More and more people are shopping online than ever before. In December 2012 around 12% of non-food sales in the UK were online purchases. By December 2017 this went up to 24% meaning almost 25p of every £1 being spent in the UK was for online purchases. The increasing growth means that retailers are working hard to make sure that you spend your money with them, which is great news for the online shopper: Retailers will put on all kinds of offers to get you to shop with them.
I buy very few things in shops. That doesn’t mean that I am stuck only shopping with large brands with an international reach. Supporting small and local retailers can be done online and often open up items you can’t find anywhere else just because the retailer cannot afford the overheads of having a shop. Whilst many will say that shopping online is having a negative effect on the high street there is a fair argument to say that retailers who don’t embrace and adapt to the demand for online ordering are just as much to blame.
So where do you find bargains online? How do you get discounts? What are the tricks to making promotional deals work for you? Here’s 10 tricks I use to get the items I want for a better price.
1. Look for “New Customer” Deals
Lots of the big online retailers will try to lure you with a discount when shopping with them for the first time. They hope that if you like what you buy then you’ll come back them in the future for more. It is also worth asking people you know if they’ve shopped on the same site in case they give discounts for new referrals from existing customers. Where the offers exist you can usually save 10-20% on your first order. I’ve used this trick successfully for clothing and homewares most frequently.
2. Shop on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday
Just like the booking flights online trick there are better days to shop online. Flash sales, new product discounts, free shipping and BOGOFs most commonly get listed midweek rather than weekends. The retailers want to be seen to make great deals or build up excitement about a product ahead of the peak shopping times over the weekends when they can get away with charging more. Keep an eye on your favourite sites for upcoming midweek deals and have a browse after work. I’ve managed to buy limited edition art prints and new season clothing at up to 50% of the price a week later quite a few times by watching out for midweek promos.
3. Be Social
Once you have an idea of which shop you want to buy from, search for their social sites. Big name shops and boutique businesses alike will often offer discount codes via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media platforms. They want to you to come visit their page and boost their visibility online. They are hoping that the offer will simply get you to browse their site and buy something, often on time limited offers, which is a known sales tactic to make people feel they need to buy something quickly. If you already know what you want to buy and then look for the discount you are using the tactic to your own advantage.
Put likes or follows on shops you’d like to buy from but who aren’t offering a discount right now.
4. Don’t Ignore Chat Boxes
Yes, they can be annoying. Most people really aren’t in the mood to chat to the online assistant and feel perfectly competent navigating the site without them. But what if I told you that talking with the assistant can save you money? I’ve struck up conversations that resulted in free shipping, 15% discount if buying right now, being pointed towards cheaper alternatives to my intended purchase and being informed to wait another 2 days for the online sale to start. The people behind the chat boxes are often on commission, so like other sales people they’re armed with incentives to get you to buy. Of course, if you’re the kind of person who gets suckered into a sale really easily, or has difficulty cutting off a conversation for fear of being seen as rude, this is not a trick for you. They will keep you chatting until you commit to buying something, so only engage in the chat once you’re settled on what it is you want to buy.
5. Support Innovators, Artisans and Independent Retailers
If you haven’t already heard of them, get onto Etsy, Kickstarter, Amazon Handmade, Indiegogo and other sites aimed at individuals wanting to sell their products on their own terms. Whilst this doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll get a bargain it often opens up unique products on similar trends to the mainstream but not available on a large scale. Etsy and Amazon Handmade lets you buy clothing, crafts, art and lots more directly from the artisan. The quality varies, but they have good review systems that the seller can’t manipulate to let you check out what other buyers said.
Kickstarter can be a slow-burner as you are often buying into an idea to help the creator put it into production, but so far all the finished products I have received have been brilliant. It has almost always ended that I have payed a lot less than the retail value by being an early investor. I have bought furniture, such as the Sisyphus Table and tech like the Pebble (all the rage before Apple started doing SmartWatches). You can often invest in art and fashion too.
6. Give the Impression of Being Indecisive
This doesn’t always pay off, but some checkout systems will notice if you put things in your online basket and then leave the site without completing. If you are a logged in customer every now and then you’ll get a follow up email the next day with a reminder that you still have items in your basket. Leave it for another day or so and you might even get mailed a discount code to try and get you to complete the sale.
One I’ve encountered recently is buying a Meat Box which is usually ordered to come at intervals, like weekly or monthly delivery. I was buying from a new company so I just bought a one off box. I like the quality so I was going to set up a recurring order, but I’m holding out. About a week after the box arrived I started getting a combination of texts and emails asking if I was happy with my order and if I wanted to set up recurring payments. At first there was a “time limited 20% off” offer, then a “these items for free if you order now” and most recently a “free shipping for 6 months if you order now”. If you know that you’re going to buy from a company anyway it’s still worth seeing what they’ll throw in free by giving the impression that you’re still thinking about it.
7. Use In Store Pickup for Free Delivery
More online retailers are offering the option to pick up items in person at stores or parcel points and often linked to free shipping costs. This can save you money in two ways: You avoid paying shipping or you avoid having to add extra stuff to your basket to get the minimum spend for free shipping to your home. Of course, the further you live from large towns or cities the higher the cost of getting there and back, so use your judgement as to whether you actually save by doing this.
8. Get into Second Hand Deals
Sites like eBay, eBid, Bonanza and GumTree are filled with people wanting to sell items they don’t want anymore. If being brand new isn’t an essential criteria for you then grab a coffee and have a search. I have bought myself a Burberry trenchcoat for £20 (genuine, good condition, probably about 10-15yrs old when I got it), an Alexander McQueen skull scarf for £10 (small hole in one corner, otherwise good) and Louboutin Pigalle heels for £100 (no box, heel pads needed replaced for £5 at cobblers). That’s £130 for fashion staples which would have been £2000+ brand new!
9. Hold onto Receipts and Invoices for CashBacks
Lots of retailers will offer you CashBacks for items that go on sale within a set time period after you buy (can be up to 90 days) and they are mostly hoping you won’t notice that they owe you money. This trick is going to rely on you being vigilant AFTER you buy. I got £200 back when I bought a sofa from House of Fraser that I bought in store, but it went on sale online a month later. I also got £30 back from buying a pair of Dr Marten boots. On both occasions they tried to wriggle out of honouring their own terms, so be persistent.
10. Don’t be Afraid to Return for a Refund
If you buy something online that doesn’t turn out to be what you want, return it. It is worth a trip to the post office to get rid of something you won’t use to get your money back. The buyer is often responsible for paying shipping, but if you paid shipping in the first place the retailer has to refund that to you too. You might end up a few pounds out of pocket, but better that than losing all the money.
Do you have any tips or tricks for saving money while shopping online? Have any of these tricks worked for you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!