When you’re on the hunt for a great bargain, shopping online can offer some attractive savings opportunities you won’t find at your nearest department store. And once you start looking at the options, you may be surprised at how much you can save when purchasing items online.
Even more, online shopping means no waiting in long lines for a changing room, having to sort through piles of clothing to find your size, or wading through crowds of fellow shoppers. Plus, you avoid all the tricks stores use to make you spend more than you originally planned.
Despite all of the advantages of being able to shop directly from your phone or computer, it’s important to remember that online retailers aren’t without schemes and tricks of their own.
However, savvy deal hunters can strike back and nab discounts with tricks of their own.
So next time you’re surfing the web for deals, remember some of the following suggestions that will help ensure you get the absolute best price with just a few clicks and a savvy strategy — delivered right to your door.
- Check the Consumer Review Sites
When searching for a great deal online, make consumer review sites—such as PriceGrabber, Nextag, Epinions and Bizrate—will perform a quick search on the product you’re interested in and deliver details on current pricing from multiple online vendors. It’s true that scoring a good deal may involve more than just finding the best base price for an item, but knowing the price range for a product and having an idea of the major suppliers who offer it is a good place to start. For a 10-minute investment, you’ll come away with good information, like customer comments and product reviews, and may discover the best e-tailer for your dollar.
- Abandon your online shopping cart.
Bargain-experts suggest buying items online in a “two-stage process.” This involves first going onto a site, finding what you like, and putting it in your online shopping cart. Then, closing the browser window and waiting a day or two while your desired items sit in your cart. Leaving items in your virtual cart shows stores you’re contemplating a purchase, and this encourages stores to entice you with a deal. Retailers want to close the sale, so they’ll find ways to draw you back. In a few days you may get an email with a coupon or an offer for a better price.
This doesn’t work for every website, but Rather-Be-Shopping.com tested this “coupon trick” and found 17 online stores that offer coupon codes days later to entice you to complete your purchase. That list includes the websites of Bed Bath & Beyond, Dick’s Sporting Goods, JC Penney, Macy’s, Office Max, Williams-Sonoma and more.
- Search for eligible coupons.
If you’re not getting coupon codes from the abandoned-cart strategy, check out popular coupon sites like retailmenot.com, couponcraze.com and couponmom.com. These sites gather coupons from around the Internet and consolidate them in one easy to search location. Some coupon sites may require that you sign up for a membership, but the service is typically free of charge.
- Sign up for email alerts.
Companies often send coupons to those on their email list. Some of these offers are single-use offers. If you sign up with multiple email addresses, you can rack up multiple unique coupon codes. Also, many stores, such as Kohl’s or West Elm, offer you a coupon for 10% off just for joining their mailing list.
Don’t just sign up with your favorite stores – do so with their competitors too. That way you can compare deals and ask for price matching.
Another suggestion, and one that will help ensure you keep your inbox organized, is to set up a filter that sends all promotional emails to a separate folder. Not only will all your coupons be in one place where you can compare deals between stores, but you can quickly spot sale trends over time.
- Call customer service – they can sometimes extend expired coupons
If you find unused coupons that have recently expired, it’s worth the effort in calling their customer service line. Companies want you to buy, so they may just honor that expired coupon code. It’s not sure thing, but this strategy does work from time to time.
- Use online deals as leverage when shopping in physical stores.
When shopping in a physical store, and you find something you want to buy, whip out your phone and see if the same item is being sold online for a better deal — but do not buy it. Instead of buying it from your phone, ask to speak to the store manager. Increasingly, managers will likely try and match that price, giving you an instant discount.
- Take advantage of Twitter.
Often, online sales will happen unannounced, which is why it’s a good idea to create a separate Twitter handle specifically for following savvy bloggers and deal-spotters. These are sources that can notify you about a sale you otherwise wouldn’t have known about. It’s advised that you watch and see when these people start tweeting about specific brands. For example, a cluster of #coach tweets means you should start Googling for some good Coach handbag deals.
Of course, you could also just use your regular Twitter account, as long as you don’t mind a feed full of shopping deals.
- Clear your browser.
Vendors are more likely to offer discounts to new customers as incentive to “close the deal.” As such, one that makes it more likely to score some online deals is to create a a special “shopping” profile in a browser to fool vendors into thinking you’re a new customer every time you visit their site.
If you’d rather not take the time to create a special profile, you can just designate one browser that you use for shopping only. For instance, if you primarily use Chrome, you might want to shop with Firefox, and make sure to always clear your cookies after shopping. There are online instructions on how to do this for most browsers.