Detroit Free Press Susan Tompor column
Nov 22, 2012 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Julie Tazzia shopped just one time on the day after Thanksgiving to snag a laptop at a super price. One time, say 10 years ago and that was enough for her.
"The crowds, the pushing, the rudeness," said Tazzia, 57. "It's just not my thing."
Her thing is shopping online, so she's all in when it comes to buying holiday gifts on Cyber Monday. Online shopping is as much a part of the holiday season as deals on cashmere, the Black Friday frenzy for HDTVs, and that one gift everyone gets each year that they will never use.
This year, retailers will offer more "text to join" programs, loyalty programs and efforts to engage customers in stores with live Twitter and Facebook feeds, according to an Experian Marketing Services study.
-- SHOPPING 5 ways to use social media to shop on Black Friday
Pinterest will be used to drive traffic to shopping sites, too.
"It's a clever way to make sure that you're still talking with the consumer all the time," said Heather Dougherty, research director for Experian Marketing Services.
The idea is to use mobile phones, social media and technology to build a relationship with customers -- and possibly drive traffic with spur-of-the-moment deals.
"Expect to get a lot of e-mail blasts on Monday," said Ethan Giffin, CEO of Groove Commerce, a Baltimore-based company that works with retailers to expand online business.
Tazzia, who plans to spend about $1,000 on gifts this year, has her favorite sites at the ready. She uses PriceBlink.com, a browser add-on that alerts consumers to lower prices and coupons elsewhere in cyberspace. She's picked up coupons there for retailers, such as Kohl's, to use online. She's a fan of sites like RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com for discounts, too.
"Never, ever go to a website and buy something without seeing if there's a coupon out there," said Tazzia, who lives in West Bloomfield.
Another tip: Don't expect to save big money on every cyber sale.
"Not everything is a good deal that's advertised as a good deal," warns Lesley Zwick, 35, who has three children and writes a blog called ShoppingwithLes.com.
Zwick, who lives in Huntington Woods, says consumers get the best deals online if they're willing to take time to understand the product and the prices. An item on sale could be a lower-priced model that does not include some add-ons.
What are some strategies to save money online this season
--Keep an eye on shipping.
Retailers are expected to offer more free shipping deals this season, according to Rojeh Avanesian, vice president of marketing for PriceGrabber.com. But he suggested making sure that the price of the item isn't higher than it would be somewhere else without the free shipping.
Be sure to consider some free shipping "footnotes," too. Talbots has a free shipping promotion in its catalog that runs through Nov. 26 but that free offer applies only if you order $175 or more. But an e-mail alert sent Wednesday noted that Talbots will offer free standard shipping with no minimum purchase for orders made on Friday only.
--Sign up for e-mail alerts.
Target.com is sending an e-mail on Cyber Monday to shoppers who signed up for alerts and the shoppers will receive five exclusive offers, which include a cookware set, a television and men's outerwear.
By signing up for e-mail at Walmart.com, shoppers will be among the first to get access to specials. So-called connected customers also get exclusive access to one special item every day during Cyber Week at Walmart.com. Shoppers can "get connected" by liking Walmart's Facebook wall or downloading the Walmart Mobile App, too.
--Get a shopping app for when you walk into a store.
Red Laser offers a way to look at an item at one store, scan that barcode with your phone and then spot prices online and in other stores. It will even provide phone numbers of nearby stores.
One smart shopper used that app and discovered it was better to order diapers from Amazon.com -- with free delivery with an Amazon Mom membership. The Amazon Mom membership includes a free three-month Amazon Prime trial. Once the trial ends, the customer would be automatically upgraded to Amazon Prime, which costs $79 a year. The customer could opt out, as well.
Blogger Zwick likes to use the app Shopkick where shoppers get extra points for walking in stores. The points can be collected for free gift cards. Participants include Macy's, Target and Best Buy.
--Brick-and-mortar stores offer deals, too, especially if you shop for clearance items.
Zwick, who completed her Hanukkah shopping in July, is proud of a clearance deal found at a Target store back in January. She found a set of seven Disney Princess Barbie dolls marked down to $13.
That set would be around $80 on sale, she said. Her daughters will share that gift this year.
The real trick to saving money, though, is to know that cyber shopping has its limits, too.
Zwick recommends that some shoppers get a prepaid card and load whatever they can afford to spend for the holidays onto that card. Credit cards offer more consumer protections but a prepaid card can limit shopping.
When the money runs out on that prepaid card, she said, you stop shopping online. The gimmick could work in stores, too.
"If you can't afford it now, it's not a good deal," Zwick said.
Contact Susan Tompor: 313-222-8876 or email@example.com
More Details: Getting the e-deal
--Don't wait until Cyber Monday. Online deals are beginning on Thanksgiving, too.
Black Friday starts online today with two-day specials at Walmart. The deals include a DSi XL Ultimate Bundle for $109.
Cyber Monday turns into Cyber Week at Walmart, as cyber deals kick off on Saturday and run through Dec. 2.
On Cyber Monday, Walmart is offering a Samsung 40-inch HDTV for $598.
--Shop at saving sites, such as CouponBlender.com, where you can see deals from various sites, such as FatWallet.com and Bargainist.com. Coupon website BeFrugal.com offers a drop-down box with promo codes, as well.
--Confirm that your online purchase is secure. The Better Business Bureau says shoppers should look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying. If there are doubts, BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and selecting "Properties." This lets you see the real website address, and the dialog box will reveal whether the site is not encrypted.
--Set up a separate e-mail address for getting e-mail deals and online purchases. This can keep spam from hitting your everyday e-mail account.
--Use a credit card when shopping online, and possibly a credit card that you've only designated for online shopping. It's easier to track any fraud. Credit cards also have more security protections than debit cards.
--Keep receipts and documents of what you bought online.
--Never e-mail your credit card number to anyone, said Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com. He also advised that consumers be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from e-mail they receive, regardless of what company sent them. Scammers can use legitimate-looking logos to fool you.
--Do not publicly post anything you may use as a password, including your school or pet's name. Hardekopf noted some data makes it easy for identity thieves to guess passwords.
--Experts say the truly super bargains don't last long online. But sometimes it can pay to wait, too. Some shoppers can put stuff in an Amazon cart and let it sit for a day or so then go back because often, the price will go down.
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