For a lot of people, there is just no beating the convenience of shopping online. No long lines at the check out, no driving anywhere, no rush to beat the traffic or avoid the crowds. You can sit in the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas if you like, with your coffee or your tea or whatever your favorite beverage is and just browse all you like until you find the AH-HA! perfect gift and then just... purchase it. Even if you don't have or don't like to use a credit card online, many online merchants are now accepting paypal and that's a real bonus for many people.
While everyone's personal preferences will certainly vary, (and each site has their own payment options and shipping guidelines) here are my top five online shopping sites in no particular order - as each different site has it's own fantastic and unique content to choose from:
I'm pretty sure there isn't anyone on the planet at this point that isn't familiar with amazon (and amazon.ca for those in Canada).
There are a million and one reasons why it's such a great site to shop on, not the least of which is their huge selection from clothes, toys, electronics, groceries, books, jewelry and tons more. Amazon has fast shipping (in many cases), and a really great way to keep your own wishlists and share it with anyone. Amazon is just a really great place to shop, hands down, no matter what you're looking for.
ebay.com (and ebay.ca)
In much the same way that amazon offers a ton of selection, you'll find that same variety at ebay. There are some truly incredible deals to be found there, and I'd be willing to bet just about anyone you know can tell you about a great deal they found there. For me personally, I was able to purchase a brand new copy of photoshop there just a few months ago for half the price I'd pay retail for it. 50% off brand new software is an excellent price to pay!
The one thing I'd advise when shopping on ebay or any other similar site, is that you purchase from reputable sellers with HIGH feedback rates. You really want to be dealing with someone on ebay who's been there a while and has earned a good reputation as a reliable seller. While this is not to say new sellers aren't trustworthy, it is to say that established sellers have earned their good ranking and you can be more sure that you're doing business with a reliable seller.
ThinkGeek's own desciption of who they are and what they have to offer:
Since 1999, ThinkGeek has grown from a fun side project started by a few computer geeks to a multi-million dollar e-commerce business catering to the geek in all of us. From apparel to gadgets and computer accessories to caffeine, ThinkGeek is a one-stop shop for everything geeky. ThinkGeek.com is unique and memorable; not only because of our laid back and fun style, but also because of the popularity our custom made products like Shower Shock Caffeinated Soap and our Caffeinated Hot Sauce!
My own description: ThinkGeek is just COOL! They have the most unusual, unique, funny, clever, awesome gifts you'll ever find online, anywhere. Truly, when my own online shops grow up, they want to be ThinkGeek. If you've never shopped there, click here now and check out their t-shirts and apparel, office gifts, computer stuff, gadgets and more. If you're a geek (and really, who isn't?) you're going to love this site. Oh, and be sure to sign up for their newsletter, it's a hoot and you'll be glad you did.
A word about shipping: the last time I ordered from ThinkGeek I paid for regular shipping to Canada and my order arrived in 2 days. Count 'em, TWO. Now that's just incredible.
From zazzle's About page:
Zazzle is the world's leading platform for quality custom products. Zazzle's proprietary technology enables individuals, professional artists, and major brands, including Disney and Hallmark, to create and offer billions of unique products for customers worldwide. Zazzle's rapidly expanding product base covers every topic imaginable and includes t-shirts, business cards, invitations, in addition to a variety of custom gifts. Upon creation, products are instantly and accurately visualized on the site and offered in the Zazzle marketplace. When ordered, each product is made on-demand, typically within 24 hours. Launched in 2005 and based in Redwood City, California, Zazzle's vision is to redefine commerce, powered by the world's imagination.
As regular readers know I have several shops on zazzle. They're just a tremendously wounderful source for incredible gifts, customized paper products and so much more. If you've never shopped at zazzle.com, be sure to check this page out, to read a little more about what you can expect there. Shipping within the US is fairly quick (generally less than a week from order to receiving) while shipping to Canada can often take anywhere from 2 to 6+ weeks, depending on the item purchased. To be fair to zazzle, that has more to do with Canada Post than anything else. Once the item is shipped it's out of their hands and in the jurisdiction of Canada Post.
In a similar way to zazzle, CafePress is yet another pretty amazing place to find tons of unique, creative and wonderful gifts for just about anyone on your list. From custom t-shirts to drinkware, pillows, clocks, ornaments, buttons, keepsake boxes, license plate frames and just so much more! From their own About Us page:
With a community of 6.5 million users, and over 11 million unique visits each month, CafePress is where folks from all walks of life gather online to create, sell and buy "print on-demand" products. Each design speaks to what people are most passionate about. It may be a political cause, a to-die-for film, an obsessive hobby, a funny (or flirty) thought, whatever... And if you can't find what you want, simply create your own design. Just upload an image (or use our easy design tools for many products), and we'll print it for you -- whether you want 1 or 1,000.
So there you have it, my personal top 5 online shopping sites. Your mileage may vary, but you're guaranteed to find a fantastic gift at any one of these sites for just about anyone you're shopping for. And you'll be able to do it, sitting in your pajamas sipping coffee.
It just doesn't get much easier than that.