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Online Holiday Shopping & Tech Toy Tips

Back in the day, before online shopping gave us the ability to buy whatever we want, whenever we want, one of the chief commercial seasonal markers at this time of year was the number of shopping days left til Christmas. It was a not-so-subtle, but nonetheless motivating countdown, reminding us to get out there and get spending. Nowadays, the plethora of holiday-themed retail emails leave no doubt that traditional gift-giving is just around the corner.

But being one of my favorite times of year, and as an avid online shopper, these are marketing messages I largely relish. And I’m not alone. According to data from eConsultancy, one in five U.S. shoppers did all their holiday shopping online, and 50% did more than half of their shopping online in 2013.

Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving) remains the biggest day in terms of revenue for online holiday shopping, as sales last year exceeded all previous records with a whopping $2.2 billion spent in 2013. However this year, after a number of retailers including Home Depot and Target suffered serious breaches of their data systems, new research indicates that consumers are becoming more wary of spending online with major retailers – and small businesses may be the surprise winners because of this. According to a report from thewhir.com, a recent survey by Web.com suggested that 69% of consumers are concerned about security and privacy when shopping online, and because of that are more likely to shop with small businesses who they perceive to have a better handle on security measures than the major retailers. There’s no indication that online spending will be impacted overall, however. According to this report from Adobe (whose Cyber Monday predictions in previous years were within 1%), online spending is set to hit $2.6 billion this year.

As more and more of our spending moves online, so do the toys on the gift lists become more technologically sophisticated. Here is our round-up of some of the most intriguing – and fun-looking – tech toys for this season (with thanks to gizmag.com and pocket-lint.com).

  • Lego Mindstorms EV3 Lego is firmly in the 21st century here with its Mindstorms kit which teaches kids (and would appeal to young and old) how to program by way of creating a robot that can “walk, talk, think and do anything you can imagine.” The comprehensive kit includes a programmable brick, sensors and moving pieces to bring the robot to life. What’s also great is the online support, including video tutorials and downloadable games and apps to help make this a continual learning experience long after the robot has been built.
  • Vtech KidiZoom Smartwatch This watch for kids aged 4+ is a pretty cool piece of tech. It includes a camera, video and voice recording functions as well as a bunch of touch-screen educational games for the wearer to play. It connects to your computer to enable easy uploading of images and videos and also has a battery life of up to two weeks (!). We also love the fact you can select an analog time display so that important experience of learning the time on your first watch isn’t lost in the digital age.
  • Doh Vinci Styler Play Doh was a perennial favorite in my house, and this is a clever new take by them on the popularity of 3D printing. Available in a variety of kits, you load the “styler” with Play Doh and then go right ahead and create your own designs (it also comes with templates). The Play Doh then sets hard, and ta-da, a 3D masterpiece (perhaps) is created – without a touch screen in sight!

 

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