Dreading the stress of holiday shopping? There’s an app for that, as the saying goes. With the ever-increasing demands on our time and attention, using technology to simplify life can have a positive effect on a person’s wellbeing.
One way to keep calm this season is by becoming a virtual shopper. By shopping online, making cashless transactions and following the advice of trusted online influencers, the mall-weary can reinvent the holiday shopping experience and its incumbent stresses. Here, the experts explain how to reap the benefits.
Control Your Environment
Casual shopping is fun, but fighting crowds, lugging around heavy gift bags, and sweating under your parka while the holiday deadline looms? Not so much.
“Whether it’s the music playing, the temperature or the [placement] of a popular item you’re shopping for, the retail environment is designed to deplete your energies and make it harder for you to make an informed decision,” says psychologist Dr. Joe Flanders, founder and director of the MindSpace Clinic in Montreal, which specializes in mindfulness-based stress reduction. Being in that kind of uncomfortable environment, he points out, can exacerbate stress and lead to impulse purchases.
Taking control over your environment by shopping online can lead to more thoughtful purchases, reducing the risk of buying the wrong gifts and overspending unnecessarily. “When you’re not on their terms, you get to reassert your agenda, which is really the agenda that counts when you’re shopping for the holidays,” says Dr. Flanders.
Beat The Clock
Paying for gifts from the comfort of home can also save time. There’s no line, for one. And new payment options offer additional efficiencies: for instance, Virtual Visa‡ Debit lets you pay with debit when you shop online, and Visa Checkout allows users to pay for online purchases without re-entering delivery or payment information.
To save time at the cash register, your bank’s contactless payment app on your phone – like RBC Wallet, for example – can help you pay for your purchases quicker, no pin, cards or digging for your wallet required.
These smart ways to pay can also speed up the online checkout process. If you’re swiping on your iPhone to find gifts, Apple Pay‡ can be used to make purchases within your favourite shopping apps, like Etsy and Groupon. Simply place your finger on the Touch ID and you’re done. You can also select this method of payment on your computer or tablet if you’re using the Safari browser to surf the web for a special gift.
Fat can be trimmed on the delivery front, too. According to Farla Efros, president of the HRC Retail Advisory in Toronto, more Canadian retailers are catching up to their U.S. counterparts by adopting e-commerce innovations to get gifts into recipients’ hands faster. Take the iconic Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay. The 346-year-old department store recently put $60 million worth of upgrades into its Toronto distribution centre, including a robotics system that will reduce product-sourcing time from over two hours to just 15 minutes.
Granted, the convenience of speedy home delivery can sometimes bring prohibitive shipping fees. One workaround is taking advantage of the option to buy online, pick up in store (BOPUS).
“For consumers, the benefit of BOPUS is that they don’t have to concern themselves with a FedEx package arriving and not being home to receive it,” says Efros, adding that this model also gives shoppers the chance to see the item in person before taking it home, eliminating the worry of having to return something that isn’t quite right.
Find Your Community
While having more options may seem like a good thing when shopping for gifts, a surplus of choice can actually become a source of stress and unhappiness. “The old-fashioned view is to give consumers tons of choice and, assuming they’re rational beings, they’ll choose what’s best for them. But we know the brain doesn’t work like that,” says Dr. Flanders. “People actually much prefer to choose between two or three options and they’ll be happier with their purchase than if they had 15 or 16 options.”
One way to narrow your search for the perfect gift is to canvas trusted members of your community. Just a few years ago, that meant phoning a friend; today, it often means tapping the Instagram or YouTube icon on your smartphone to see what your favourite social influencers are recommending.
Expanding your social network can have financial benefits as well. As more companies turn to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to reach younger customers, many also use these digital platforms to offer promotions, discounts and online exclusives. So, the richer your social roster of favourite brands and influencers, the more likely you’ll be to see news of sales and promotions popping up in your feed.In other words, it pays to be connected.
‡ Apple Pay and Touch ID are trademarks of Apple Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owner(s).
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.