Strategies to help make online furniture shopping less daunting

In mid-March, as the pandemic was taking hold, my husband, daughter and I were in the process of buying a new house, selling our old house and moving across town.

When we made it safely into our new abode, we felt relieved and eager to start the process of making our house a home.

But as we started to settle in, I realized that furnishing our house was not going to be simple. With bricks-and-mortar stores closed, we couldn’t shop in person for the pieces we needed, so we had to buy online. Overseas furniture manufacturing and shipping have been disrupted because of the pandemic, leaving many items back-ordered or out of stock. And the thought of navigating a big furniture return during these times was daunting.

Still, we gave it a shot. I ordered a quick-ship sectional in a basic fabric that came in a timely fashion. That perfect kid-friendly piece sits in our sunroom. A lovely dining room table arrived soon after.

But a sofa in a custom fabric was back-ordered several months. We still haven’t received it, and now I’m second-guessing the purchase. Will it be comfortable? Is the fabric family-friendly?

Wooden armchairs were delivered weeks late. A back-ordered rug pad arrived long after the rug came and furniture had been positioned on said rug. A ready-to-assemble dresser was not ready to assemble; its hardware kit was back-ordered. And when a print arrived with a cracked frame, I haggled with customer service all day for a measly discount.

Many of us are in nesting mode while stuck at home, and we are shopping online as we continue social distancing. We want to make the most of our space, because our homes have taken on many roles: office, school, gym, refuge.

“It’s clear shopping for the home has become front of mind,” said Becca Roderick, director of interior design at the furniture and decor e-tailer One Kings Lane. “This means that there is more attention to making living spaces as comfortable as possible – upgrading worn upholstery, layering in comforting items like throw pillows and adding new art.”

Wayfair has seen a rise in purchases including vanities, faucets and lighting as housebound customers tackle DIY projects, according to a spokeswoman. Its sister sites AllModern and Birch Lane are experiencing surges in sales of storage pieces, outdoor planters and patio furniture.

One Kings Lane has also seen large increases in the outdoor category, specifically furniture, rugs, umbrellas and tableware. “Houses have always fulfilled the role of sanctuary in our lives, but now more so than ever,” Roderick said.

Navigating the virtual design world has been trickier than I anticipated. Five months after moving in, our house is half-furnished. I spoke with experts about how I could have approached this differently. Here is their advice on buying furniture online, during the pandemic and beyond.

Decorating in a virtual world

Jewel Marlowe, an interior stylist in Fairfax Station, Va., has used the pandemic as an excuse to continue sprucing up her

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Shippers scramble as holiday shopping goes online

COLONIE — Merchants told us to shop early. Health officials told us to stay home.

The result? An avalanche of online purchases that is burying parcel delivery trucks and postal carriers.

UPS, which normally operates one daily round-trip from Albany International Airport, upped that to two round-trips by early November, then doubled it again.

This week, UPS began operating four round-trips from Albany most weekdays. Each of the Boeing 757s can carry up to 88,000 pounds, or 44 tons, of cargo.

“It’s an indication of the online shopping that’s going on nationally and in the Capital Region,” observed airport spokesman Doug Myers.

UPS has also altered some of its package pickups to match demand with its capacity, UPS spokesman Jim Mayer told the Times Union, after The Wall Street Journal reported that drivers had been instructed not to pick up some packages from its largest customers following Cyber Monday promotions.

“Agreed upon strategies for our largest customers include shifting package volume away from the heaviest demand shipping days, fully utilizing weekend capacity, and aligning promotional strategies with capacity,” UPS said in a statement.

The early shopping advice did help reduce Black Friday crowds as the coronavirus accelerated its spread. And consumers  benefited from sales that began as early as late October.

“More than half of holiday shoppers took advantage” of the early promotions, said Melissa O’Connor, president and CEO of the Retail Council of New York State.

The number of consumers shopping online only during Black Friday weekend surged 44 percent, according to the National Retail Federation, to 95.7 million.

The state Retail Council this year established an online shopping portal for smaller merchants who otherwise might not have an online presence. So far, the website has more than 550 participating retailers, said O’Connor.

They, too, needed to ship, said UPS.

“UPS is committed to maintaining the reliability of its network for other customers, including small- and medium-sized businesses, which have been hit hardest during the pandemic and are also seeing an increase in holiday volume,” UPS said. “The network capacity for our SMB customers must also remain strong to help the recovery of this vital part of the economy.”

The online surge didn’t come as a surprise, and shippers tried to prepare. UPS added flights, while FedEx hired 70,000 extra employees for the holidays. The U.S. Postal Service also ramped up hiring for the period.

“America is moving its shopping online in massive ways and while USPS is ready to do its part, we are greatly encouraging our customers to do their part as well,” U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Maureen Marion told the Times Union. “That means order and mail as early as possible.”

At Albany-based CommerceHub, which provides order fulfillment technology for major retailers including Best Buy and Walmart, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Promotion Erik Morton wrote that the pandemic brought online shopping “to a new level, and it’s here to stay for the holidays.

“What’s more, in-store Black Friday is gone as we know it,”

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Holiday online shopping surge tests UPS network

In a year when consumers have turned to online shopping more than ever, holiday purchases for delivery are already starting to test the shipping capacity at UPS.

Drivers for UPS — the world’s largest package-delivery company, based in the Atlanta metro — wrote in online forums this week that they were instructed not to pick up packages at some major retailers as e-commerce orders hit an all-time high Monday.

The shipping restrictions affected retailers including Macy’s, Gap, Nike, New Egg, L.L. Bean and Hot Topic, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Instead of visiting stores during the coronavirus pandemic, a growing number of customers are ordering goods online from stores, which then ship the goods to customers’ homes.

Consumers spent $34.4 billion from Thanksgiving through Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, according to an analysis by software firm Adobe. Monday was the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, according to Adobe.

UPS is trying to spread out shipments over peak and nonpeak times through a longer holiday shopping period to avoid big spikes in volume. It said it set “specific capacity allocations” last weekend and through the holiday season, and worked to ensure large retail customers “are aware of how much capacity is available to them.”

The shipping giant also said it wants to maintain reliability for other customers including small- and medium-size businesses, “which have been hit hardest during the pandemic and are also seeing an increase in holiday volume.”

An overloaded shipping network could mean delays for online shoppers waiting for their items to arrive. Industry observers have warned that this year more than ever, consumers should order items early to ensure they are delivered in time for the holidays, or arrange to order online and pick up items at stores.

UPS spends much of the year preparing for the peak holiday season, including settings plans with some of the nation’s largest retailers on how much they will ship and when.

UPS also imposed higher holiday shipping surcharges on some of the biggest retailers this year to cope with rising costs and deter retailers from putting in a surge of orders at one time.

The shipper said it has added 20 facilities and 14 planes for the peak holiday season, and is hiring more than 100,000 temporary workers.

E-commerce behemoth Amazon also has been hiring more workers and is encouraging customers to consider consolidating their deliveries or having items delivered to Amazon Hub pickup locations.

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Fakespot on Mission to Protect Consumers During Historic Online Shopping Season on Cheddar

This year’s Cyber Monday was historic. With holiday shoppers spending close to $11 billion, the U.S. set a record for its largest internet shopping day ever, according to Adobe Analytics data. But how do these shoppers know what they’re purchasing is the real deal? Enter Fakespot, a platform that just raised $4 million dollars to help consumers protect themselves from e-commerce scams in real-time on leading online marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, and Shopify sites.  

“There’s not many people in the corner that are protecting consumers from e-commerce scams. They’re everywhere,” said Saoud Khalifah, co-founder and CEO of Fakespot. “We’re really excited to protect the consumers from these scams.”

The startup’s mission is to bring trust and transparency to the Internet, starting with e-commerce. Fakespot is doing this by utilizing proprietary AI and machine learning to analyze critical data points including reviews, third-party sellers, and reputation data. Khalifah adds, “We’ve amassed over eight billion reviews. Just to give you a comparison, Tripadvisor has over 800 million reviews. So we utilize this huge dataset for our supervised training, for our artificial intelligence, and it makes us better and [puts] us 10 steps ahead of all the fraudsters.” 

Consumers can install Fakespot through a Google Chrome extension. Then, in real-time, online shoppers will be notified whether the reviews they are reading are real or fake. “If you’re browsing, we will, in real-time, show grades from an A to an F, meaning you can trust the reviews that you’re reading, or you can move to the next product if the grade is an F,” according to Khalifah. “We also detect fake sellers and counterfeits, and many other issues that are now plaguing e-commerce.”

One e-commerce giant that Fakespot is ready to deploy its newest technology on is Shopify. “We will be detecting fake stores, hack stores, [and] stores that will siphon off your private information, which is a [bigger] problem than most people know … we’re looking to encapsulate the whole e-commerce market with our protective services,” he said.

As online shopping continues to become more and more popular with shoppers, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, Fakespot is taking pride in its new and innovative platform. “We’re one of the first pioneers in this space for consumer technology and the protection of people on fraud. There’s not many companies in this space,” Khalifah says. “This industry’s very nascent and we have a lot of potential here. And the market is just growing.”

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Simplr Consumer Survey Reveals Outsized Role of Customer Service in Online Holiday Shopping Plans

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The global pandemic is continuing to reshape the retail sector, fueling $189B* in anticipated online holiday sales and forcing brands to wage a virtual battle for customer loyalty. Retailers that enter 2021 with a tailwind will be those that elevate their customer service, according to a survey of 750 consumers conducted in October 2020 by Simplr, in which 90 percent of consumers who shop online said exceptional customer service is important when choosing where to shop. That loyalty translates into revenue, as six in 10 consumers said they will give a retailer more business if it provides exceptional customer service.

Simplr logo (PRNewsfoto/Simplr)

Almost half (47 percent) of consumers surveyed have not made a purchase due to poor customer service

Retailers cannot risk an online letdown, given that consumers surveyed estimate a 60 percent increase in their online holiday shopping from last year. 

“If CX leaders think they’re ready for the digital stampede, they should know that more than half of consumers we surveyed don’t share that optimism,” said Daniel Rodriguez, CMO of Simplr, a human-first, machine-enabled customer experience platform. 

Fifty-five percent of consumers do not believe, or are unsure, that their favorite online retailers can handle the volume of customer service inquiries this holiday season. Perhaps to combat that concern, 82 percent expect to shop online at stores they know and trust.

The NOW Customer wants fast, around the clock, responses to their inquiries 

Six in 10 consumers said their customer service expectations are set by the standards of the best retailers. When asked what elements are key to exceptional customer service, consumers said:

  • Fast response time: 60 percent
  • 24/7 customer service: 41 percent
  • Connecting via live chat or email: 37 percent
  • Online chat with a person 24/7: 33 percent
  • Complex questions handled professionally, with empathy and respect: 30 percent 

“The expectation from consumers of immediate responses delivered anytime, across multiple channels, in an efficient yet empathic manner defines what Simpr calls the NOW Customer,” said Rodriguez. 

The unseen role of reviews when the NOW Customer is neglected

One-third of consumers surveyed said they have experienced being ignored or “left hanging” by a retailer when they have had a request or inquiry. That neglect does not go unnoticed by consumers, as half said they are “extremely or very likely” to tell a friend and/or post on social media channels about the negative experience; that rises to 55 percent among frequent shoppers and 63 percent among those aged 21-34. 

Many retailers are kept in the dark about consumers’ negative experiences with their brand, as 45 percent of consumers said they do not want to leave negative reviews. While brands might see a lack of negative reviews as an indicator of customer service success, consumers’ reasons for not leaving a negative review may ultimately damage a brand. When asked why they do not leave negative reviews, surveyed consumers said:

  • I just want to move on from that retailer: 54 percent
  • I can’t
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UPS tells drivers not to pick up packages from six retailers during online shopping surge: Report

United Parcel Service reportedly instructed drivers not to pick up packages from six major retailers amid a surge in online holiday shopping fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.

© Provided by Washington Examiner

The delivery service placed temporary shipping restrictions on Cyber Monday on L.L. Bean, Gap, Hot Topic, Newegg, Macy’s, and Nike, according to a message to drivers obtained by the Wall Street Journal. Drivers in several regions confirmed that they had received the same message.


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“No exceptions,” the message read.

Drivers said that they hadn’t seen restrictions like this one during past holiday seasons, suggesting that the unprecedented increase in online shopping has forced UPS to meter “the flow of packages into its network to preserve its performance during one of the busiest shipping weeks of the year,” according to the outlet.

Both UPS and FedEx also added “peak” delivery surcharges far earlier than usual, beginning in May rather than the typical holiday season. UPS said that companies such as Amazon and Target “have been inundating its delivery network with many more packages and oversize items during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Those brick-and-mortar companies are more reliant than ever on shipping services to deliver products to customers. With the coronavirus pandemic keeping people from visiting crowded stores, online shopping surged more than 20% on Black Friday — and more than 44% over a five-day period that included Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, according to the Hill, with upward of $11.4 billion in sales.

A UPS spokesman said that the shipping company “will work with our larger customers to ensure the volume gets picked up and delivered as more capacity becomes available in our network.”

“We are pleased with the way the UPS network is performing as we exit the Thanksgiving holiday and move into the month of December, delivering record volume,” the spokesman told the Hill. “UPS continues to work closely with our largest customers to steer volume to capacity and ensure the UPS network is reliable for all customers.”

Shipping analysts anticipate that the 2020 holiday season will bring a daily surplus of 7 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Washington Examiner reached out to UPS for further comment.

Tags: News, UPS, Shipping, Commerce, Holidays

Original Author: Tyler Van Dyke

Original Location: UPS tells drivers not to pick up packages from six retailers during online shopping surge: Report

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How to avoid online scams this holiday shopping season

There are 23 days left until Christmas and while Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, that doesn’t mean online shopping is over. 

a person using a laptop computer sitting on top of a keyboard: Working from home can complicate work and home. Here are tips for organizing workflows and personal spaces.

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Working from home can complicate work and home. Here are tips for organizing workflows and personal spaces.

Both the Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission are telling consumers to be wary with online shopping this holiday season. 

“Ads for great online deals are everywhere, tempting consumers with great prices and free shipping offers,” the Better Business Bureau said. “Sometimes consumers find what they ordered is not what they get. Many ads pop up with enticing gadgets, cute merchandise or items with a subliminal ‘I gotta have it’ messages, making it irresistible to click and check it out.”

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The Better Business Bureau said that some deals really are too good to be true and to think before you click.

“Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. Many sketchy retailers advertise great deals or trendy clothing that don’t measure up to the promotional hype,” the Better Business Bureau said.

The Federal Trade Commission said to be sure to have updated antivirus software before browsing for the perfect gift. 

Tips on avoiding scams

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission said to follow these tips:

  • To get the best deal, compare products. Do research online, check product comparison sites, and read online reviews.
  • Check out the seller and confirm that the seller is legit. 
  • Look for coupon codes. Search the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts” or “free shipping.”
  • Pay by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added protection. Never mail cash or wire money to online sellers. If the seller asks you to pay this way, it could be a scam.
  • Use secure checkout. Before you enter your credit card information online, check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” stands for secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t enter your information.
  • Keep records of online transactions until you get the goods, confirm you got what you ordered, and that you’re satisfied you won’t have to return the item.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: How to avoid online scams this holiday shopping season

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Olivia Culpo’s Macy’s Clothing Line Drop 2 Is Here! – E! Online

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If you were as excited about the Culpo sisters’ clothing line launching at Macy’s as we were, then you won’t want to miss this: New arrivals are now live. We caught up with OliviaSophia and Aurora Culpo to chat about some of their favorite pieces from this new drop, as well as the inspiration behind their designs. 

Drop two is definitely different from drop one, which saw a lot loungewear. This drop we are seeing more glam and sequins! What was the inspiration? 

Olivia: This drop is geared a little more toward the holidays. Even though we’ll be staying safe at home this holiday season, it’s still fun to dress up a little in sequins for the season. We still have some cozy sets to keep you comfortable while at home. We also added some matching non-surgical masks for a few of the items that we are really excited for people to style themselves. 

How would you describe the vibe of this drop? 

Olivia: This drop is one step up from our last drop. We experimented a bit with some patterns and prints and incorporated some sequin and rhinestone sets. We also wanted to continue with the theme of versatility on all of the pieces, similar to the last drop. For example, we have sweatpants that zip off into shorts which is really fun. One of our favorite pieces is a knit blazer, so it’s basically like you are dressed up in a blazer, while actually wearing a sweatshirt—perfect for working from home! 

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How to Protect Against Fraud While Online Shopping

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This holiday season is far from normal, but one tradition is sticking around: online fraud. 

Studies show increased shopping volume typically results in a rise of fraud attempts over the holiday season. But online fraud has already been increasing for much of 2020, as more shoppers flocked to online shopping amid stay-at-home orders and ongoing public health concerns resulting from the pandemic. As a result, the record volume of online purchases predicted this holiday season could result in a similar record number of fraud attempts.

“Every year, we monitor a spike in the holiday season,” says Shai Cohen, senior vice president of global fraud solutions at TransUnion. “So if there is a spike every year, we imagine this year the spike will be even larger.” 

Fraudsters seek out opportunity, and when more people shop online, those opportunities grow. Right now, people are especially vulnerable, says Vanita Pandey, vice president of marketing and strategy at Arkose Labs, an online fraud prevention technology company. “The propensity for someone to fall victim to these crimes is high, and I believe that fraudsters have all of that information ready to go as the holiday season approaches.”

Here are four major risks you should look out for while shopping online this holiday season, and the specific strategies experts recommend for keeping your data secure. 

1. Account Takeover

In the recent past, fraud attempts were typically thieves using stolen credit cards to buy things, says Gary Sevounts, chief marketing officer at Kount, a digital fraud prevention company. 

But now the landscape has changed. Your identity is more important than anything else, Pandey says. Fraudsters are not only mining for credit card information, but also login credentials, reward points, and, most importantly, personal account information. 

“I don’t need to take your card,” Pandey says. “I could get into your account and once I get into your Gmail account, I can wreak havoc.” 

This is called account takeover (ATO) fraud. “When attackers successfully compromise accounts, they monetize their access by abusing credit card or loyalty programs, committing identity fraud, or submitting fraudulent transactions,” according to a recent FBI report on the trend.

Account takeover is such a boon for scammers because — despite being warned otherwise —  many people use the same or similar username and password combinations across multiple online accounts. One hacked account could mean access to others, ranging from your Amazon account to your Twitter profile and even your online banking data. 

How to Prevent Account Takeover

It can be difficult to prevent widespread account takeover schemes like data breaches — that responsibility largely falls on merchants taking adequate security measures, according to the experts we spoke to — but you can take steps to secure your data.

You should use

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China’s online lender Lufax recalibrates business model as regulators clamp down on Big Tech lending

a person holding a sign: Lufax ADRs have had a bumpy ride since the fintech giant listed in October as investors digest fast-evolving fintech regulation in China. Photo: Reuters

Lufax ADRs have had a bumpy ride since the fintech giant listed in October as investors digest fast-evolving fintech regulation in China. Photo: Reuters

Lufax Holding is overhauling the way it digitally matches borrowers and lenders as China clamps down on Big Tech companies extending credit in the world’s second-largest economy amid fears the platforms could be a source of financial instability.

The Shanghai-based firm is lowering interest rates on loans; raising the capital contribution that it makes to loans; and has checked it does not bundle services for customers. Lufax is also widening the array of banks that it works with on lending and is verifying that its disclosure to borrowers is fully compliant with fast-evolving rules.

Lufax, backed by China’s biggest insurer Ping An Insurance (Group), is one of the first major financial-technology companies to lay out how it will adjust in the light of tighter and more complex regulation governing the provision of credit to individuals and small businesses. It is the largest publicly traded online lender in China, following a US$2.4 billion stock sale in October in New York.

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“As planned, we also continued to make progress in establishing a more sustainable risk-sharing business model with our funding partners,” said Lufax CEO Gregory Gibb during the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Lufax CEO Greg Gibb sees more fintech guidance as soon as in the coming weeks. Photo: Handout

© Provided by South China Morning Post
Lufax CEO Greg Gibb sees more fintech guidance as soon as in the coming weeks. Photo: Handout

Alarmed by spiralling online consumer debt this year, China is clamping down on the fast-growing microlending industry, calling it a threat to social harmony and financial stability.

Beijing-based regulators published a set of draft rules on November 2 capping loans by the country’s 7,227 microlenders to individuals and small businesses. In a one-two punch, regulators followed up with anti-monopoly laws on November 10, targeting bundled sales by Big Tech platforms and excessive price discrimination.

“The real purpose here is for platforms that are cooperating with banks to have more skin in the game, bear more risk and have sufficient capital to back up that risk,” said Gibb. He added what the exact bearing the microfinance rules would have on Lufax’s business model remains unclear.

Gibb said he expects more guidance from regulators as soon as the next couple of weeks. He said there is likely to be more clarity on what prices banks can offer borrowers over digital platforms as well as what types of banks can continue to increase their deposits with online platforms with which they co-lend.

Should more regulatory changes be introduced, Lufax executives said they were ready to make sure the firm remained compliant.

“The market probably won’t grow as fast as it has in the past given these changes,” said Gibb, so Lufax is looking to widen its cooperation with more bank and asset management companies.

Lufax American depositary receipts (ADRs) have risen to US$16.80 on December

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