How to comparison shop for goods and services.
Consumers often pay too much for the items they buy, trading economy for
the ease of visiting a local store and "being sold" what they need.
It's true that smaller, local stores often have more knowledgeable staff
than mass merchandisers or online retailers, increasing the chances that
a consumer will buy what they need and want. However, consumers who
do their own initial legwork and research on a product or service can
decide on their own what they need, and then comparison shop for the best
deals. While comparison shopping is time consuming, consumers who do
comparison shop can save hundreds of dollars on large ticket items.
Indeed, the Consumer Literacy Consortium, a group that was formed to
educate consumers, estimates that a household that consistently
comparison shops can save up to $1,000 per year!
See their 66 Ways to Save Money brochure for some good comparison shopping tips.
Comparison shopping is the process of evaluating the specifications, quality, and pricing of similar products from different suppliers. Comparison shoppers may begin the process by window shopping online or at local retail stores; they often purchase a product after reviewing information from a variety of sources. These sources may include Internet product and pricing research, phone calls to check prices, and current magazines for product reviews and ratings. A recent study showed that today's consumers need potential savings of only 10 to 25 percent to encourage them to comparison shop among at least three vendors.
Today, shoppers can easily comparison shop online. Comparison shopping websites feature Internet product directories where consumers can search for items and compare prices from multiple vendors. Online shopping sites often charge different prices for the same item, so it is important to check prices and shipping costs from several online retailers before making an impulse purchase. Customer service and return policies vary from store to store, so it is also wise to consider these issues before buying a product that might need to be returned for credit or a refund. Finally, when all other factors are equal, you may wish to shop at a Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited business.
Interestingly, many shopping websites feature the same product data because web merchants often distribute their products through a wide range of shopping sites. However, the best comparison shopping sites display their products like well-stocked stores, and even offer product descriptions, coupons, and shipping promotions, as well as generous return policies and user-submitted reviews. Recent innovations include local search capabilities for brick-and-mortar stores and price check support for wireless devices such as cell phones.
Price comparison sites and shopping search engines are popular Internet destinations, but online shoppers can also benefit by reading consumer ratings and browsing manufacturer websites for product specifications, illustrations, and suggested retail prices.
Consumers need not shop on the Internet in order to get discounts. One strategy is to comparison shop on the Internet to find price ranges, and then pick up the phone and call local retailers to compare their prices. Many sellers offer to match or beat other retailers' prices, and some will offer discounts to knowledgeable consumers upon request. Another strategy is to visit local retailers, smartphone in hand, and use an Amazon mobile shopping app.
Comparison Shopping Websites
Other Comparison Shopping Resources
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