Shopping online has its undisputable benefits: it can save you gas, time and money, not to mention you can do it in your pajamas. The problem is, with so many online retailers to choose from, the whole process can become overwhelming rather than a time-saver. Why buy online if doing so is a whole new skill in and of itself?
Cutting through the online clutter is easy if you start out your shopping trip with the five websites below.
Everyone tells us to comparison shop online, but few offer much in the way of concrete, usable advice. Lacking any real guidance, “comparison shopping” can feel quite confusing: after all, different retailers can offer different perks or terms on seemingly identical items. If one website offers free shipping, while the others offer a longer warranty (and their prices are different), are you really doing an apples-to-apples comparison? Probably not.
One website that makes comparison shopping much simpler is PriceGrabber.com. There, shoppers can key in the names of any product and immediately see “scannable”, side-by-side price data from multiple retailers, with links to each retailer’s website. A search for “iPods“, for example, yields a full page and at least eight other pages of results to browse through.
One of the most promising up-and-comers in the online shopping world is Milo.com. Ironically, Milo has built its early success by targeting shoppers who prefer buying offline. For all the touted benefits of online shopping, many consumers still prefer visiting a local shop and taking their purchase home the same day. So, Milo has offered these shoppers an online service that generates price comparisons of stores in their area.
Driven by their slogan “Find it Local, Get it Now,” Milo vouches that any product for which it finds a price is available right now from the local retailers it lists. Armed with about twenty minutes of research and a printout from Milo, consumers can confidently approach any local vendor, knowing whether their prices are better than the guy down the street’s. As of March 2010, VentureBeat found that Milo’s retailer network had grown to 50,000.
For consumers who prioritize getting a good deal above all else, it’s tough to top CoolSavings.com. In addition to searching for specific products, CoolSavings allows consumers to set up e-mail alerts about deals and offers that match their specified interests. In this way, consumers can put CoolSavings “on notice” that they are in the market for this or that product and hear from them only when an attractive deal becomes available.
At CoolSavings, the message is “Savings Made Simple.” Their target audience is coupon clippers — and those who always wanted to clip coupons but never did so because of the time and effort required. By proactively gathering the best and most recent coupons, deals and offers into one place and spoon-feeding them to those who ask, CoolSavings is a deal hunter’s dream come true.
Founded by avid catalog shoppers Marc and Claudia Braunstein, ShopAtHome.com serves as a place where consumers and catalog retailers can find each other quickly and at low cost. The website bills itself as the “Catalog of Catalogs”, and features “free catalogs, free coupons, printable grocery coupons, local store coupons and cash back shopping incentives at more than 3,000 leading online retailers.”
The site boasts roughly 15 million visitors per month and spans a diverse assortment of categories, including business supplies, travel, gifts and computers. Thanks to partnership deals with thousands of online retailers, catalogs and magazines, ShopAtHome offers attractive, constantly updated deals for its consumer audience. Dell, Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s, Sears and Victoria’s Secret are all participants in the ShopAtHome.com network of retailers.
If all you want is a quick read on the different prices out there for a certain product, just key it into ShopZilla.com and you’re off to the races. ShopZilla is also a global service: it has search services in Germany, the UK and France, among other nations.
The company also owns and operates BizRate.com, a similar website with a focus on technology and appliances (though not limited to just these items). The service is comprised of participating retailers and merchants across dozens of product categories, all of whom compete for top placement in search results by offering lower prices and more enticing savings, coupons or rebates to BizRate shoppers.