How To Host A Virtual Holiday Shopping Party

"Sex and The City" is one of the most binge-worthy drama series of all time. Not only does it reshape the way we as a society perceive the lives of single working women like Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte, but it also shows us it's possible to lead thrilling lives and make glamorous friends who will stick with us through thick and thin. It's a comfort knowing that no matter how gloomy your day is, shopping with your fab foursome can be chicken soup for the soul. This is even truer during the holiday season. Now that everywhere we turn is overflowing with the holiday spirit, there's no better way to find a bit of cheer than to shop with your squad.

Ideal as it may sound, though, getting a group of friends together for a holiday shopping trip is not easy. Like yourself, your besties might be snowed in by work and family obligations. But though it may be hard to shop together in person, you can still make a concerted effort to arrange Bestie Time by organizing a virtual holiday shopping party that your friends can join — whether they are in the same city or not. Below, check out tips on how to host a virtual holiday shopping party and you'll soon be well on your way to discussing must-buys and snatching up deals with your friends.

Round up the clique

Just like IRL, an ideal shopping group should not be too big or too small. Since virtual communication can be disruptive at times, a compact group of only three to five people helps to keep things more relaxed and under control. Write down the names of those friends whose knowledge and vibes you'll most likely benefit from. For instance, if you're shopping for electronic devices, having someone tech-savvy in your group is bound to be beneficial. After you've rounded up your dream guest list, give each one of your friends a call to go over the specifics of the activity.

A crucial step of any party prep is to select a meet-up date, which you should nail down at least two weeks in advance. This is usually the most time-consuming part, so be flexible and open to multiple dates proposed by your guests, Tagvenue advises. Get ready for lots of hoop-jumping and persuasion on your part as the host. Then, by the process of elimination, narrow the final date down to just one option that works best for everyone. When all is confirmed, start sending out e-invitations, which should address the questions of who, what, where, when, and how. Not all of your guests may be tech-savvy, so attach bullet-pointed instructions to make the information easy to find. If scheduling and tracking are not your forte, event planning apps such as Doodle, Meetup, and Google Calendar can make dotting the I's and crossing the T's easier.

Stay up on holiday deals

If sticking to a budget is the least of your concerns when shopping, you can skip this step and go straight to the next one. But if you want to get everything on your wish list at discounted prices, make sure you stay up on the biggest deals coming down the pike. Retailers such as Sephora, Target, and Amazon run numerous shopping events during the holiday season that feature deals on products that are available for only a limited time. To make your virtual shopping party as easy on the wallet as possible for everyone involved, gather all the information you need about retailers who will be offering percentage discounts, BOGO promos, gifts with purchase, or free shipping on select orders.

You can also save money with credit card shopping discounts. Many banks offer reward programs that help you earn back money on your purchases if you spend a certain amount by a specific date. For instance, Amex Offers — a program launched by American Express – credits $15 back into your account for a minimum of $75 spent at food and gift retailer Harry & David. Most promo offers are only valid within a set timeline, so check their details before picking a date for your shopping party to make the most out of their perks before they expire. Don't forget to exchange the information with your besties so you can help one another snatch up deals with ease.

Make a list of must-buys

Making a shopping list is an important step for your virtual shopping party. Without a list, your holiday shopping trip will be like an F5 tornado that veers off course, leaving a trail of unplanned items in its path being purchased while the things that were originally needed aren't there at all. Having a shopping list handy also helps you make purchasing decisions faster, reduces the chances you and your online shipping buddies will feel stressed or overwhelmed, and allows you to stay on track with your budget, notes Katrina Springer from The Organised Housewife.

To avoid overspending, for instance, make your shopping list as detailed as possible. Instead of noting down that you need to buy makeup, specify what kind of makeup items you need and how many. Once you've snapped up one item on your list, move on to the next must-buy item. 

You can share your shopping list with your friends so they can keep an eye on your most sought-after gifts and help you prevent a splurge. Aside from restraining compulsive urges, a detailed shopping list also serves as an external memory storage device and makes you an efficient shopper. For instance, research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that over 80% of items that are put down on a shopping list get purchased in the end (via ScienceDirect).

Log on to a virtual hangout to unite the group

In order to hang out or shop as a group, all of your friends will need to log onto a virtual hangout platform at the same time. For everyone's convenience, pick a user-friendly hangout site or app. AltspaceVR, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Mozilla Hubs are some exciting tools for recreating a shopping trip with your besties and reinforcing socialization within your four walls. 

If you're keen to treat your online get-together like a real party, pick a virtual event theme: midnight gossip, happy brunch, game night, karaoke, or dancing-and-drinking night — anything that can help the hangout take on a festive atmosphere. And with a theme comes costumes, makeup, comfort food, and fun sideline activities in addition to shopping. For instance, a virtual hangout theme that was quite popular during the pandemic lockdown was cocktail mixology, where a mixology expert is invited to guide the guests through the basic process of making drinks. Another fun option is for you and your friends to ante up a couple of hundred dollars each to hire a personal stylist or a wardrobe styling expert to join you and give a crash course on the best seasonal fashion trends and help you pick out new pieces for your holiday wardrobes.

Enlist the help of a virtual event planner

If you're too busy to figure out all the logistics of a virtual shopping party on your own, consider enlisting a virtual party planner like Hoppier, Shiloh Events, or The Vendry to help you. All you need to do is to let them know what you're up to, including your budget, the number of guests, the selected date, and your expectations. Virtual event planning professionals will help you tackle the remainder of the process from developing a timeline, putting ideas into action, and sending out invites to double-checking final details and hosting the event.

Having party-planning masterminds in your corner will help ensure that important details do not fall through the cracks and will give you adequate time to work on other things. Some virtual event planners even give you the option of a presenter, who can liven up the atmosphere with zingers at the spur of the moment, offer their knowledge on a given subject matter, as well as host fun games, giving your online shopping bash an extra something special. Following the event, your planner will review its performance and inform you of what went well and what could be improved for future events.