The 2021 holiday season is upon us! This year looks a little different than the previous (thankfully) as most of us have become more comfortable seeing friends and family and gathering to celebrate. But we can’t ignore the fact that dealing with a pandemic has changed the way we work, shop and live.
The dependence on the internet through shelter-in-place orders and work-from-home opportunities have also impacted retail business. Shoppers and shopping started to evolve during the pandemic. An EY Future Consumer Index survey found that the number of consumers shopping at brick-and-mortar stores has dropped by 60 percent in 2021. In fact, 43 percent shop online for products they would have previously bought in stores.1
New conveniences like one-click shopping, fast/free delivery, and curbside and in-store pick up make online retail even more enticing. But it also comes with a new set of risks.
Here are a couple ways you can prepare and protect your employees from the dangers of online shopping this holiday season.
Identity Theft Protection
According to Mastercard, online retail sales are expected to increase by 7.6 percent this holiday season compared to last year, with a 57.4 percent growth since 2019.2
That level of growth in online shopping means consumers are now even more susceptible to cybercrimes like fraud and identity theft. According to a national survey by Experian,24 percent of holiday shoppers reported being victims of identity theft in 2020. At the same time, more than half of those surveyed shopped on unprotected internet connections while 47 percent didn’t even check if the connection was secure. Even if consumers were aware of the dangers of fraud and identity theft and how to avoid becoming a target, 28 percent of respondents said they would risk being a victim for a good deal online.3
So, what can savvy, deal-seeking, holiday-happy consumers do to protect themselves when shopping online? According to LifeLock, some simple steps that require some attention could ultimately protect them from becoming victims:
- Check for secure network connection, only use legitimate sites when shopping online
- Be careful about your finances (using cash or credit over debit, regularly check bank statement and credit reports)
- Always be careful of what and how much you share online and use available protection tools.4
As an employer, you also have the power to protect employees from falling victim. Give employees peace of mind while they shop online during the holiday season and throughout the year with ID theft and credit monitoring services as a part of your voluntary benefits package. Employees can enroll at any time of year, so it also gives you an additional opportunity to promote the value of your benefits package during moments like the holidays.
Holidays can be expensive. Seven in 10 Americans say they typically go over budget during the holidays. The convenience of online shopping has made it easier to spend. Celebrations and other social events can also cost a pretty penny. And with last year’s celebrations dampened by the pandemic – More than half of Americans are planning to spend more this year. At the same time, 31 percent are worried about incurring long-term debt.5
On top of consumer plans to spend more, it appears that holiday shopping windows have shifted with pre-Black Friday sales and heavy advertising for early deals. This could create a holiday shopping environment ripe for overspending. Unfortunately, this could mean racking up considerable credit card debt – or worse, falling victim to high-interest loans.
Again, employers can step in here to support employees financially so they can still provide the perfect gifts or enjoy that over-the-top celebration without risking long-term damage from debt. Short-term loan assistance from vendors like Kashable offers employees a reliable alternative to borrowing from their retirement funds or taking high-interest credit card cash advances when savings simply aren't enough. Assistance solutions offer:
- Low-cost personal loans
- Automatic repayment through payroll
- Funding in as little as one business day
- The ability to preview loan amount and
- terms with NO impact to credit scores
With some strategic benefits offerings, you can give your employees valuable support when they need it and peace of mind in a tumultuous time. And while you’re in the giving spirit this holiday season, take a look at ways you can expand your benefits package in 2022 through the Benefit Catalog.