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.
However, online retailers aren’t without their own tricks.
Next time you’re surfing the web for deals, try some of these hacks from Mark Ellwood’s “Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World.”
They will help you get the best price — delivered right to your door.
1. Abandon your online shopping cart.
Ellwood suggests buying items in a “two-stage process.” First, go onto a site, find what you like, and put it in your cart. Then, close the browser window and wait a day or two.
Leaving items in your virtual cart shows stores you’re contemplating a purchase, and Ellwood says this encourages stores to entice you with a deal. “Expect a coupon or promo of some kind to appear in your inbox to tip the purchase,” he writes.
2. Take advantage of Twitter.
Often, online sales will happen unannounced. Ellwood advises creating a separate Twitter handle specifically for following “savvy bloggers and dealhounds.” The author says their tweets could turn you on to a sale you otherwise wouldn’t have known about. “Watch and see when they tweet about certain brands — a cluster of #coach tweets means you should start Googling for some good, but unheralded, 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.
3. Use online deals as leverage.
Let’s say you’re in Nordstrom browsing watches. You find one you love, but it’s not on sale. Ellwood says this is the time to whip out your smartphone and find the watch online for a better deal — but not buy it. “Instead of buying it from your smartphone, ask to speak to the store manager — increasingly, he or she will likely match that price, giving you an instant discount.”
4. Don’t be fooled by free shipping.
Ellwood cites a shipping deal trialed by Amazon in France, where shoppers were charged one franc (20 cents) for shipping. The trial didn’t boost sales. But when Amazon charged nothing for shipping, “shoppers flocked to the site.” Ellwood points out that free shipping doesn’t translate to a sale on the actual product you’re purchasing. “Just because shipping is free, it doesn’t make the overall purchase a great deal — compare total costs with other sites before you click checkout.”
5. Bookmark your favourite brands.
For all those brand loyalists out there: Ellwood suggests bookmarking the corporate sites of your favourite brands because that might be where you find the deals. “Manufacturers sometimes feature print-at-home coupons there to help drive traffic,” he points out.
6. Be aware of your location.
According to Ellwood, you could be at a disadvantage if you live in an upscale area and do your shopping from home. “Businesses online use whatever information they can glean from you to charge an appropriate price — including your location. If you’re in an affluent zip code, beware: You might be charged extra because the vendor knows you can afford it.”
The author advises using a VPN to spoof your IP address and avoid this issue. An alternative could simply be checking prices when you’re away from home to see if there’s any advantage, whether that’s after hours at work, during some downtime on vacation, or while taking a breather during a family visit.
7. Clear your browser.
Ellwood explains that vendors are more likely to offer discounts to new customers as incentive to “close the deal.” The author suggests creating 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.