While many Americans succumb to overcrowded parking structures, shoulder-checking their way through shopping malls and paying retail prices this holiday season, some online shoppers have developed the art of digital guerrilla shopping that would make any avid couponer green with envy.
There are plenty of online secrets you can use to take advantage of retailers' thirst for increased sales, and slightly manipulate the online sphere in an effort to save considerable cash.
Hone in on big online events
Sure, everyone knows about Black Friday and the rising popularity of Cyber Monday, but broadening your knowledge of other online events can help your savings momentum flourish well into the new year.
An event like Free Shipping Day, on Dec. 18, is welcomed by procrastinating shoppers who want to save money and get their gifts in before Dec. 25. There are as many as 1,000 retailers -- large and small -- participating in this last-minute online shopping crunch.
Avoid devious pricing strategies
Some online retailers practice dynamic pricing (i.e. price customization), which adjusts the price of an item based on your browsing and purchasing habits. Online retail juggernaut, Amazon, has been known for practicing price customization. Amazon determines a price range for members on specific products, based on the price points they were willing to buy at in the past.
A money-saving strategy to avoid being pigeonholed into a higher price range is to clear internet browser cookies and log out of your account. Then, do a price comparison to see which option provides greater online savings before signing back in.
Let items linger in your cart
Have you ever had an internal struggle over an item in your online checkout cart? I have (far too many times) and often I'm so torn that I decide to walk away from the purchase, yet keep the item in the cart, just in case. Little do shoppers know their indecisive nature is among the best online secrets around.
Often online retailers see abandoned shopping carts and know that shoppers need a little push to complete the transaction. For example, in late October I placed a coat in my Urban Outfitters checkout cart, but chose not to purchase it right away.
By mid-November, I received an email from Urban Outfitters with "Did You Forget Something?" in the subject line. When I opened the email, there was my shopping cart with a call to action announcing I could get free shipping if I order now.
Become Facebook friends
A huge money-saving strategy taking hold is through social media outlets. By "liking" a brand or retailer on Facebook, or following it on Twitter, consumers are rewarded for their loyalty with exclusive offers like fans-only coupon codes and even specialty items available only to followers. Additionally, fans can sign up for exclusive giveaways and prizes, too.
Hoard single-use codes with multiple email addresses
Some retailers reserve the best online deals and coupon codes for their elite fans. An admittedly tricky way to circumvent one-time-use codes is to sign up for e-mailers from different email accounts.
For example, I received an email-specific coupon code from Ann Taylor for 50 percent off one full-priced item. I was able get three of these unique codes from different email accounts for added savings.
Whether you consider these tips to save money online as unethical or simply creative, there are immense savings available for those who bide their time and do their research.
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Correction: Free Shipping Day is on Dec. 18, not Dec. 17 as originally posted. This post has been updated to reflect the correct date.