Why High-Tech Companies Need Branding

 

The meltdown we are seeing in the technology industry reflects an overabundance of hype. Companies have suffered because they’ve confused advertising (getting attention) with branding (promise and delivery).

 

Unlike an advertisement, which is short term, a brand represents the promises you make for the long haul. Also unlike advertising, branding is a constant process, and it happens whether a company “means to” or not. Every action an organization takes contributes to its brand. It’s only a question of whether this fact is recognized and managed actively.

 

We have been working as brand consultants to tech firms for the past few years. Over time we witnessed a general industry shift toward hyping the future in order to stay competitive.

 

Companies sold themselves on what was “sure” to happen eventually, rather than what they were capable of offering at the time. If you couldn’t find the words “largest,” “most comprehensive” and “cutting-edge” everywhere — from their Web sites to their T-shirts — then you just weren’t looking in the right place.

 

So to us, the fact that these companies are in trouble is no great surprise. Your brand is your promise, and failure to deliver makes customers feel like victims.

 

It’s time to get real. Companies are learning the hard way that they need to build their brands with actions, instead of giving away T-shirts. It’s no longer enough to “leverage our partnerships” — these days, everyone and his brother has a partnership with Microsoft or Cisco. Credibility is gained over time.

 

Every action a company takes must reflect the brand promise in order for it to be believable. The promise must be reflected not only in the products and services offered, but in every organizational function, from the billing system to customer service to tech support. Their actions are part of a living story, and companies must take the time and make the effort to “own” that story. The best way to build a brand is by providing honest delivery on promises made.

 

Particularly in today’s challenging economic climate, misconceptions about branding — what it is and whether it’s really necessary — remain. These misconceptions can be extremely costly. However, if your organization focuses on “brand strategy” rather than on typical advertising and marketing initiatives, you’ll develop the optimal positioning, as well as an action plan for maintaining it.

 

In my conversations with tech industry professionals, as well as with prospective and existing clients, these mistaken beliefs tend to come up over and over again. Here are five of the most common:

 

Advertising and branding are the same thing.

 

One of my clients had grown tremendously but wasn’t making any money. Why? The firm was known as the “let’s-make-a-deal” company, the price slasher in town. What it didn’t realize was that this image had become its brand. So what it needed was total repositioning, but what it kept asking for was “better ads.” It’s far better to develop a brand strategy first, then create marketing and advertising communications that are aligned with this strategy.

 

I’ll do brand strategy when everybody else does.

 

By and large, innovation and a quality product are what count to tech people. And it’s true, without the technology your company is going nowhere fast. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that consumers are faced with myriad similar products and promises — and are looking for something more. These days, it’s the combination of functional and emotional benefits that makes your company stand out from the pack.

 

The economy is bad; I don’t have the money.

 

It’s tempting to say, “I’ve only got so many dollars, I can’t afford to take a chance on marketing now.” However, the reality is exactly the opposite: a failing business is one very clear sign of improper branding. A company that hasn’t taken the time to be strategic, that hasn’t gone through the process of thinking about what it is, what it wants to achieve and how it is communicating these messages to its market is inevitably going to face a crisis. And although it’s not ideal (or fun, honestly) to do a brand strategy when you’re in a crisis, it’s one case when you are definitely better off late than never.

 

I know who my target customer is, so we don’t need research.

 

When there are millions, even billions of dollars at stake, comprehensive market research is a comparatively small investment to make in its success. If you don’t investigate, you won’t find out. Period. No matter how good your intuition is, or how good your business has been thus far, do the market research to find out who will buy the product or service you are offering.

 

Employees are irrelevant to brand strategy.

 

Sure, you can say “it’s all about the dollar.” But the fact is, if your organization is troubled on the inside, it will affect your performance eventually. On the other hand, if your house is in order, your employees know what you stand for — and they tell other people about it. In effect, they become loyal brand messengers, the most effective kind of salesperson I can think of. Investing in your people reflects a kind of long-term thinking that spills over into the rest of your operation as well. Ultimately, Wall Street will respect you for it.

 

Independent Filmmaking at Affordable Costs

A list of Top 10 Films for Filmmakers with Limited Budgets

Filmmaking is fast becoming a cheaper process. With the rise in micro-budget filmmaking (films made on minuscule budgets, sometimes no more than a few thousand dollars) in the 90s pushed the envelope. And further advances in digital technologies, motion graphics, the remarkable Red One video camera that captures natural light and allows for a more flexible and functional experience, it’s becoming easier for any wanna-be filmmaker to create a professional-looking film for under $10, 000.

Some of these films have garnered such critical acclaim that, in recognition of the micro-budget film movement, the Independent Spirit Awards recently added a new category, the John Cassavetes award, which is given to the best feature film made for under $500,000.

And with the economy struggling as is, money becoming more and more scarce, the movement doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

So, in honor of the micro-budget film movement, below is the first five films of a list of the top 10 best independent films made from a budget under $100, 000, including inflation.

Note: All budget figures are courtesy of The Internet Movie Database, or www.IMDB.com and don’t include added costs post-production once/if the film was picked up for distribution. And Foreign films were not included in the list.

10. Pink Flamingos (1972)

Budget = US$ 12, 000

Writer/Director John Waters is an icon of the micro-budget film industry. His first five feature films each included budgets under $100, 000, and not until Hairspray, his seventh film, did his budget finally exceed a million dollars.

But it was with the cult-hit Pink Flamingos that he gained public attention, albeit, for all the wrong reasons. The plot centers around a competition between two rival groups vying for the title of “the filthiest people alive.” And both groups are filthy.

What helped the film to stand out was that Waters showed, in explicit detail, just how perverse and filthy each person could be, at one point, showing Divine (Waters’ friend and lead actress in most of his films) eating actual dog feces (Waters acknowledges the fact in his book “Shock Value”). It’s no wonder Waters had such difficulty finding funding for the film.

09. In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007)

Budget = US $25, 000

In 1995, Richard Linklater wrote and directed Before Sunrise, a film about a chance meeting between a boy and girl who eventually spend a romantic evening together walking around Vienna, talking of any and all topics. Midnight Kiss doesn’t copy fully from Linklater’s film but does borrow heavily from it.

Writer/Director Alex Holdridge employed friends Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds as his lovers-to-be, and followed them around the streets of Los Angeles. Holdridge took a guerilla-style approach to filming, with everyone involved contributing to the script, which helped move the entire process along quicker. According to the press kit, it required only nine days to film the script’s first 70 pages, at which point, “the team knew this would be a special movie.”

And it was. The film earned the 2009 John Cassavetes award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

  1. Primer (2004)

Budget = US $7, 000

A surprise winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2004, Primer is an intellectual thriller wrought with authenticity of its subject. Shane Carruth, a former engineer-turned-filmmaker, wanted his debut film to feel as real as possible. So, to appease his own desires, Carruth controlled every aspect of the filmmaking process. He wrote, directed, edited, starred in and composed the music for the film.

Shooting took five weeks, and Carruth relied upon filming in his own garage, friends’ apartments and families’ houses. He shot digitally to assist in giving the film its professional look.

It appears Carruth made the right choice leaving engineering to become a filmmaker.

07. Following (1998)

Budget = US $6, 000

Not too long ago, before Batman Begins and Dark Knight, even before he broke onto the scene with Memento, Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this little known, micro-budget indie thriller about an aspiring writer who follows random people for inspiration for a story.

Nolan enlisted the help of family and friends, who allowed him to film inside their houses, and filmed in black and white on 16mm film in efforts to keep costs down. Film equipment was held to a minimal, so he forced himself to use only natural, available light.

The film won several indie awards and, in terms of star potential, it has been an upward progression for Nolan ever since.

06. Bad Taste (1987)

Budget = US $25, 000 *More money was added to the budget post-production

In Ken Hammon’s production accounts, entitled “This has Buggered your Plans for Conquering the Universe: The making of BAD TASTE,” he writes of how Bad Taste started as a short, an experimental-type monster film made between friends, that, upon hearing of the successful reception to Evil Dead at the Wellington Film Festival in New Zealand, grew into a feature film about aliens.

Peter Jackson directed the group, who performed without a script and faced the daunting task of filming each scene on a whim. Production spanned four years and encountered several major problems, including the departure of several cast members–one of which left due to religious indifference to the material after getting married and switching religions–then reappearing years later to pick up filming again.

In the end, Bad Taste was first screened at Cannes in 1988 and received a very enthusiastic reception.

Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Women

Choose the Best Valentine’s Day Presents for Spouses and Girlfriends

Every February, men across the nation are stumped. What are the expectations on Valentine’s Day? Is she expecting jewelery? Is sending a bouquet of flowers cliche?

Valentine’s Day is often referred to as a day for lovers, but many men consider it a woman’s holiday. As a result, in early February, panic begins to set in. No man wants to ruin a Valentine’s Day celebration for his girlfriend or spouse. But how does he find out what she wants and what she expects? What are the best romantic gifts for her?

A Woman’s Personality Should Inspire Valentine’s Day Ideas

A woman’s personality can provide guidance when trying to determine what type of gift or celebration is best. Is she sentimental? If she collects photographs, cherishes keepsakes from dates, and has a song that she feels commemorates the love in her relationship, she will be looking for a romantic Valentine’s Day experience. Sending her flowers will melt her heart. Taking her out for a special dinner will please her. Snuggling by the fire with a bottle of wine and some chocolate will take her breath away. A locket with a meaningful quote or date inscribed in it will make her weep.

If she is active and adventurous, however, a different approach may be in order. A woman who loves to spend weekends hiking trails, skiing, and lifting weights may be looking for something a bit less traditional. A date that begins at a rock climbing gym or at a dance studio to learn the Tango may be in order. Don’t deprive her of a romantic meal, but consider her tastes. If she is a health nut, she may prefer a restaurant with lighter fare, and may balk at a box of chocolates.

Do Women Want Valentine’s Day Presents?

Men want to know: do women expect Valentine’s Day gifts? Look at past holidays to answer this question. Some women focus more on gifts than others. If she tends to purchase lots of gifts for friends, family, and the men in her life, she may well expect one. If she went crazy buying gifts over the holidays, the sentiment of a gift may be important to her.

However, if she tends to focus more on experiences, she may be more impressed by a carefully planned evening than a bauble in a box. In that case, focus on creating a meaningful and creative Valentine’s Day, not searching for a gift.

Romantic Valentine’s Day Gifts Reflect Her Likes and Dislikes

Romantic Valentine’s Day gifts demonstrate thought, care, and love. They are gifts that reflect an understanding of the woman and the love being celebrated. Consider a woman’s preferences. Think about past experiences and gift giving occasions. Tune into her desires, and listen to see if she is dropping hints about her expectations. After doing this homework, plan something special, make a purchase if appropriate, and enjoy.

Using Online Auction Sites to Save Money on a Bridal Gown

Brides can save money by buying a wedding gown on popular internet auction site eBay, or other sites. A variety of new, used, trendy, and classic dresses are available.

According to the popular wedding planning site The Knot, the average wedding costs about $27,800. Most wedding budgets allow about 10% of the total budget for attire, including the wedding gown. For the average wedding, this means that attire costs $2,780. Engaged couples looking to save money can cut down a lot by spending less on attire. A great option for brides is to look on internet auction websites, such as eBay.com, for inexpensive wedding gowns. A variety is available, from new, to custom made, to gently used.

Bridal Salon Samples

Many dresses available on eBay or other auction sites are samples from a bridal salon. Salons will usually have one dress of the popular styles available in their showroom. This is so brides can try on the dress or at least see it in person. This is called a sample. Since the dress will only be in one size, brides who don’t fit in it can at least hold it up in front of them, or try it on but cinch it up in the back. If the bride likes the dress, she then orders a brand new one through the bridal salon.

Since samples are only relevant while the dresses are being produced by the designer. Once seasons change, the samples are no longer necessary. Before the internet, salons would sometimes hold sample sales and sell the dresses for a fraction of the cost. Now, many salons sell them on internet auction sites. Brides can get a dress in great shape, that might not have ever been tried on, or only tried on a couple of times. Sometimes dresses will have slight flaws, but most reputable salons disclose them. Most people attending a wedding won’t even notice if a dress is from a previous season.

Custom Made Bridal Gowns

Brides can also find custom made wedding dresses on web auctions. These dresses are often made in China, where silk is inexpensive. These dresses will sometimes be knock-offs of designer dresses, but brides have a lot of creative control in making the dress unique. Brides do need to be careful about purchasing a dress this way because they often have little recourse when there are payment or delivery issues with another country. They shouldn’t wait until the last minute to purchase the dress, in case anything goes wrong.

Used Wedding Dresses

Many women try to sell their used dresses on eBay. Potential buyers should be aware that listings may describe a dress as being “only worn a couple of hours” but a lot of damage could be done in a short time. Couples often take wedding photos outside where it could be dirty, and they could get food or drinks on their dress, or even step on a hem or rip a button. Also, pre-worn dresses have also been altered and might not fit true to size. Brides also tend to price their already worn gowns pretty high, to try to recoup their costs. Used gowns can be a great deal, but make sure to read the description closely and request measurements and pictures of any damage.

Bridal gowns can range in price from under $100 for a simple white dress that’s not specifically a “wedding dress,” to tens of thousands of dollars for a top designer dress. Brides have many options, including buying a dress from a web auction, in order to save money on a dress.

Toddler Clothing Bargains

Finding Stylish & Affordable Toddler Clothes

Be creative and resourceful when dressing toddler boys and toddler girls with the latest toddler clothing – without breaking the bank.

It can be a challenge buying the latest outfits for your growing toddler boy or girl. Busy toddlers need a lot of clothes for a variety of activities. Growing toddlers quickly outgrow clothing sizes and keeping up with a stylish wardrobe can be quite expensive.

Ideas for Buying Affordable Toddler Clothes

Here are some ideas for affordable toddler clothes that will save money and help stay ahead of the next clothing size.

  • Shop for toddler clothes off-season. The biggest way to save with affordable toddler clothing is shopping at the end of a season. Most stores offer clearance sales on seasonal clothes mid-season. Buying ahead for next year’s season will save big bucks. The challenge may be determining the size one year ahead. Try estimating the size based on the child’s average growth pattern (i.e. running one size ahead based on age). Estimating a larger size is most likely safer than estimating the smaller size.
  • Shop ahead of the season. Shopping for clothing ahead of a season is also a smart idea for affordable toddler clothes. Many stores offer a “pre-season” sale with attractive discounts several months before a season starts. It may be hard to think about bathing suits in March, but it may be cheaper than buying them in June. Buying toddler clothes ahead of the season will also provide for the best selection.
  • Invest in toddler clothing for multiple seasons. Consider clothing that can be used for more than one season. Summer dresses for toddler girls can be worn in the spring or fall with tights and a sweater. Buy jackets for toddler boys that are slightly larger in the fall so they can be worn again in the spring. Extending the life of toddler clothing is both easy and practical.
  • Shop at resale or consignment shops. Benefit from the new trend of buying children’s clothing at resale or consignment shops at reduced prices. These types of stores will likely have the latest styles and name brands for affordable toddler clothes. Look for a good resale or consignment shop that has strict policies on clothing condition.
  • Organize a toddler clothing swap. Sharing clothing with friends and family is the best way to save money on toddler clothing. Start by organizing a gathering of friends or family with children of a variety of ages for both boys and girls. Everyone attending must bring clothing to swap. To make the clothing swap fair for everyone, make sure that there is roughly an equal number of boys and girls. It is also a nice gesture for the parent with the youngest child to bring or purchase clothing for the oldest child. A clothing swap is a fun way to feel good about sharing toddler clothes with family and friends.

Stylish Toddler Clothes

With a little creative planning, it can be easy to save money on your toddler’s clothes without sacrificing style. There is no need to choose price over style. For everyday shopping, many large discount chains (such as Kohls, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target) offer a very fashionable toddler girl and boy styles at affordable prices. Many of these less expensive styles are also more practical for the busy life of a toddler.

Optometrist Salary

An Optometrist is a medical professional who specializes in the caring of an individual’s vision. They test for nearsightedness or farsightedness, color perception, focusing and issue corrective treatment such as vision therapy and vision rehabilitation.

Optometrists are usually confused with ophthalmologists who usually perform eye surgery and diagnose eye diseases and injuries.

Similar to optometrists, they can prescribe different kinds of glasses and breathable contact lenses for monthly wear. Opticians, on the other hand, fill the prescriptions ordered for patients with eye problems.

Optometrists are also involved in glaucoma testing and other eye diseases caused by diabetes and high blood pressure.

How To Become An Optometrist

An optometrist receives a degree in optometry after completing four years of optometry school and three years or more in college prior to obtaining the OD degree.

They are expected to graduate from an accredited college of Optometry and be licensed by the state in which they intend to practice.

The National Board of Examiners in Optometry oversees this licensure. In addition to these, the optometrist is expected to have clinical experience of more than one year at a hospital diagnosing eye conditions.

They are licensed to perform eye exams, check for any abnormalities and prescribe medications. The degree requires that the aspiring optometrist study courses such as pharmacology, vision science, clinical training, and disease management programs are included in the curriculum.

Upon graduation, the optometrist may decide to specialize in a certain field such as geriatric optometry, vision therapy, low rehabilitation, and pediatric optometry.

Whichever state that the optometrist intends to practice, they must be licensed to diagnose and treat patients with vision problems. Most states require that the optometrist take exams that test on the knowledge of local state laws.

An ophthalmologist specializes in eye care and has a total of eight years training which begins with a bachelor’s degree and the MCATS. Their training is more involved in just the eyes and encompasses the entire human body.

The aspiring professional then engages in clinical residency work known as PGY-1. They are also involved in researching causes and treatment options for vision diseases.

An optician prescribes the correct eyeglasses and ultra-smooth lenses at discounted prices for patients diagnosed by optometrists and ophthalmologists. They are not certified to diagnose any eye problems or prescribe any treatment.

The average salary for an optician is around $31,000 because their work is not as involved as the other two.

Ophthalmologists definitely make more than optometrists due to the extra training that they receive to earn their degree.

At the entry level, the optometrist earns in the range of $31,000 to $55,000 every year and once they get all the educational requirements and training, then the pay increases.

An optometrist’s salary is around $105,000 while that of the ophthalmologist was $300,000.

Different city and states will differ in what an optometrist can expect to be paid. In smaller cities and towns, wages for an optometrist may be a little higher.

Also, those who work in outpatient clinics and physician’s offices will make more than those who work in hospitals. An optometrist salary varies by state and some of the top earning states are found in the south due to the aging population.

The job outlook for optometrists is promising and the occupation is expected to grow at a rate of 24% through to 2018 and this is due to the expected increase in caring of the retired baby boomers that will need vision care.

In addition, an increase in the number of health insurance plans that allow patients to receive care from optometrists will also result in an increased demand for Optometrists.

Eye problems associated with aging such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration will mean an urgent need for optometrists in the future.

Laser eye surgery is also becoming a common trend and optometrists will be in demand to fill the vacant positions that result from increased use of this technology.

The 19 schools that specialize in optometry produce a total of 1200 graduates each year however this number is needed to be increased to keep up with demand in the coming years.

In addition, optometrists that have been around for years and are looking to retire will need to be replaced which will also create thousands of job opportunities.

An Optometry career is a wise choice to make in this tough economy as the job growth is expected to rise and the pay is only going to get higher with demand.

Hot Valentine’s Day Gifts for Girlfriends

Great Gift Ideas When Buying Women’s Presents

Impress and surprise a girlfriend with some great gift ideas. Get her a thoughtful gift to make this coming Valentine’s Day, her birthday or a special occasion memorable.

Searching for the perfect gift for that special girl? Check out the following great gift ideas when buying women’s presents. These presents are great for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, Christmas or other special occasions.

Gifts for the Modern Girl

The modern, urban girl loves anything that oozes style, quality, and superior technology. Boyfriends can surprise their gals with any of these cool gadgets – a brightly colored Fujifilm FinePix Z30 digital camera, an AVLABS digital photo frame, a pink Sony 2GB MP3 Walkman, a Sony Ericsson W595 prepaid mobile phone in her favorite color or the Pure Sensia touchscreen FM/DAB/web radio with five built-in applications including Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, Weather and News.

Gifts for the Romantic Girl

The romantic girl thinks with her heart. So the best approach is to get her something that appeals to her emotionally. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does need to reflect thoughtfulness on the boyfriend’s part. Gifts like flowers, chocolate, and jewelry are fine. But try to make them extra special.

For instance, the flowers can be arranged in the form of her name; the chocolate can be packed in a big personalized mug or basket, and the jewelry can be heart-shaped and placed in a jewelry box embossed with a special message. Other gift ideas for a romantic girlfriend include romance novels by her favorite authors and romantic movies starring her favorite movie stars.

Presents for Artistic Women

If the girlfriend is into the arts, there are plenty of gift choices too. Awaken the artist in her by signing her up for a painting course, flower arranging classes or getting her an exclusive art gallery membership. A thoughtful boyfriend may also consider taking his artistic girlfriend to a ballet performance, stage play or opera. After all, where else can the loved one experience colorful costumes and extravagant sets and props? If money is not an issue, the boyfriend can also consider buying her paintings by famous artists.

Presents for Sporty Women

If keeping fit is a big part of the girlfriend’s life, get her some fashionable sports gear and bags, sign her up for 10 personal trainer sessions at her gym, buy her a heart rate monitor, or pledge to be her regular gym partner. If she doesn’t fancy hitting the gym, surprise her with the Wii Fit Plus and its 4-in-1 Fitness Bundle with pink accessories so that she can exercise in the comfort of her home.

If the sporty girlfriend prefers working out outdoors, get her a portable UV monitor that can calculate the optimal sun exposure time based on UV levels, skin type and sunscreen applied. That way, she can exercise outside and still avoid getting a sunburn.

Experience Gifts for Girlfriends

Want to try something really different? Get an experience gift for that special someone. Buy vouchers for different kinds of unique experiences from websites such as Redballoondays.com.au, Totalexperience.com.au, and Adrenalin.com.au. Thrill her with a hot air balloon or helicopter ride, pamper her with a trip to a day spa, take her on a romantic sunset cruise, enroll her in a make-up course or sign her up for a guided horse trail ride. A unique experience is always unforgettable. Be prepared to pay a big sum of money for experience gifts, though!

Different gifts appeal to women with different personalities and likes. With some planning and lots of thinking, a guy can find the perfect gift for his girlfriend – whether she is modern, romantic, artistic, sporty or adventurous – on Valentine’s Day, her birthday, Christmas or any other special occasions.

Order Flowers Online for Special Occasions

Get Flowers Delivered Fast Using the Internet

An online flower shop is a great way to send flowers quickly and cheaply. Buying flowers online is convenient and makes ordering floral arrangements simple and easy.

Whether there is a special occasion, a holiday, or just for no reason at all, giving flowers is the perfect way to show someone special how much they mean. Whether convenience, cost, or speed of delivery is a concern, online flower shops offer everything one needs to order flowers today.

Order Flowers Online for Convenience

What could be easier than ordering the perfect bouquet of flowers with a few clicks of the mouse? To find the best and most reputable online flower shop, find one that mainly does online business. This is an indication the company is focused primarily on the convenience the Internet offers to the online consumer.

To send flowers online it only takes a few minutes. A quick look through a company’s online catalogue and find the perfect floral gift is all that it takes. Once selected, some financial information is collected and the perfect floral gift is on its way in a matter of minutes.

Buy Flowers Online for Cheap Flower Delivery

The ability to quickly compare prices from multiple online flower shops makes finding a cheap flower delivery option simple. There is no reason to pay the extreme prices that many flower stores charge. Online flower shops know the customer can compare prices with numerous companies in a matter of minutes online. The best companies work hard to provide their customers with the quality flower but a cheap price that includes delivery.

Find the Best Flowers Delivered Fast

Most online flower shops offer delivery within 12 hours from when the order is placed. This includes same day delivery flowers when the order is placed quickly enough. To avoid a delay, give specific instructions to the online flower shop so there are no questions about the order, which could result in a delay.

Online Flower Shops are the Best Way to Give Flowers

Traditional flower shops cannot compete with the convenience and ability to order flowers online. Online flower shops allow the consumer to quickly send the best floral arrangement to a loved one without ever leaving home or even making a phone call to the local florist.

Online flower shops allow a customer the ability to give a beautiful floral arrangement at the last second. In addition, many companies also offer a way to order and send flowers internationally. The online florists offer few limitations, regardless of location.

When looking for the perfect gift, no matter what the occasion, the fast and convenient option of buying flowers online cannot be beaten. Many online florists offer excellent prices and even same day delivery for the flowers.

How to Avoid Spending Too Much Money on Toys

Use Internet Resources to Save Money Shopping for Children

Ideas for smart and budget-conscious Internet shoppers: compare prices and shipping fees from multiple online vendors, check original retail prices, combine purchases.

More and more shoppers are relying on Internet shopping to save time and gas money. By following some simple tips, bargain-conscious parents can save even more money by finding toys for children at the best possible prices.

Research the Price of an Item at Various Websites.

Use the Internet to compare product prices. Savvy consumers never assume that an item is available from only one online retailer or for only one price. Magazine readers often read reviews of products that provide information about an online site where the item may be purchased. A person interested in buying that product should go to that site first to check the product out and make sure that it is what they are looking for. A smart shopper, however, will not buy the product from that site without first checking to see if it is also available elsewhere.

To find and compare product prices most easily:

  • plug the product name and variants of it into Internet search engines to find other retailers that carry it or similar items
  • check at Amazon, eBay, and Buy.com to see if sellers there offer it for a different price
  • find and use online sites that pull prices from many online retailers onto one page for ease of comparisons, such as MSN Shopping, PriceGrabber, and mySimon
  • use an online product tracker site or web service such as TrackerBob or NowInStock that partner with the leading online retailers to keep track of and notify consumers when the most popular, hard-to-get items are available and in stock at different sites

Check Researched Prices Against an Independently Confirmed Normal Retail Price.

Confirm the normal retail price for a product before buying it “at a discount” or “on sale.” Often online marketers will quote a retail price for a product, then cross that price out and highlight the price for which they are offering the item. These online vendors hope to persuade consumers that they will be saving a great deal of money by purchasing the item from this particular vendor. However, some unscrupulous online retailers might be quoting an unfairly high original price to make the possible savings to the customer seem greater than they are.

Smart shoppers should not believe that the quoted pre-sale retail price for an item is actually the normal retail price without confirming that information independently from at least one or two objective sources.

Research and Compare Shipping and Sales Tax Costs at Different Shopping Websites.

The price of an item may be cheaper at one online shopping website than another, but the overall cost of purchasing the item from that site might skyrocket once the consumer adds in the shipping and tax costs. In that case, purchasing the item from the second site is a better deal overall, even though the item price is less expensive at the first site. When examining shipping costs:

  • look for shopping websites that offer flat fee shipping rates
  • look for online vendors that offer free or reduced shipping if the consumer spends a certain amount of money at the site
  • take into account the weight of the item if shipping is determined by that

Compare the Best Price for an Item with the Cost of Buying the Item at a Local Store.

For the sake of completeness, the best shoppers should now phone local retailers and collect information about the cost of the item at actual shops. Smart consumers should not forget to factor in the cost of the gas and the time needed to travel to the local store.

Combine Purchases and Buy Items from as Few Sites as Possible

Once the decision has been made to purchase items online, consumers should save on shipping costs by buying as many of the items on their shopping lists from the same online vendors in as few orders as possible.

Internet shopping grows easier and more convenient each day. With some smart planning, budget-conscious consumers can easily save money by purchasing items for children online.

Safe Online Shopping Tips

Buying Online with Consumer Protection Act and Firewall Protection

Online shopping has become a multi-billion pound business, but so has online fraud. Firewall protection helps, but the Consumer Protection Act is the shopper’s saviour.

The UK’s Internet shopping market is worth more than £21.4 billion, with more than 20 million people buying online in the last year, according to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

It isn’t surprising that, with the kind of money at stake, online fraud has grown exponentially. However, online fraud isn’t the only risk facing those who do online shopping. There are also company insolvencies and unethical business practices to negotiate.

Secure Internet Shopping

Prior to entering credit card details at checkout, make sure that the web site the purchase is being made at is secure. A secure web site is denoted by the following:

  • A padlock should be displayed on the bottom of the browser frame;
  • The http:\\ prefix should change to https:\\. The additional ‘s’ denotes that the web site is secure.

Use Firewall Protection when Buying Online

Utilising firewall protection is important in terms of preventing hackers from accessing credit and debit card details. If a victim of online fraud, it is possible to contact the bank that issued the card and commence a credit card chargeback to recover any money lost.

Internet Shopping and S 75 of the Consumer Protection Act 1974

The Consumer Protection Act 1974 affords a credit card customer protection on any purchase made that is between £100 and £30,000. If the company the purchase has been made from has gone out of business, it is possible to claim the money back from the credit card provider.

Safe Online Shopping – Register for MasterCard SecureCode and Verified by VISA

Verified by VISA and 3DS are the Internet’s answer to chip-and-pin. Registering for these means that any online shopping payments will require the entry of a password and not just the CV2 code off the back of the card.

According to Apacs, “Consumer uptake of online authentication schemes Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode has increased by 600% in the past two years.”

Beware of Gift Vouchers and the Risk of Business Insolvency

Brad King, the managing director of compareandsave.com, stated that “There is a risk that people may be buying goods from businesses that are likely to collapse during these difficult economic times.”

A number of high profile businesses, including Woolworth’s and XL Leisure, have gone into receivership. Be careful not to buy gift vouchers that will have no value or goods that can’t be returned.

Don’t let the risks of online shopping get in the way, simply be aware of the risks and take a few sensible precautions. If the worst does happen, there are legislative and protective measures in place to help the victim to financially recover.