One way to save when shopping online is to avoid the sneaky practice of dynamic pricing. Almost every site on the web utilizes cookies, IP identification, web bugs, or other online tracking technologies to collect, store, catalogue, and analyze the browsing behavior of internet users. Through a deliberate dissection of your digital dossier, online retailers can use your location, spending patterns, and browsing history to generate an estimate of your personal demand. For example, websites might see that you are using an American IP address and charge you more. They might also be aware that you’ve been shopping around for a particular product. This demonstrates that your demand is high, causing them to adjust their price accordingly.
To thwart the duplicitous efforts of conniving e-tailers, the first thing you should do is delete your browsing history and clear your cookies. Although some so-called “zombie cookies” may still remain, deleting your history and stored cookies will wipe out most of your past browsing information. You should also log out of all your accounts (i.e. Facebook, email, etc.) and use a virtual private network (VPN), incognito mode, or specialty designed browsers. The TOR browser is especially adept at disguising your identity and protecting your anonymity. Other ways to remedy geographic biases are to use localized websites (amazon.co.jp instead of amazon.com for instance) and to choose less developed countries as “home” when asked where you’re from.
Timing should also be considered when shopping online. Specific months and days of the week offer better deals than others. As one might expect, November (with black Friday and cyber Monday deals) is one of the best months to shop online, followed closely by the post-holiday month of January. With regards to days of the week, Tuesday and Thursday are particularly notorious for fantastic deals. It may seem like a no brainer, but buying items out-of-season (i.e. snowboards in summer or kayaks in winter) will also save you money. When looking for deals online, be aware that newer sites, on average, give steeper discounts than older, more established, ones.
Many sites, in an attempt to gain your order, will give you discounts if you close your browser, navigate away from the site, or let your shopping cart sit idle for a few days. Be aware, however, that this usually only works if you are logged on to your site-specific account.
Subscribing to online promotions is a good idea, but you can enhance your savings even more by using what I have coined “the email trinity”. Begin by subscribing to multiple offers using multiple email accounts. If you can get a 50% off promo code by subscribing to a newsletter, subscribe three times and get 150% off. The second aspect of the trinity is email optimization. Unroll.me (or a similar app) will help you manage the large influx of email. Not only will it assist you in decluttering your inbox (through an easy, one click unsubscribe feature), but it also allows you to create a “rollup” of your favorite subscriptions, whereby you receive one compiled digest per day at a time of your choosing.
After mining your subscriptions for promotional deals, it is time to use the last component of the email trinity; strategic coupon utilization. Mathematically speaking, when using multiple forms of discounts (namely, a percentage and a dollar discount), always use the percentage discount first. For example, say you have a 50% off and a $10 off discount for an order of 100$. If you take 10$ off (90$) then use your 50% off discount, your end price will be 45$. However, if you use your 50% discount first ($50) and then your 10$ discount, your final price will be 40$.
Even if your coupons are no longer valid, it’s still worth asking. Email the customer service department or use real-time chat features to see if there is anything they can do. In many cases they will accept the coupon or administer a new one to capture your order. This works especially well if your order is large. Contacting customer service agents can also help you with other matters. If you are very polite and express your situation with passion and zeal, they may reimburse you or give you free items. Make sure to state that you’re a life-long customer, that you love their company/brand, and that you tell everyone about their goods/services. It is worth it for them in the long run to retain your loyalty by giving you whatever you need.
Like in the real world, making comparisons online can also yield phenomenal deals. PriceBlink is a browser add-on that automatically scans over 4,000 online merchants for the price of items you are viewing online. It also, when applicable, finds coupons and other discounts for the items you are shopping for. A similar service, the PriceGrabber app, does the same thing, but also allows you to scan bar codes to find the absolute lowest prices when shipping, taxes, and other add-on expenses are factored in.