You type your shopping search into Google.
Instantly, there are thousands of websites, all claiming to offer exactly what you want to buy.
But the prices range from too-cheap-to-believe to second mortgage level! So how can you find the best deals online without digging through page after page and site after site?
There’s no one answer that will fit everyone’s needs. But there are some good guidelines to help you sort out the scams from legitimate and the status label pricing from the realistic. So let’s go shopping.
Be as specific as possible with your searches
Let’s use someone shopping for a new camera as an example. We’ll call her Lucy, and Lucy wants to take pictures with a real camera instead of just her smartphone. But if she just types in the word “cameras” as her search, she’ll see results in the millions! Even switching her search to “shopping” on the tool bar still yields a dizzying array of choices… dozens of pages and thousands of cameras.
Getting more specific with her search will yield more manageable results for her search. Lucy needs to look for point-and-shoot, a DSLR or a camera for vlogging… whatever she specifically needs. That will provide a good starting place for researching features, brands and prices. By identifying a few brands and models that offer the features she wants, she can start to build a research list.
From there, Lucy needs to begin to look at reviews on the cameras on her short list. This is also the step where she can eliminate any cameras that are far, far above her budget. But it’s a good idea to leave in any short list results that are kind of close to the target price, as the goal is to find deals!
This refining step should help her narrow her list down to just a few models.
Now it’s time to look for prices
You’ll notice that we didn’t start Lucy’s search with a price. Beginning from a set dollar amount might lead her to snap up a “deal” on a cheap camera that won’t meet her needs. So instead of a bargain, she would have just wasted whatever she spent.
Instead, we have a short list of cameras that do exactly what she wants — and those are the only cameras that matter. Of course, this same process works no matter what you’re searching for, whether it’s a new car, a pair of jeans or the perfect sofa for your new apartment.
Now back to Lucy’s camera needs. Searching for the short list cameras on Google Shopping Search is good for her as a starting point because it’s a good tool for finding out what you can expect to pay in a variety of chain stores, ecommerce shops and local vendors. But do remember that every result in Google Shopping is a paid placement, so Lucy shouldn’t stop there unless she’s stumbled on the deal of the century from a trusted site.
Next, she can take the best prices she found and compare them to the cost in specialty catalogs — in this case, electronics and camera catalogs. While the numbers might seem higher at first, remember that there are often discounts for new customers, free shipping offers or additional included accessories she might not find from a big box store. Subscribing to a vendors email list or installing their app are other common sources for hidden discounts.
Once Lucy has a few vendors in mind, running searches on the company name with the words “coupon” or “discount” frequently yields info on current promos. She can also do this with brands, as it’s not uncommon to see rebates and other offers coming directly from the manufacturer.
Up until this point, all of the search has focused on national or global results. Sometime local vendors may offer deals not shown online… remember, not every small business is using active online marketing. Looking up a list of local shops that carry her chosen brands, and then making some phone calls could reveal unadvertised specials on the cameras she wants.
Using Auto-price apps
For those who don’t have the time to go through all of those steps, or who want to simplify the process< there are a number of price searching and price matching apps available which promise to automatically find the very best offers. While these tools may work as promised, be aware that once installed the apps are tracking your every search, and sharing it with marketers who will be happy to fill your email box and paid search results with many, many ads for items and services they want to sell to you. If you do chose to use an app, it might be worth it to use a few of our other steps to verify that the "best price" shown is actually the very best price possible. by Catalogs.com Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman