This guide is going to teach you completely new and unique smart shopping tips and tricks to help quickly find the best deals online and save money buying better stuff.
" Price comparison data can turn anyone into a money saving shopping expert.
Based on hourly price comparisons, this guide shows how to benefit from profound price and sales insights to level the playing fields against sophisticated marketing campaigns run by slick brands designed to get you spending more. Move away from 'spending more buying less'. Start 'spending less buying better'.
Oh yes. Have fun too!
Table of Contents
- 1. How to Find Deals Online
- 2. How to Know You've Found a Bargain
- 3. How to Compare Deals Using Price Comparisons
- 4. How to Use Price Histories to Guarantee the Lowest Price
- 5. How to Decide Which Deal is Best for You
- 6. Advanced Online Shopping Tips
- 7. Conclusion
1. How to Find Deals Online
Simply put, the best place to start your online shopping is Amazon.
" Amazon accounts for nearly half of all online sales in the U.S. and has hundreds of thousands of 3rd party sellers competing for sales.
Amazon has literally hundreds of millions of products available to buy. But it has a weakness.
Almost any given product type might have hundreds of different sellers and potentially thousands of similar options. Sorting out which products are even worth looking at can be a serious chore. Not to mention having to vet the sellers to ensure they are reliable.
To tackle this problem, product review websites write article lists with names like "Our Favorite 10 Smartphones to Make Your Life Fabulous" because they help make it easier for us to decide what to buy - from a smaller list of (hopefully) carefully selected, quality items.
Unfortunately, these lists are subjective and often prone to financially incentivized bias (i.e. review websites often have paid relationships with brands and advertisers to include their products in articles and other content) and aren't often backed up by hard data. They also become dated very quickly because the content is static.
Shop Amazon via an Amazon price comparison engine. In contrast to review articles a live price comparison system is continually and automatically updated so you always get the latest prices, sales metrics, coupons and reviews.
" Price comparisons offer objective price data, combined with visually compelling charts & tables to help you save money buying better products.
But how can price comparisons actually tell you which deals are better than others?
2. How to Know You've Found a Bargain
You've found something to buy. It comes with a 10% discount. So you click Add to Cart and are about to checkout when a thought occurs.
How do I really know this a great deal?
- 1) Ask friends and family if they've bought this item before (and how much they paid)
- 2) Shop around on other websites to get an idea of how much it costs in general
- 3) Go to the mall and see how much it costs in store
All great ideas. But all a real hassle because they can be pretty time consuming. The easiest thing would be to see how much the product cost a few hours ago. Or yesterday. Or last week. Or the week before. In fact, having a price history would be able to tell you if you're paying more or less than anyone else who bought this product.
Let's use a quick example.
Take a look at this product page on Amazon for a top-of-the-range LG OLED TV (it's a big ticket item so finding a good price could save hundreds of dollars in a single purchase):
Is that a good price for that type and model of TV?
It could be.
What if I showed you this price history for that product:
Given that the price is currently a touch under $5000, and from this price history chart we can see that not a few days ago (at the time of writing this guide) the price was under $4000. This TV was selling for $1000 less a couple of days ago.
How can the price be this volatile?
The thing is, Amazon is not a single online store. Instead, it's a marketplace with thousands of sellers competing for sales. Sometimes, for whatever reason, one seller might drastically lower their asking price (perhaps to clear out their last few remaining units in stock). So the price drops temporarily until those units sell out and then jumps straight back up.
These massive price drops can be very short-lived so it's important to be able to catch them quickly. To do this you need an hourly Amazon price comparisons because all other services will simply miss these huge discounts.
" An hourly price comparison engine can pick up on huge, short-lived discounts that daily deal sites miss.
Working out whether or not you're getting a good deal comes down analyzing the product's price history trends and deciding whether or not it is worth purchasing now or waiting for the price to drop again. Deciding on whether the price is likely to drop again in the near future is another matter entirely, and we'll see how a Buy Rating metric can help later on when we talk about how to decide which deal is best for you.
3. How to Compare Deals Using Price Comparisons
A price comparison list is helpful because it essentially whittles down thousands of options into a few popular, high quality top sellers. That makes shopping faster and easier right from the start because you know you are only dealing with genuinely good items.
A comparison list can group a set of related products together and quickly show you:
- 1) which ones are more popular (i.e. selling better)
- 2) how each one has been reviewed by customers
- 3) what each product's current price is (and how much you can save on the historical asking price by purchasing right now)
- 4) which one represents a genuinely better offer right now (i.e. one product might be $5 more expensive than another right now, but if it is usually $100 more expensive, and is massively discounted, it is probably a smarter buy)
" A price comparison list reduces information overload and eliminates reviewer bias by comparing products based on objective data.
Ideally most, if not all, of this data could be represented in an easy to understand visual aid (there is a lot of data being crunched behind the scenes, so interactive charts and tables make things easy to understand). Here's a price vs. savings chart for a comparison list of ASUS laptops that shows the savings on the y-axis (in percent) and the price on the x-axis (in dollars). The size of each bubble indicates how popular a product is (i.e. a bigger bubble means that item is selling more):
Charts can be useful, but an interactive price comparison table can also help us quickly isolate specific information we're after. Here's a copy of the ASUS laptops comparison list table (as it appeared at the time of writing). Click on any column header to quickly find the biggest and smallest value for savings and prices. You can also quickly filter out which elements appear by typing in a make or model in the filter above the table (i.e. type 'zenbook' to limit the table to only ZenBook models):
Being able to quickly filter a list down to the items you are most interested in and then quickly reorder them according to the metric that most matters to you (i.e you might be prepared to spend a bit more if a top end laptop has a serious discount, in which case order the table by 'Saving') empowers you to save money and become a smarter shopper.
I'm sure you'll agree this is far quicker than shopping around on different sites or opening up a bunch of browser tabs to manually compare prices between products.
4. How to Use Price Histories to Guarantee the Lowest Price
Comparing products by looking at their current prices in isolation can potentially make things very expensive for you. A product might be offered at 30% discount right now. Sounds good, until you realize that it has been offered at 50% off for the last two weeks. Price histories are important because they can provide shoppers with pricing context.
In other words, it becomes easier to recognize a good price when you see it.
Let's say you wanted to buy an ASUS laptop and you saw this price history chart for the ZenBook:
Looks pretty good, right?
It's highest price was $949 at an average price of $812. Currently this ASUS ZenBook is selling for $759. A genuinely good deal offering roughly $54 discount on the average price.
By comparing a list of products it becomes apparent that (at the time of writing) there is an even better deal on another ASUS laptop - the P Series P2540UA AB51 Business Laptop
With a highest price of $849 and an average of $807, the P Series ASUS laptop is currently selling for $729. $30 less than the ZenBook even though their average prices are only $5 apart. That's an average saving of closer to $80.
" Price histories help shoppers guard against the 'high list price, big discount' pricing strategy used by many sellers.
Using price history charts means you can objectively say whether a 30% discount is a good deal or whether the product is often available cheaper. Hourly price charts, specifically, will also pick up deep discounts that allow you to better understand what the discount limit for a product actually is (because it picks up on the really big clearance sales).
5. How to Decide Which Deal is Best for You
Using charts and tables to shop for the lowest prices might seem a bit like we're taking the fun out of shopping. A scientific approach like this certainly takes some of the thrill out of things, I'll admit. Fortunately, computers are very good at crunching big sets of data for us so we don't have to spend hours analyzing price charts and tables.
All we need is a Buy Rating metric that analyzes everything from the price history, price volatility, price range, average price, price means, modes and medians, current price, savings (in percent), savings (in dollars) and a bunch more things to spit out one simple piece of advice. Whether or not the product is a:
- 1) Fantastic Buy
- 2) Good Buy
- 3) Ok Buy
- 4) Wait
If you look at the comparison table above you'll see the far right column is labelled, Rating. That column tells you virtually everything you need to know because it has analyzed every aspect of the price history for each product to give you the correct buying decision.
" A 'Fantastic Buy' rating implies that the current price is at or within 1% of its lowest historical price.
But does a huge discount automatically imply the best possible deal?
That's why it is a good idea to also look at how well a product is selling plus how well it is reviewed. You might have noticed that in each of the price history charts above there was a Sales Rank axis on the left. All these charts allow us to view both sales performance and price histories in one go - clicking on Sales Rank or Price at the top of the chart hides or shows each line.
What's interesting is that you can see a correlation between the price and the sales performance (bear in mind that a sales rank of 1 is best selling item in its category, so the sales rank axis is inverted to show that sales increase as the sales rank decreases).
This chart reveals that this product is a very high seller, having reached the top 100 bestsellers frequently - especially when the price dropped below $30. It's a popular product. But popular doesn't necessarily imply well liked. Big budget blockbusters often pack out cinemas due to massive marketing campaigns, only for people to hate the movie. To decide whether a bestseller is also well liked we need unbiased customer reviews.
A price comparison system wouldn't be worth its salt if it couldn't make thousands of customer reviews available at the click of a button. Here's a screenshot of the reviews for Crash Bandicoot (simply click on 'read the reviews' to instantly display the reviews in an overlay):
By taking into account pricing, buy ratings, sales performance and customer reviews it is quick and easy to come to the very best deal possible. But not all deals are price based. It's important not to forget promotions and coupons (i.e. buy two and get one free) that might drive prices down further - if we have access to that information.
Let's take a more in-depth look at coupons, amongst other money saving strategies, in the Advanced Online Shopping Tips section.
6. Advanced Online Shopping Tips
Everything we've looked at so far will help you save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars each month on purchases across the board - basically anything you can buy online. No point in stopping there though when there is potential to squeeze every last dime of savings from Amazon.
6.1. Track Your Own Products
All the examples used above come from popular products that are made freely available to anyone to browse. But what if you need products that aren't available? Perhaps you want to do some shopping for your home office, or want to stock up the family's emergency medical supplies for a camping trip?
Track a selection of your own products using RankTracer Enterprise.
This will set you back a few dollars per month (starting at $5 per month), but as we've seen, there is potential to save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars shopping over the course of a full month. If you have to buy a lot of stuff, or a few big ticket items, spending a few dollars to potentially save a lot of money is well worth it.
6.2. Coupons & Coupon Codes
Take a look at this price history chart for Amazon's 2nd Gen Echo Dot:
Pretty dire, right? The price has gone up in the last few weeks (at the time of writing) from $39.99 to $49.99 - a price jump of $10. Quite rightly, the Buy Rating for this product turns out to be Wait:
Looking a bit closer though, we see that there is a blue coupon snippet, below the buy rating button, indicating that we can Save $10.00 with this coupon. The price jumped up by $10 but there is a coupon for $10 so we're getting the same deal as before. Not quite as bad as it seemed at first glance.
In this instance price vs. coupon ended in a draw, but not always. The Echo Spot jumped up from $114.99 to $129.99 in the last few weeks:
However, the coupon available saves us $40:
Net result. The price increased by $15 but we're saving $40 to give a net saving of $25.
That's why having coupons integrated into both sales and price comparisons gives a more complete price picture. Using a combination of all three will help you squeeze every last cent of savings out of Amazon on an ongoing basis.
Of course, there's no need to browse thousands of products hoping to find one with a coupon available. Simply go straight to a complete list of every Amazon coupon & coupon code available on every tracked product and filter it for what you're looking for:
Remember that sometimes coupon codes only apply to specific sellers of a product and may not always be available on the lowest price version. Some coupons might also require additional purchases, or minimum cart amounts, so you do need to be aware of any terms and conditions going with them.
6.3. Shopping by Deal
Sometimes we simply want to browse deals without necessarily having a specific product in mind. Perhaps you're shopping for a birthday gift, or for a Valentine's date. In this instance it can be better to start off with a list of deals (as opposed to a comparison list of specific products).
An hourly system, by definition, gathers new data on thousands of products every hour so it can tell us something pretty interesting things. Like, which products have recently dropped their prices:
Or, which products are currently selling at, or very near, their historical lowest price:
These lists update on the hour, every hour, so it's worth browsing them now and again to see if there's any unbelievable discounts.
" Always check customer ratings and shipping costs of 3rd party sellers (if not Amazon) before purchasing the lowest price deal.
Think of each of them as a daily deals type site; only every hour.
The aim of this guide has been to help empower you to become a smarter online shopper. Hopefully you've learned a bit about how sales, price and coupon tracking data can help you make objective, scientific buying decisions that will ultimately help you spend wisely, buy better products, and save both time and money.
If I were to summarize everything we've learned from tracking thousands of products' sales, coupons and prices over the years it would be this:
" Finding the best deals on Amazon is about gathering & analyzing sales, coupon and price data to empower informed buying decisions aimed at saving money and spending wisely.
Look at it this way. Sellers spend a lot of time and money working out how to get you to spend more. It's your job to fight back by working out how to get the best stuff while spending less. Do a good job and you'll win. Do a bad job and they'll win.
If you have additional money saving shopping tips and strategies, we'd love to hear from you. If you've saved a lot of money, share your story with us. If you'd just like to chat, feel free to drop us a line.
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