Tips to shop smarter this holiday season

The following post is from Ryan Gavin, General Manager, Search & Content Business Group, Microsoft.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…. shopping! Online shopping to be specific. According to the National Retail Federation, more than half of us holiday shoppers (51.5 percent to be exact) will shop online this holiday season. And more shopping means more emails in your inbox. Some of them great, some maybe less so. A recent study by Experian shows the commercial emails hitting your inbox will increase by almost 50 percent between mid-October and December.

That means on average people receive nearly three dozen emails every day with 80 percent of those consisting of commercial mails, such as newsletters, daily deals, social updates, bank statements and more. That comes to roughly more than one thousand emails in the holiday timeframe alone.

How do you manage it all?

We have some tips and tricks for how you can get your Inbox into fighting shape while ensuring your shopping is safe and private. Let’s take back control over holiday shopping!

Train Your Inbox with

  • Never miss a deal: According to the National Retail Federation, 35.6 percent of shoppers said “the most important factor in deciding where to shop are offers for sales and discounts.” Thanks to companies like Thrillist, – who’s currently offering great discounts to customers with an address – we get a daily dose of awesome discounts in our inbox each day. But if you don’t check them for a few days, or go on vacation, these can start to pile up and quickly expire. You can train your inbox to see only the most recent and relevant deals with an feature called Schedule Clean-up that allows you to do just that— get rid of expired deals, so you only have the latest, and most relevant emails in your inbox.

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  • When your shopping’s done, clean up your inbox: People receive a lot of shopping deals and promotions in their inbox – on average you’ll receive 50 percent more email, according to Experian Marketing Services, from each brand you subscribe to per week. And if you’re among the more than 50 percent of holiday shoppers, according to Experian Marketing Services, who buy some of their gifts online this can be a great thing, as long as you quickly train your inbox to manage them for you. Most email providers have some tools for organization. has built a specific feature for this called Sweep, which allows you to move everything from a particular sender to a single folder. Within a matter of seconds, you can file all the receipts and shipping notices to a folder to help you stay organized.

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Shop Safely

  • Make sure you’re buying from a secure site: With IE11, SmartScreen Filter and Enhanced Protection Mode helps you identify unsafe sites and protect your personal and financial information so you can make an informed decision when making purchases.
  • Keep your purchases private. Many families share computers, so keeping holiday gifts a surprise can be tough. Through the use of your browser’s privacy features, you can be sure to keep the surprise. Internet Explorer offers many privacy protections, but a quick and easy one is InPrivate browsing. If you click on InPrivate browsing, the pages you visit won’t show up in your browsing history and the ads won’t follow you – or anyone else – around later.

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Get Creative

  • Remove the confusion with visuals: If you have enough ugly sweaters for this year’s party and are really hoping to get those few items you really want on your wish list, make life easier on your loved ones and share a photo wish list in SkyDrive. Simply create a folder, add images of the things on your wish list and share.
  • Get a second opinion: Sometimes you have to throw the shopping list aside and make in-the-moment decisions, all while battling the crowds. Make the decision-making easier with a second opinion. Use Skype from your phone and share your finds with your friends via video calls or messages. It’s both fun and helps you score the perfect gifts.

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