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Navigating online shopping during the holiday season

The bargain shopper’s favorite time of year is during the holiday months. Online shopping days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Free Shipping Day have grown from marketing gimmicks to become massive events that can dramatically affect the bottom lines of both retailers and individual brands. If a company’s products don’t zoom off the shelf during this frenzy, then they might be discontinued and forgotten by consumers.

Smart shoppers recognize how to take advantage of sales, by scouring sites for the items on their list, doing research, and sticking to a plan.


Do try out items in person

Before you begin shopping online, go to brick and mortar stores to try out that new jacket or tablet device. It’s hard to measure quality or user-friendliness just from online photos; you often need tactile feedback. Don’t feel bad about “showrooming”, as many online retailers understand their brick and mortar stores mainly operate as showrooms or comparison tools for online shoppers and affords them the first opportunity to sell to you while you are there.

Do use free shipping

Many holiday deals largely include free shipping, and you should look elsewhere when a retailer wants to charge you. Free shipping is especially important for lower-priced items, as it represents a greater percentage of the product cost. Simply search around and you’ll likely find a free shipping code or an offer from a different vendor.

Do research, research, research

Start looking at products before deals are announced. If you are comparing two digital SLR cameras, then check out reviews from consumers and professional magazines. Once the sales are announced, don’t automatically choose the lower priced item. If one camera costs $150 more, but offers crisper video, better features, and a longer warranty, then it’s likely the better pick. Online shopping shouldn’t just be a race to find the cheapest price.

Do focus on the limited supply items

Many retailers promote lower-price items that are “80% off MSRP!” While that may be true, the fine print often states this pricing is for a limited number of items. And the $20 you save from a $20 off a $25 item isn’t necessarily worth your time. Focus on products that you really need, such as a new washer or dryer, where the savings can represent larger dollar amounts.

Do get started early

If you think your desired items might run out of stock quickly, get your shopping done early to avoid having to look elsewhere and possibly pay more.


Do not neglect other benefits besides price

Shopping for a new appliance? Maybe the store is offering free installation and setup instead of the usual $99 fee. Maybe the cost of the extra warranty is lowered. There are also many rebate offers and gift card offers where you can really save money beyond just the purchase price.

Do not feel like you are missing out

Retailers drive up frenzy around holiday deals in order to generate sales. You’ll still be okay if you don’t buy anything during this time. Remember that online retailers offer sales all throughout the year and you can often get better pricing by waiting to buy last year’s models or during the item’s off-season (think lawnmowers in October or snow blowers in April).

Do not fall for steep percentage discounts

Some products have artificially-high MSRP pricing, in part because it allows retailers to boast big percentage savings. Make sure you check pricing for your desired items during non-sales times to gauge how big of a discount (if any) you can actually get.

Do not make purchases from an unknown store

You can go beyond Amazon, Target, or Walmart, but proceed with caution when selecting small retailers. Use a malware and virus program, and be sure the site’s checkout pages use secure “https:”, and have the right security certificates in place before you place an order. Saving a small amount of money is never worth the hassle of potential identity theft or credit card fraud.

Do not go overboard with saving

Retailers aren’t offering sales out of the goodness of their hearts. They make a lot of money during this period and use tactics to drive impulse buys. Remember if you are “saving” $500 off the price of a $1,500 television, you’re still spending a grand. Start the holiday shopping season with a shopping list, and stay away from extra items or any add-ons.

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It’s important to shop smart so the big deals don’t break the budget. Smart consumers will set a plan and stick to it, and not get caught up in the frenzy of discounts and deals.

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Photo Credits: © Tyler Olson -; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Scott FittermanCEO

Scott Fitterman is currently the CEO of, a company he founded in 2007 in response to the growing demand for a better online coupon solution. The company stands out in the industry with its cash-back offers, responsive customer s...

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