Holiday shopping should be filled with cheer, but long lines and sold-out specials can dampen the jolliest of holiday spirits.|
New tools and retail policies could make holiday shopping easier this year, even if you plan to kick off the season with Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
The best way to start is by making a list of who you have to buy for and what they might like. Include a maximum amount you want to spend on each gift, so you won't be tempted to buy an expensive item just because "it's a great deal."
For list-making, Google Shopping has added Shortlists that can replace bookmarking websites for easier comparisons and to coordinate with friends or family if you're going in on a gift together.
Create a Shortlist by clicking the "Add to Shortlist" button as you browse products on Google Shopping. You can add products from other sites by copying URLs from other open tabs to your Shortlist. Comment boxes are provided for each item, so you can add notes. When you're ready, you can share the list with others.
Google Shopping also has added 360-degree photos for its toy listings. You can use your mouse to rotate the images, which is about as close to an in-store experience as you can get without leaving the house.
Google said that 360-degree imagery is coming for other types of products soon. A free mobile Google Shopping app is available, but for Android users only.
Walmart recently launched a new version of its iPhone and Android app. Local ads for Black Friday can be viewed once you've selected your store. To view a specific item in an ad, tap the gray button in the top right corner, which will add yellow buttons to each product. Tap to reveal a product photo, price and button to add an item to your wishlist.
Walmart mobile has added in-store mode. When you enter a Walmart, the app detects your location and pulls in information for that particular store. Say you're looking for a cappuccino maker. You can type in the item and the app will show you where to find it.
If what you want is out of stock, the app will offer an online ordering option. The idea behind this feature is that Walmart doesn't want you to go elsewhere to buy. However, if you order from Walmart.com, you'll have to come back to the store to pick it up.
Black Friday shopping cashback
Deal site BlackFriday.com earlier this month released a free mobile app for iPad and iPhone that offers Black Friday ads and coupons, the ability to make wishlists and get cash back on purchases made by clicking through product links from Black Friday's deal listings.
The same cashback offer is available on the site. For instance, a Panasonic 50-inch Viera HDTV from K-Mart qualifies for 5 percent cash back. Once your BlackFriday.com cashback account reaches $10, you can request a check or a payment to your PayPal account.
BuyVia is a new app that bridges the gap between online and in-store shopping by showing deals regardless of where they're from. For now, the app includes laptops, tablets, smartphones, cameras and video games, as well as Apple products. A comparison button shows pricing and stores for specified items.
You can sign up to receive deal alerts in the same way that you can with retail sites and deal forums, but BuyVia also sends alerts based on your physical location. Say you're walking through a mall, you'll receive an alert on your phone if you pass a store that has a deal on a product you've specified.
You also can scan barcodes and QR codes to find competitors' prices when you're in a store. BuyVia is available for free in the App Store for iPad and iPhone.
Ogden, Utah-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question? Email Leslie Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her at AskLeslie on Facebook or Leslie Meredith on Google+.
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