have your gifts arrive on time at the standard delivery rate. That date is also touted as "Free Shipping Day." At the website freeshippingday.com you will find a list of hundreds of retailers who are offering free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve for orders placed by Dec. 17. Some retailers may require a minimum purchase to qualify.
Here are some additional tips to get your online holiday gifts shipped on time and with some extra-added touches.
The same dates apply when purchasing food from online retailers. Harry & David's holiday cut off date is Dec. 17 for standard delivery and Overnight Express is Dec. 21. The retailer does charge but will have promos during the season including participating in Free Shipping Day Dec. 17, as it has since 2009. Note, too, that Harry & David and other retailers who ship perishables charge an additional fee for special insulated containers and ice-gel packs for such things as cheesecakes and chocolates. For some perishables different shipping options apply. For instance, Lobster Gram can only ship out frozen lobster through standard delivery. Its live Maine lobsters must be shipped out Expedited Overnight.
One way to get free shipping from retailers that have a brick and mortar store is to have your online purchases sent to the store instead of your home. This option also helps you to keep gifts away from snooping family members. Check to see if your favorite retailers have a "ship to store" or "site to store" option. This works especially well for last minute gifts, but do note that if the item you order is not in stock it can take up to 10 business days, depending on the retailer, to have it shipped. Some retailers may impose a minor charge if the item ordered is not carried in the store.
Those who chargeWhile some retailers require a minimum order amount to qualify for complimentary shipping, during the holidays they may offer deals. If you know your online retailer charges for shipping, a good idea is to sign up for its marketing e-mails so you will be notified of some of the special shipping deals. Some retailers have a generous policy, which allows you to get your order in by noon on the last business day before Dec. 24. This year that is Friday, Dec. 21.