How to be a sharp, smart shopper

“Look, James, 80% off diamond rings,” said my wife, a look of glee spreading across her face.

I groaned.

It had been several weeks since I introduced my wife to Internet shopping. At the time we were living in Qatar, a small country in the Middle East, and prices were crazy – and the traffic on the roads to the malls was even crazier.

I set up an Aramex account – a postal service available in the Middle East which gives you a PO box in the UK and the US – and instead of taking my wife to the shops I sat her down in front of the computer.

It didn’t take my wife long to realize the potential to make money in rich but expensive Qatar! A social person, she was soon buying branded handbags and sunglasses, shipping them back to Qatar and selling them to her friends at half the prices that were available in the shops – and still making a profit.

(I’d like to say we were better off as a result, but she has spent all the profits on those 80% off diamonds I mentioned at the start!)

She made a profit by being a sharp, smart shopper, and you can too – if you follow these tips…

Search for discounts

You see it, you love it, you want it – but don’t buy it just yet! Someone, somewhere just might have a discount for you! First try FatWallet to see if the retailer is listed here. But if that doesn’t work, try doing a search with the name of the products plus keywords:

[name of product] + discount
[name of product] + coupon

If you are only getting out-of-date coupons, use Google advanced search to  return only recent results.  

Sign up to newsletters

You might get fed up of newsletters in your inbox, but some newsletters offer great bargains on a regular basis. I am often sent unbelievable last minute deals by an airline I subscribe to. I personally send out discounts to customers of my own online shop at least once a month, and introduce every new product with an exclusive discount for our subscribers.

Remember, if they spam you, you can just click the spam button on your email account and they will never email you again. Don’t find it useful? All reputable shops will have an unsubscribe option at the bottom of their emails.

Monitor with Google alerts

If you are regularly buying a product, consider using Google alerts.

Simply visit the Google alerts site (http://www.google.com/alerts) and set up alerts with some of the following keywords:

[name of product] + sale
[name of product] + half price
[name of product] + % off

Google will send you alerts – some won’t be relevant, of course, but they might just send you some bargains too.

Review sites

You may already check out reviews before you buy a product, but what you will also find is that these review sites often list all the places you can buy what you want – and the prices they are sold at. Meaning that you can get the cheapest option available!

They take a commission, but you don’t pay any extra – and if they have put the work into both reviewing the product in depth (some reviews are 15 pages long!) and finding the best price, I think they deserve that commission!

Beware the fake review!

A review is a powerful tool. Smart shoppers don’t, in general, trust adverts, knowing that they are produced with the sole intent of selling. We do, however, trust reviews, assuming that the reviewer has personally tested the product.

Retailers understand this, and use affiliates to sell their products. Many of these affiliates review the products, sending primed customers to the retailers’ store in return for a commission.

There’s nothing wrong with this, providing that the affiliate only promote products they genuinely believe in. Unfortunately, not all affiliates do this!

To counter fake reviews, first check to see if the writer is an affiliate. This is usually easy – just hover your mouse over the link, and look for a clue that it is an affiliate link. If the link is clean (e.g. www.example.com/category/product) it is probably not an affiliate link. However, with many links you will see www.example.com/category/product/aff-id-009 or www.example.com/category/product/user=reviewer). That’s an affilaite link.

Having identified the affiliate link, consider the site you are using. Is it a general review site, offering both negative and positive comments on a range of different products? Or does it wax lyrical about every product on the net? Is it a detailed review, offering evidence that the user has genuinely tried the product, or does it just warble on about how great the product is without giving any details?

With these thoughts in mind, and with you being a smart shopper, you’ll soon learn to distinguish fake reviews from real reviews!

Stay cool

Studies show that we decide to buy on our emotions, and then justify our decision with logic.

Understand this, and you can reduce the effect. Take the time to step back, and decide whether your purchase makes sense, or whether you are making it make sense! If you are a compulsive shopper, try discussing the purchase with someone else first.

Beware the follow up offer!

When we make our purchase, our body is flooded by endorphins. Retailers understand this – and often direct you to a second offer as soon as you have checked out. Incredibly, over 30% of online shoppers spend money on these follow up offers.

You shouldn’t summarily reject the offer, of course – sometimes you can get a fantastic deal. But again, do take time to consider the offer – and make sure your decision to buy is based on logic, not emotion.

Shipping

Never forget the cost of shipping. A common trick on sites like Ebay and Amazon is to enter the cheapest price available, and then make your money back by charging a fortune for shipping.

Some companies offer free shipping. Find these companies with more internet searches:

[your product] + free shipping

Finally, remember that come companies also offer free shipping over a certain price. If you on the borderline of that price, you can often add a new product to your order for the same price as the shipping.

Cash-Back

While you shouldn’t buy a product specifically to get cash-back, choosing a product which does offer you cash-back is a no-brainer. And you don’t have to look very far to get started – check out the cash-back deals on FatWallet.com!

Warranty

Look for a decent guarantee! A guarantee is a major selling point – so if the online shop does not offer it, or only offers a one month guarantee, it means they don’t have faith in their product. And neither should you!

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