Eyes on the aisles

sale, consumerism and pandemic concept - happy young couple wearing face protective medical mask for protection from virus with shopping bags rising on escalator and pointing finger in mall
Syda Productions / Shutterstock

A poll by the marketing agency 97th Floor1 found that 68% of shoppers are planning to do most of their shopping online this year because of the pandemic. That trend could extend well past 2020: Over half said they expect they'll never shop in person again for the holidays.

Perhaps even more telling, the same study revealed that 30% of respondents would rather step on a Lego piece than get stuck in a crowded store this holiday season.

Despite the strong reaction from some shoppers, additional data also shows that brick-and-mortar stores will likely still see a steady stream of customers.

A survey by Engine Insights2 found that 85% of consumers still plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping in physical stores.

So even though many retailers have put a limit on customer occupancy, you shouldn’t expect to have an aisle to yourself this year.

The safer, savvier option

If you’re one of those people who would rather suffer intense foot pain than face the crowds, shopping online is clearly the way to go.

After all, you’re not really sacrificing much. Online shopping was quickly becoming the preferred method even before the pandemic hit, and for good reason.

Not only will you save on time, gas and stress, you gain access to some digital tools that can save you a ton of money, as well.

Here are a few tips to help you save and stay safe when buying online this year:

Be wary of sellers you don’t know

Unsure about online store
Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock

The FBI has reported a rise in online shopping scams this year,3 and fraudsters are becoming increasingly clever at making their offerings seem legit.

Check for customer reviews online and look up the business on a trustworthy website, like the Better Business Bureau or Trustpilot.

Price-check before you hit your cart

Price-checking a Swtich
Savings found on November 20, 2020. Savings may vary. Sample results shown.

It can be tempting to get all of your shopping done at a big retailer like Amazon or Walmart.com, but the convenience often means paying more than you need to.

To make sure you’re not overspending, use the free Capital One Shopping browser extension to instantly scan for better prices across thousands of online retailers.

And when you go to check out, Capital One Shopping will search its database of coupon codes that have worked in the past and automatically try to apply them to your cart.

It only takes a few minutes to set up, and you could end up saving hundreds of dollars.

Expect delays and double-check return policies

Packages by door
C5 Media / Shutterstock

It’s always disappointing when the gifts you order don’t arrive in time for the holidays, and the pandemic is expected to cause even more shipping delays than usual.

Be mindful of the fact that your purchases may arrive later than their estimated shipping date and try to order important items well in advance if possible.

You should also look into the returns policy of every online store you shop at, since returning gifts purchased online can sometimes take more effort than returning gifts bought in person.

197th Floor

2Engine Insights

3Federal Bureau of Investigation

About the Author

Shane Murphy

Shane Murphy


Shane is a reporter for MoneyWise. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language & Literature from Western University and is a graduate of the Algonquin College Scriptwriting program.

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