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Getting Ahead
4th Quarter 2017

In this issue:

Checklist: Get Your Home Ready for Winter

Four Predictions for 2017 Holiday Shopping

Cord Cutting 101 – A Beginner's Guide to Cord Cutting (2017 Edition)

Checklist: Get Your Home Ready for Winter

CaulkingAs cold weather approaches, it is important to take a few preventative measures to protect your home through the chilly months. Winterizing is generally a task that can be done relatively inexpensively, but will make a big difference in how comfortable your home is, and could end up saving you money on energy bills, too. In fact, many very effective home weatherproofing jobs are something that homeowners can complete without professional help.

Easy Home Weatherproofing
Some small weatherproofing jobs require little to no “handiness,” but can make a real difference once cold weather hits. By doing these things before the snow flies, you’ll be saving yourself some hassle (and possibly some money, too!):

  • Clean gutters and downspouts in mid-fall and double-check them before winter.
  • Replace the filter in your furnace.
  • Close any vents in your home that may have been opened for the warm weather.
  • Disconnect hoses from outside faucets and turn off the water.
  • Buy a snow shovel and other winter supplies before the messy weather hits.
  • Keep extra water and canned food in storage just in case.
  • Test your heating system, so that you know it will work properly when you need it.
  • Give your deck a fresh coat of sealer to protect it from the winter elements.
Home Weatherproofing Inspections
Though some homeowners might tackle these jobs themselves, there’s no substitute for a professional eye to ensure home efficiency through the cold winter months:
  • Check the attic, walls and basement for adequate insulation.
  • Feel around electrical outlets and switch-plates for cold air, add insulation where necessary.
  • Look around doors and windows for gaps and potential places where warm air can escape.
  • Caulk or apply weatherstripping around problem draft areas.
  • Have a contractor look for damaged roof shingles and loose gutters.
  • Have a heating/cooling expert look at your furnace if you are unsure of its efficiency.
  • Have chimneys and woodstoves cleaned early in the season.
  • Test the flue for each fireplace for a tight seal when closed.
Weatherproof Windows
Though there are many places in the home where heat can escape and cold air can enter, windows are one of the biggest culprits. In older homes, especially, having weatherproof windows can make a marked difference in your energy costs and how comfortable your living areas feel. In some instances, you might only need s bit of caulk or weatherstripping to weatherproof windows, but if your windows are well past their prime, consider replacing them with energy-efficient double-paned windows to create a more efficient space.

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Four Predictions for 2017 Holiday Shopping

During the 2017 holiday shopping season, expect weather, mobile commerce, and self-gifting to contribute to an 18 percent growth in U.S. digital retail sales.

For the last few years, we have made annual predictions for the holidays. We are far from perfect, but we have been correct quite a bit. We are taking a risk with our fourth prediction this year: an 18 percent growth in ecommerce sales. Do you think we will be right?

Shopping1. Winter Weather Will Impact Holiday Retail Sales

Brick-and-mortar retailers have long understood how much weather impacts sales. Demand for umbrellas always goes up when it rains.

Long-range weather forecasts suggest that the days leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be colder than last year. Weather Trends, a service that predicts weather for retailers and other businesses, is reporting that Thanksgiving Day may be six degrees cooler than last year in the northeastern United States and nearly 20 degrees cooler than last year in the north-central portion of the nation.

While the first chill of winter is often good for brick-and-mortar retailers, a cool Black Friday might encourage some shoppers to go online instead of driving to a big box store.

2. 25 Percent of U.S. Ecommerce Sales Will Come From Mobile

There is a mobile ecommerce gap. A majority of American shoppers spend more time online on a mobile device than they do on a desktop or laptop computer. Nonetheless, as a group, ecommerce shoppers are significantly more likely to make purchases from a laptop or desktop system.

Why? Because too many online stores don’t provide a good mobile shopping experience. When retailers can make it just as easy to find and buy products on a small, touch screen, ecommerce will become mobile commerce.

Enterprise retailers like Amazon are the first to really make mobile commerce work. So they will be the ones enjoying the sales growth in November and December.

For the 2017 holiday shopping season, we think mobile commerce sales will account for 25 percent of all U.S. digital sales.

3. Self-Gifting Will Be Big

Not every “holiday” purchase from Halloween to Christmas is a gift for someone else. About 70 percent of shoppers admit that they bought a gift or two for themselves during the holiday season last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

So-called self-gifting is not new. Retailers have seen the trend for years. But in 2017, organizations, including the aforementioned NRF, are encouraging retail business to market at self-gifters.

“Self-gifters are also open to recommendations; retailers should create calls to action for shoppers to ‘treat themselves.’ One common self-gifting strategy is to offer bonuses with gift cards and holiday purchases,” the NRF reported in its 2017 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook. Given this encouragement (and early reminder) from the NRF, we expect more retailers to make self-gifting offers and promote self-gifting in advertising.

4. Ecommerce Sales Will Grow 18 Percent

Some in the retail industry are suggesting that U.S. ecommerce sales may slow a bit in 2017 relative to previous years. As an example, eMarketer predicted that digital holiday sales would increase about 15.8 percent this year, compared to a 17 percent increase in 2016.

We are a bit more optimistic. In our opinion, enterprise ecommerce merchants have done a good job of creating mobile shopping experiences (see prediction 1.), helping to fuel ecommerce sales this Christmas.

What’s more, large traditional retailers like Walmart are trying to boost ecommerce sales in order to compete with Amazon, possibly pushing more shoppers online.

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Cord Cutting 101 – A Beginner's Guide to Cord Cutting (2017 Edition)
CuttingCord cutting can sound scary at first, with a ton of options and decisions to make, but you will find it is surprisingly easy and you may already have everything you need. We want to be here to help you cancel cable TV and legally stream your content online so you pay less and still get all your shows.

Here are our five steps to becoming a cord cutter with our Cord Cutting 101 guide!

Step 1. Streaming Services
There are a lot of live streaming services available, and it may seem overwhelming but it is easier than you think. You will likely need more than one streaming service, but the good news is almost all of them offer a free trial. We suggest you take advantage of the free trials to see what fits your needs.

Here is a quick overview of the most popular streaming services:
  • Netflix - With new content added weekly Netflix has thousands of hours of movies and TV shows available, making it the largest streaming service in the world. You will find a ton of content from major networks and movie studios including Disney. Netflix is also the leader in original content you cannot find on cable.
  • Hulu - Do you want your content the day after it originally airs? Hulu is a great option for anyone who wants to watch recent shows from networks such as FOX, NBC, ABC, FX, and Spike.
  • Amazon Prime Video - Amazon Prime not only gets you free two-day shipping and free music, it also gives you access to thousands of movies and TV shows. Amazon’s partnership with HBO brings you a vast selection of HBO shows as part of your Prime membership. Although Amazon Prime does not give you access to everything available on its Amazon Instant service, it does have TV shows from many cable channels available the next day - starting at $1.99 - and it also offers recently released movies for rent. So not only do you get an immense amount of free content, but Amazon Prime is also a great way to rent and buy recent movies and TV shows.
  • Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, and PlayStation Vue - If you really want live TV, check out Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. Starting at $20 a month for Sling or $30 for PS Vue you get access to many popular cable channels streamed live to your TV.
Step 2. Pick Your Device

The next thing you need is a device that will stream what you want to watch to your TV. The four top-selling devices are Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV and Apple TV. All are great options for different reasons, so make sure you choose the one that is best for you.

For ease of use we recommend the Roku streaming player. It’s simple and easy to understand. It is basic and straightforward, but it has the most streaming video apps of any player.

For a flexible open streaming player, check out the Fire TV and Android TV. Both Fire TV and Android TV players allow side loading of a wide range of apps. If you like to tinker, we recommend checking them out.

Apple owners who have a ton of movies and TV shows on iTunes will want an Apple TV because that is the only device that will play iTunes shows and movies.

Step 3. Antennas

An antenna is a huge part of being a cord cutter, and most Americans can easily pick up 30+ channels. With many of the most popular TV shows being 100% free and in HD over the air, an antenna is a great way to watch sports and your favorite show without paying high cable bills.

The number of channels you receive will vary depending on where you live. We recommend going to and typing your address into its channel finder to see which channels are available in your area. This will also help you figure out if an indoor or a roof-mounted antenna is needed to get the channels you want.

We recommend buying a mid-priced antenna - not the cheapest but also not the most expensive. Buying an antenna is a one-time expense so get a good one that will last for many years.

Do you need help installing an antenna? Amazon can help with that! Check out Amazon’s antenna installation page for help setting up an antenna.

Step 4. Internet

To get the most from cord cutting you will need Internet. Remember when you downgrade from a bundle to Internet only you won’t get the best deal. Internet companies save the best deals for new customers. But don’t worry, we can help.

I suggest you shop around for your Internet service provider. Many people think cable is the only way to get fast Internet, but for most Americans that is no longer true.

DSL has come a long way, and I suggest you do what I do. Switch back and forth between DSL and cable Internet. Every time a provider won’t give me a deal I switch and get the new customer pricing from the other provider. I even found that at one time my DSL company had faster Internet than my cable company. No matter who you go with don’t be afraid to switch ISPs when your contract ends.

Step 5. Try It Out

You are set up and ready to go, but before you cancel cable TV, unplug your cable box and try being a cord cutter for a month. When my family canceled cable it took us about two weeks to find all the shows we wanted. Once we found the content we wanted, we never looked back. However, it was nice to know that if we couldn’t initially find a program we could still watch it on cable until we found it on our streaming service.

Congratulations! You are now a cord cutter! All you need to do now is call your cable TV provider and cancel your cable TV! Make sure it puts you on its do not call list so it doesn’t call you every day for years to come.

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