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Top Story
Christmas goes high tec

Christmas goes high tech

Roasted chestnuts. Stockings hung by the fire. Sleigh rides. These are all great holiday traditions. However, technology has definitely pulled Christmas into the 2.0 age.

Gifts and Santa
Tablets (especially iPads) and laptops are on the top of consumers' shopping lists, according to a Retrevo.com survey. The various versions of the iPod also continue to be popular.

Even toys have been impacted by technology – and the tech does not even have to be in the gift. A Nov. 23 Walletpop.com article reports mommy bloggers hold sway on what becomes the hot toy for Christmas. The article states these bloggers helped Zhu Zhu Pets become the "it" kid gift last year. The motorized hamster-like toys are popular again this December, but mommy bloggers are also helping the popularity of Squinkies.

"When you get endorsement of a mommy blogger, it just spreads like wildfire," said Kami Bryant, a spokesperson for Blip Toys, which makes the gumball-machine-like tiny toys.

Bryant acknowledged the company has sent toys out to bloggers. These are not just for testing, but also to be given away at parties bloggers hold. It is a smart move, said Maria Bailey, an author who has written about marketing efforts using moms.

Bailey's research shows that 90 per cent of moms will go to another mother for info when researching a product. Seventy-five per cent will buy a product if they see it endorsed on Twitter and 65 per cent will make the purchase if it is supported on Facebook. Bailey explained that for sending out as low as $20 worth of product, companies can reach about 50,000 people through an established mommy blogger.

Not to be outdone by moms, Santa can also be seen online. There are various services where your child can be emailed a video message from Santa. As well, on Christmas Eve, your family can keep track of Santa's journey thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). It offers the Official NORAD Santa Tracker (www.noradsanta.org), which features video of some of Santa's stops.

Shopping online
Instead of braving the crowds at the local mall, more people seem to heading online. According to the research firm Forrester, online retail sales for this year are expected to grow 16 per cent from a year ago to $51.7 billion.

Everyone has their own shopping process. In an article for the Windsor Beacon newspaper, Sandi Squicquero, a licensed counsellor, wrote that she prefers to "window shop" online and then purchase at a store. However, in a Dec. 3 Daily Mirror website article an eBay representative said it seems like United Kingdom shoppers are doing the reverse.

"Brits are window-shopping on the High Street then shopping smart – using their phones to buy the same items for less online," Ruth Syszkowski said.

It is also interesting how online shoppers are buying. The article stated this year it is expected that an item will be bought every second on a mobile phone. Many stores offer apps to make mobile online shopping easier.

Here are some tips to consider to stay safe when shopping online:

  1. Try to stick to reputable websites. If using eBay, do what you can to check out a seller's reputation and past sales.
  2. Be wary of unsolicited emails offering great deals. These could be just scams to steal your banking and credit card information.
  3. When online shopping, it is a good idea to use a credit card devoted to that. Or you could utilize a card with a low credit limit so that you are less exposed.
  4. Check to make sure the website you are using to buy with is secure. Look for the closed lock icon and a browser address that starts with "https" when it comes time to put in your payment info.

Giving for Christmas
Many people take time during the holiday season to try to help the less fortunate. The Salvation Army and its red kettles are certainly a common sight for many of us in December. It is now easier to give to this – and other similar charities.

The Salvation Army now takes donations online. As well, in many cities, you can pay by credit or debit card right at the kettle. The machines use a cell phone like connection.

Arvid Huisman, development director for the Salvation Army in central Iowa, was quoted in a Nov. 25 Radio Iowa website article as saying a lot of times people see the kettles but don't have money on them to make a donation. According to Huisman, research has been done that showed the electronic kettles generated about seven times more money than ones that only took cash and that the average donation was $14. However, the electronic devices cost about $800 and there are also service charges.

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