Posts Tagged ‘E-Commerce’

I have been price watching some furniture for our new home for almost a year. With the holidays approaching, and plans for get togethers, I was thinking of biting the bullet rather than keep waiting for a sale that might not happen in time. I started searching outside my usual retailers to find the best current price on the items I wanted. My searches once again landed me on Jet.com

In my experience Jet.com often price matches Amazon, but when it doesn’t it tends to be more expensive. For some of the items I was hunting, much much more expensive. However, if your eligible for new customer coupons you can still come out ahead. One of the unusual things about Jet is those new customer coupons can span multiple orders. Before this shopping experience I had two such offers still attached to my account. I’m not sure if these types of discounts will continue to be available for new customers when the dust settles from the recent buyout. If you’re thinking about joining Jet, I’d start now and lock in that deal.

threeshelforganizer
The closet maid storage shelf I wanted. I was definitely being picky. Target had a taller one for cheaper, even after the discount, but I liked the fact that this one had a complete backing, and the left over shelf space was the perfect size for the cutting toy.
I still really need to paint the playroom.

In addition to the storage shelf above, I purchased end tables (so we can finally get those living room lamps off the floor), an entrance way bench with shoe storage and cushion.

I didn’t do enough research on the end tables. The original ones I wanted were 50% more expensive so I went with the secondary option I was considering. Turns out that was an accent table and not an end table, so it’s a bit taller than I would have liked. Good news, the table is of excellent quality so when ever the price does decide to drop on my first choice I’m sure I’ll be able to find a good use case for them.

Another way Jet is a little unusual is that when you add an item to your cart, the price on some of the items already in your cart may drop. It’s not much of a difference but watching those prices drop is addicting. Sometimes I’d add an item just to watch the price drop. I could see how easy it would be to spend more because you think your saving (spaving.) Admittedly I was guilty of spaving this time. I bought a Christmas Cd I didn’t realize I could get for free with Amazon Prime Music.

I know a home is never done – there’s always another project – but we’re getting closer to at least feeling fully furnished. I’m still looking for a bookshelf to turn into a toy shelf for the playroom. And living room furniture. As much as the kids like the big empty room, I’d like to fill it with something. Alternatively, photography studio equipment would be cheaper than a new couch. All I’d need is the lighting equipment. Decisions, Decisions.

February 6, 2016

No Longer a Subscriber

I still like Amazon, but I am no longer a Subscribe and Saver.

On the 2nd (Tuesday) I was looking at my past orders dealing with another issue when I chanced upon a $20 place holder charge on my account for Lil Crunchies. (What is it with those?). The crunchies were supposed to come in my February shipment, and not due until the middle of the month. I immediately went to the “Your Subscribe & Save Items” view to manage my subscriptions and cancel those darn crunchies. Low and Behold under my February shipment Lil Chrunchies was listed for just $9, a much more reasonable price. I still had until the 7th (tomorrow) to cancel the order so I decided to see what would happen. When the price I was being charged still hadn’t change as of yesterday, I emailed customer support to ask what was going on. Basically, once the order shows up on your account, that’s the price you’ll pay, regardless of any price fluctuations or what the “Your Subscribe & Save Items” view says.

I admit I’m not a huge fan of Dynamic pricing. I do my best to use it to my advantage with price watching and have it work in my favor so it’s just a mild dislike. I take a significant issue with bait-and-switch. For the past couple of years that I’ve been using Subscribe and Save I always assumed the price listed on the current month’s shipment, the page that’s billed for “managing subscriptions”, is the price I was paying. What indication is there that this isn’t the case? I’d log in the day before or the day of to make sure the price hadn’t changed. It never occurred to be to double check my order history as well.

I hope I’ve never drastically over paid. I’m afraid to look, to be honest. I will be so frustrated to learn that I have.

This discovery also creates a considerable hurtle for my new app idea. The place holder orders are not guaranteed to be done on any one day. The Lil crunches order was placed at the start of the week. The paper towels order only showed up yesterday. In order to get an accurate idea of how much one would be charged, I’d need to know which day he or she was going to be charged for each individual item. That either means access to their order history, or putting a considerable burden on them to supply the information.

I’m not giving up on the app idea, but it definitely needs more time to germinate. In the mean time, I’m canceling all my Amazon subscriptions. Amazon’s prices are usually good, but not always. I find the few extra dollars I save per month is not worth the risk of drastically over paying. Not when I have other options like Target and Costco that are just as convenient.

How did I get so far behind? Wasn’t it just October? And now it’s already almost mid November? Adding insult to injury, most of the stores I frequent have already started their holiday deals and I haven’t even figured out when I’m on the hunt for yet!

One thing I know I need more of is ornaments. It’s no secret that I’m quite addicted to Christmas Tree, and Christmas ornaments. Every year I buy at least a couple new ornaments for our tree. Pretty much every year since Domingo and I first started dating he has been teasing me about the ornaments that will one day grace my tree. We’d be at Hallmark store and he’d point to the Twilight Ornament, or the Hanna Montana Ornament. One day, he’d warn, our future kids would want those. The notion of kid centric ornaments on our tree didn’t bother me, per se. I do love me some Dr. Suess, as evident from Nicole’s first birthday party. But I do cringe a little at the idea of tween pop culture on the tree. I could do without vampire romance, thank you very much.

The big driver for ornaments this year is the second tree I’ve been pinning over. As we were discussing where the trees will go in our new home it finally dawned on us; why stop there? We can get a third kid-height, narrow tree for the playroom. The kids can have total say of what goes on the tree, and decorate it to their hearts content. Domingo and I plan to put up the other two trees and decorate them with the fragile ornaments Thanksgiving night after the girls go to sleep, per tradition. Then, the following morning, we’ll let the girls direct the show when setting up their own tree. It’s all the magic of “Santa” bringing the tree, with all the family fun of setting it up together.

Three trees it is!

Yesterday evening I found the multi-colored light tree on Target.com, equivalent to one we really liked when we saw it in person. The website were stacking sales, including “a buy three, get an additional 15% off” ending that night. I did the frugal thing: searched by sale items, sorted by price, and added two $1 ornament hooks to my card for an additional $9 in savings. This morning I couldn’t help myself. I logged back on to target.com and found the tree had a whole new set of stackable sales, and was now about $5 lower. My order, made just hours before, couldn’t be canceled. My two choices were to suck it up, or call the customer help line and ask for a price reduction. I’m sure you can guess which option I picked. The kind customer sales agent refunded my order the requested amount seemingly without verifying the exact price difference.

There could be several reasons why Target issued me a flat price adjustment. Perhaps they have a minimum price for which they want to sell the item, and my price adjustment was still north of it. (If my math is correct, I came out 11 cents ahead of today’s sale price.) Or perhaps they view it as a means of customer retention. In retail there’s a notion of customer lifetime value. It’s often cheaper to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. There’s also a growing field in Customer Analytics, analytics derived from customer data. Target knows a surprising amount about me. They know my credit card information and address from the online order. From there they can easily figure out how many other purchases I’ve made using the same card or shipping to the same address. From my purchase history they can predict things about me, and my future consumer behaviors. They can predict how profitable I’m likely to continue to be. That assessment cam lead to special perks. It’s a practice that’s been around for ages (think Casino “comps”), but is becoming more frequent with the advent of big data.

It’s hard to know for sure what a company considers my worth to be. Eleven cents extra doesn’t tell you much. I tend to think of myself as not a very profitable customer. I like to think I’m pretty good about ferreting out the best possible deals. I’m clearly the kind of person who double checks sale prices after a purchase, and requests price matching even when it’s just a few dollars. Each dollar I save is a dollar the retailer doesn’t earn. The margins on me can’t be very good. Domingo keeps reminding me it’s not just the margins retailers care about, but the reduction of inventory. In that regard I’m a golden goose, what with my three trees and two Halloween costumes per child. In my own analysis, I did point out that I paid slightly more ($5-7 per child) than average.

This year I’m sure the models will tell the retailers I’m anything but frugal. I’m going to try and hold off on the bulk of my holiday decorations until the after sales, but we will need at least some ornaments for our new trees.

July 10, 2015

Targeting Mismatch

Personalized Re-targeting is a type of advertising designed to turn would-be customers into actual customers, by showing the would-be customers products they previously expressed interest in. You may have noticed that some products and merchants seem to follow you around the internet. You may have viewed a product on one website and then noticed an advertisement for the same product on another. Advertisers are hoping to lure you back to their site to complete the transaction by reminding you of products you previously looked at. After all, you must be at least a little interested in the product to have viewed it the first time. Or so their logic goes.

Personalized Re-targeting has been around for years. I’ve encountered this behavior before back in 2011. Only then re-targeting made sense. The past few weeks the re-targeting I’ve witnessed has just been a waste of advertiser dollars.

Domingo and I are in the middle of furnishing our new home. High on that list was a new dinning room table. I spent a few days browsing different tables online before making a purchase. For the next week my facebook feed was filled with ads, not just for the table I purchased, but for the other tables I viewed as well. All from the same merchant. “Still on your mind?” the caption for one ad reads. “Don’t let this one slip away!” reads another. I didn’t. I had made the purchase.

I suspect it’s extremely rare for someone to purchase the same dinning room table from the same merchant in two transactions over a short period of time. If I’m being generous I would assume it’s slightly less rare for someone to purchase two different dining room tables from the same merchant in two different transactions. The ad broker monitoring my behavior and tracking me as I viewed all those dinning room tables should have also noticed I added one to my cart. But no. If the ad broker did observe the check out process, they decided to remain blissfully ignorant of the transaction. As a result I’m shown ads that don’t interest me. It’s not only annoying to the consumer, it wastes the merchant’s ad dollars.

This afternoon I purchased a kitchen table. My news feed is once again filled with advertisements featuring the new table. Same problem but different product and different merchant.

I’m all for personalized advertising. (Yes, please do help me find good area rugs that go with the furniture I’m purchasing!) Targeting advertising doesn’t have to be a nuisance. In order to not be a nuisance, however, it’s going to have to get a bit smarter.

Nearly a year ago I tried to predict how much I would spend on Amazon.com this year. t’s always hard to make such predictions, as life is always changing. On the one hand, we had moved the previous year, and there were setup costs associated which we wouldn’t expect to need to pay again. On the other hand, at the time I knew I was pregnant (though we weren’t spilling the beans yet!) and there would be new baby expenses. My estimate was very crude, to stay the least.

Today only a tenth of a percent is left on my gift card balance. Not to shabby a prediction, although given my crude method of estimation, much of the credit goes to blind luck.

Impulse purchase were way down this year, although overall spending was nearly identical. Going through my order history for this year there’s about $70.85 of what I consider “purchase regrets” – things like an extra swim diaper we didn’t use, or a cheap toy that wasn’t even worth the $10 we spent. Part of the reason that number is so low is I’ve been better about returning things that were broken, didn’t match their descriptions or otherwise had material defects. The other reason is I spent so little time browsing on Amazon, even though I was home on Maternity leave leading during the Black Friday season. (Yes, I consider it a season.)

I can also proudly say that I didn’t let the fact that I had a gift card balance influence my decision to make a purchase much. If an item was cheaper elsewhere before applying the gift card, I purchased it elsewhere. I knew I would eventually use the full gift card balance, so why waste it? I came closest with hue, which was a bit of a splurge.

While reviewing my Amazon purchase history it’s become apparent how little I use Amazon prime. I like to go back every year and see whether it’s actually saving us money or not. This year the verdict appears to be ‘not’. The only benefit we take advantage of is the free two day shipping. Since they raised the rates it’s not really worth it to us. Or at least it won’t be when my subscription runs out later this summer. By then we should be beyond the points of need-this-tomorrow-for-the-baby and too-hard-to-take-the-baby-out. I doubt I’ll miss prime, but if I do I can always reactive it again later.

What I will miss is the year long 10% discount we had. I wish I could take advantage of TurboTax’s gift card offer again, but, alas, we won’t be receiving a refund this year. What I didn’t do a good job of was estimating our taxes and setting our deductions accordingly. Going from grad student to full time employee I earned a lot more, which means we owe a lot more. Oh well, next time.

Price watches and price histories are some of my favorite tools for online shopping. I use price histories to verify deals are actually deals, and price watches when I expect the price of something I want to drop in the coming months. The most common things I would price watch were electronics, kid’s toys, and kitchen gadgets – all of which tended to be expensive, and thus a small percentage differences could make a big difference. Lately I’ve found additional ways to save.

Requesting After Purchase Price Adjustments: I used to remove my price watches as soon as I made a purchase. After all, I hate finding out I could have paid even less. Then last Black Friday shopping season baby cheapskate posted a deal on the play kitchen I had just purchased a day or two earlier. The new price was $5 cheaper. Five dollars isn’t much in the grad scheme of things, but it wounded my frugal shopper pride. I decided to call the company I had purchased from to ask if they’d price match themselves. Sure enough they refunded the difference without hassle.

It seems so obvious to me now to ask for price adjustments. I was still within the return window, the kitchen was even still in the box as it was intended to be a Christmas present. I could have returned and repurchased the play kitchen in order to get the better price. (Not that I would have, given how hectic the holidays can be, but I could have.) It would have cost the company more in terms of shipping and restocking, than simply refunding a few dollars. Price adjustments also helps garner customer good will, and makes me more likely to be a repeat customer.

Now I continue to price watch items for a few weeks after I make the purchase. Yesterday we switched Nicki to a twin bed while my parents were visiting. Wouldn’t you know it, the price dropped nearly $30 since I purchased it a week ago! I called up, and got the refund of the price difference. Easy Peasy.

Replenishing Non Perishables akin to a Subscription Service: I am a fan of subscription services – especially subscription services that give a discount! Alas not everything is available through subscriptions, or runs out in predictable intervals. And sometimes the price of an item will drop lower than the subscription price for a brief window.

I started price watching diaper pail refill bags, and have recently added printer ink to my price watches. (We can easily shoot through 2 or 3 ink refills cartridges when printing photos ahead of Grandma’s visits every couple of months – have I mentioned I take a lot of photos?) If I get a price drop alert when my supply is starting to run low, I’ll make an additional purchase.

To get the best possible deal I’ll set up a couple of price watches for the same product, either for different stores, different variations (XL or regular) or different quantities (single or double pack). Usually buying in bulk is better, but not always. Likewise some stores tend to have better every day prices, and others sometimes have better sale prices. The more individual instances of a product I’m price watching the better the chance I’ll get a great deal.

March 13, 2014

Small Misfortunes & eBay

It feels like we’re running into a string of bad luck lately.

cracked

Last Saturday we took Nicki to the duck pound to get her out of the house. When we returned we discovered one of our refrigerator magnets had bit the dust. It was as though it had just lost structural integrity. The piece still attached to the magnet back end was still on the refrigerator. The base piece had slide down the refrigerator and was resting on another magnet a few inches below. The broken Caryatids were on the floor.

I was really bummed. The magnet was a souvenir from our honeymoon in Greece, and my favorite one at that. We visited Greece at the end of tourist season, when most of the souvenir stands were somewhat picked through. I broke our original Caryatid magnet on the last day of our trip. I remember wondering Monastiraki Square our final night looking for a decent replacement.

Alas, Monastiraki Square is pretty far away these days.

We did find a replacement on eBay, but it’s the colored version which I don’t like as much and five times as expensive. At least we found a similar one?

We also didn’t win that baby’s first Christmas ornament. Shortly after we placed our bid there was another person who bid over us, and then removed their bid. We figured they were testing to get a feel for our bid price. Sure enough, we were outbid again a few hours later. I told Domingo not let it go. At the time I figured we didn’t really need a spare, and another cheap one would come along at some point. I can’t imagine demand for “Baby’s First Christmas 2012” ornaments increasing over time. After the breakage of our Greece magnet (and the end of the auction) I had a change of heart. Rather than spend $6, we spent $13.

Here’s the dilemma: I’ve been using eBay a fair amount in recent years, especially for out of print replacements, but I don’t feel like I have a good handle on how to effectively shop on eBay. Does the magnet I want exist on eBay without color? Is there another cheap rocking horse ornament? How do I avoid other people bidding up the item I want?

Auction psychology is an area I know little about.

eBay uses a proxy bidding system, which is a second price auction. It’s provably mathematically optimal to bid exactly the maximum price you’re willing to pay. In other words, if everyone customer bids exactly once, and exactly the maximum price we’re willing to pay, then whoever wins the item actually pays the minimal amount needed to secure it.

Truthfull bidding may be provably optimal in theory, but there’s often a difference between theory and practice. Consumers are often not objective. I remember thinking to myself $25 was the maximum I was willing to spend on any ornament for our tree. When I was outbid for the 2009’s Season’s Treatings, I kept inching my bid upwards. After all, $27 isn’t that much more than $25. The final price tag? Just over $40.

I need to learn a little auction psychology and to be more objective.

Use Turbotax? If you do, and you are due a federal refund, you can put some of that refund towards Amazon gift cards and get a 5-10% bonus. Which begs the question, how much of our return should we put into gift cards?

While I’m usually not one to say no to free money, and we do use amazon frequently, I don’t want to tie up too much money into Amazon. Money spent on Amazon gift cards can not be used for useful things, like 529 plans. I want to find the sweet spot of maximizing the bonus, without overspending. It was once again time to take another peek at how much we’re spending on Amazon.

amazonspending
The amount (actual and project) I’ve spent on Amazon since 2009

Yipes!

The 2012 bump was anticipated. With a newborn baby I knew there would be many supplies we needed, and that we’d have limited time to go to the store. I figured between prime & camelcamelcamel most of my purchases would shift from brick and mortar type stores, like target, to amazon. I knew initially necessity would win out over frugality, and I’d find myself with many purchases that couldn’t wait. But I figured most of those purchases (crib, car seat, etc) would be single time purchases. As I became more experienced with this Mom thing, I was sure I’d be able to be better at predicting what we’d need and when so I could be more frugal about my purchases. So then what the heck happened in 2013?!

2013amazonbreakdown
2013 Amazon Spending Breakdown.

By in large the bump in 2013 comes in part from additional subscribe & save discounts beyond just diapers. We started subscribing to all manor of paper towels, toilet paper, tissue paper, detergent, etc since it was both slightly cheaper and much more convenient. I was surprised how much all that added up! We spent 20 times more in 2013 than we did in 2012 on subscribe and save items. I was expecting the increase in incidental spending (toilet paper, toothpaste, etc) in 2013 to be offset by the reduction in baby gear spending, but that’s hard to do when you spend so much on incidentals! Yet another example where I paid attention to the individual prices and not the totals.

The next two categories are home related. “Basic household” are every day things we need but don’t regularly replace (fans, carbon monoxide testers, etc). I added up everything house related in this category. Alas, moving is expensive in more ways that one. There are some setup costs. New lights and new linens are sometimes necessary to fit new places. Some dishes and other odds and ends broke in the move. I did my best to maximize what we did have so we wouldn’t have to buy much. Our linens are very miss-matchy, but who cares? I didn’t want to buy a whole new set for the apartment, and then again when we move in a year or two. Admittedly not all the new purchases were necessities. I do love my new vacuum.

The Nicole category includes everything other than diapers – toys, books, Christmas presents, etc. Infants require tons of gear. We spent 6% less in this category in 2013 than in 2012. I expect we’ll continue to buy less in gear going forward, but make up the difference with toys and books.

If we ignore the Subscribe and Save purchases (since that wasn’t an apples to apples comparison), and the new home setup costs (how often am I going to buy a new vacuum cleaner anyway?!), I spent 31% less in 2013 than 2012 rather than 38% more. Phew. Now that’s a more palatable number!

Better, we don’t expect to see another rise in spending on Amazon in 2014. I did a crude estimate for our spending for 2014 based on our 2013 and current 2014 spending. It’s no surprise I spend more around Black Friday. Last year I spent 31% more on average in November and December than any other month. To come up with my projected total I use January & February’s expenditure and assumed a similar 31% rise for the end of the year. The result? We expect to spend about 3% less. Double Phew.

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

With my Amazon Prime membership account up for renewal next month it’s time for me to go back over my receipts and ask the age old question: “was it worth it?” Which means I am going to face the reality of just how much I spend on Amazon. gulp.

Momappriciation Events:
Being a paid member of Prime and also an “Amazon Mom” I was able to participate in Momappriciation Events. During these events many of the baby and toddler merchandise is 20% off with coupon code. There were three events last year that I know of and I participated in two for a savings of $101.04. Most of that savings can be attributed to the convertible car seat and stroller. Good timing on my part, but unlikely to be repeat purchases any time soon.

Diapers:
I spent $361.56 on diapers averaging 19.4 cents per diaper. Don’t think that’s just because I’m on top of things with the Subscribe and Save discount. The additional 15% subscribe and save discount through Amazon Prime translated to $67.80 in savings. I missed the cutoff on for subscribe and save three times and had to pay full price. Had that not been the case I would have saved an extra $21.19. Amazon has some of the best prices for diapers.

This has me thinking that every disposable diaper cost analysis I’ve ever seen is crazy off. They all seem to think it will cost an average 30 cents per diaper for a $800 total price tag to diaper a baby in disposables. I’d be shocked if it cost more than $500 to diaper Nicki in brand name, non-generic diapers. (Huggies for the curious, they fit around her umbilical cord stump best as a newborn and we’ve never had the need to switch.) Not included in this total is gifted diapers (a friend’s baby outgrew his size 2s, so we got half a box plus some overnights for free – maybe $30 worth?) or in store purchases. We purchased 3 packs of various brands of newborn diapers to try out prior to giving birth (3 packs costing roughly $10 a piece, some of which were given away). My parents also bought a small pack of regular and overnight diapers when we flew East so we wouldn’t have to travel with them, and we ended up needing another small box while there (Maybe $50 total?). That would put the total cost of diapers at $470, well below $800.

Shipping Savings:
Out of the 42 purchases I made last year, 11 were under the $25 threshold needed for free Super Saver Shipping. Guestimating an average shipping cost of $4.99, that translates to about $54.89 shipping charges I would have faced without Prime. Now, that’s assuming I act rationally. I hate paying shipping costs, and am just as likely to look for additional items to add to my cart to qualify for free shipping. In order to qualify for free shipping, however, I would have had to add at least $173.32 worth of merchandise spread out over those eleven orders. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have spent quite that much. Some of those small purchases were not time sensitive and could have been combined into a single purchase that would have qualified for free shipping. Some, not all.

The true savings is probably somewhere between $54.89 and $173.32, so we’ll go with the lower number of $54.89 to make our savings estimate a conservative one.

Impulse Buys:
It’s been speculated that Amazon Prime is so profitable for Amazon because it encourages impulse buys and extraneous purchases. Since it’s so quick and easy to purchase from Amazon, people purchase more than they initially intended to.

To figure out the additional cost of impulse buys, I first considered what items I purchased are a part of the long tail. The long tail refers to items that only a few customers would want (e.g. table bumpers in less popular colors) as opposed to mass marketable items that appeal to a large group of customers (e.g. table bumpers in common colors). Big box stores do not stock long tail items because they’re likely to sit on the shelf for a while since they appeal to very few customers. An example of a long tail purchase I made is an unusual shaped cake pan. It’s not popular enough for box stores to keep it in stock, so my choice was to buy it online or don’t buy it. I’m only considering these long tail impulse buys because if the item was also available in box stores it might be just as likely to be impulse buy at some later point in time.

Of all the long tail purchases I made, $29.98 were on impulse buys. That is, $29.98 were on items I would not have felt compelled to shop for it outside of Amazon.

The Verdict:
Total Savings: $101.04 (mom appreciation events) + $67.80 (savings on diapers) + $54.89 (savings on shipping) = $223.73
Total Cost: $29.98 (the cost of impulse buys) + $39 (the cost of Prime with student discount) = $68.98
Net Result: A savings of $154.75

Definitely worth it this year, but I’m predicting the savings I enjoy will go down over time. Next year I’m less likely to benefit from the mom appreciation event since we won’t need new items like car seats and strollers, and when we’re out of diapers we’ll save even less. But for now, I’m a very happy prime customer.

It’s starting already. Apple and Amazon are kicking off the shopping season with the rumored announcement of the iPhone 5 expected this week and last week’s Kindles announcement. Even though I won’t be pregnant this time around, we still plan on focusing our shopping efforts online. I really don’t relish the idea of taking a sub five month old out during some of the busy shopping days of the year, in the middle of flu season! As such, it’s time to update our Back Friday strategy with the times.

We’re developing our strategy primarily to catch surprise deals – those we won’t know about in advance. Since we expect the deals to start prior to Black Friday, and continue well into Cyber Monday (which is more like Cyber Week…) we also want to make sure we don’t buy too early if someone else is going to have a better deal.

Price Watching
Dynamic Pricing is becoming increasingly common. It’s been speculated that retailers like Walmart and Amazon will rely on dynamic pricing this holiday season to undercut the competition. In order to capitalize on these price fluctuations, we plan to set up price watches.

We intend to utilize Camelcamelcamel (Amazon price watches), and it’s companion websites CamelBuy (BestBuy price watches) and CamelEgg (NewEgg price watches). Last year, many of the big chains had great deals in the days and weeks leading up to Black Friday for items like video games, books, music, toys, and electronics. They even had price drops for big ticket items as well like TVs and gaming consoles. Sometimes these price drops were advertised in advance, but not always. Price watching alerts you to sales as they happen, giving you the best chance possible to grab items as they go on sale before they’re sold out.

I have adjusted all my price watches on down significantly (I never buy during the black Friday season unless it’s an amazing deal!). Currently on my price watch? Memory Cards for the camera, and baby toys & books.

Price watching, however, can only get you so far. Bundles were common last year, and I suspect they will be again. Rather than drop the price of, say, an Xbox 360, retailers will bundle it with several games or with gift cards. Bundles are popular when manufactures control the price of products so retailers can’t discount them. Apple is a prime example. Many of these bundles will be announced for Black Friday, but some are surprises and will happen in the weeks and days leading up to it. Since bundles appear as new product listings, automated price watching won’t work.

Social Media
When we were gearing up for our baby, I set up Google alerts in the hopes of catching sales from online stores too small to have dedicated price alert websites. I’d set an alert with the name of the product I was interested in, and the phrase ‘(Discount OR Sale)’. The strategy didn’t work for me. Turns out Google alerts were not real time enough. For this shopping season, I’m turning to twitter and social media. Nothing is more real time than twitter.

I’ve already friended companies in Facebook and follow them on Twitter already to watch for coupons. For the holiday season I plan to use saved searches, and set up an account with tweetalarm.com. Once those deals are live, you can bet some happy consumer will take to twitter to share the joy of their new purchase. Since I’m new to twitter, I’m testing both services out now. What am I searching for now? #Blackfriday! I want to catch any other good strategy ideas in time to use them.

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