One of the most common questions I’m asked is “How do I find the
best deal on the Internet?” The web certainly offers consumers an
avenue of research that was not available in the realm of shopping
before its invention. But with so many choices, how can you know
you really are getting the best price on a product and that you’re
buying from someone you can trust?
The best first step in the research process is to find price search
engines that you can trust. If you simply search for products in
search engines such as Google or Yahoo, you will most likely end
up with a wide variety of search results, some of which are companies
that are out to take advantage of you. Some reputable price search
engines can be found on Web Renown’s shopping
page. Engines like
www.shopper.com (by CNET, a trusted technology publisher) and www.pricegrabber.com are good places to start. But there are some lesser known engines
that you’ll want to make use of. Pricewatch is one such engine that
has become a favorite of mine. They provide results that include
some of the lowest prices out there on computer and technology related
products. Another is PriceScan. However, make sure you look at the
individual store’s ratings. If the approval rating is anything below
90%, read some of the reviews to get a feel for what people are saying.
Keep in mind that every company has a few disgruntled customers.
The way reviews are worded reveal a lot about individual’s intentions.
Look for problems that seem to be repeated. If you see that a company
is making several people mad over the same issue, beware. But if
the problems seem random, they may still be trustworthy.
Another element of research
is individual product research. Sites like Shopper.com and PriceGrabber both
have reviews by customers. Read what customers are saying. Note
that more customers are more
likely to take the time to write a review if they’ve had a bad experience
than the ones who are happy with the product. So try to balance the
good and the bad. Also look for professional reviews on these and
other sites. These are often more objective. But do keep in mind
that publishers of these reviews often have their own bents toward
certain manufacturers. Another thing you’ll want to do is look in
Google and Yahoo (or
your favorite search engine) for professional sites that have reviewed
the product you’re interested in, especially
sites that don’t sell anything. But do watch out for sponsored matches
on search engines. These are usually listed at the top or to the
side of the results and should be noted as "sponsored." These listings
are sold to the highest bidder and are often a lure. Use good sense
when clicking on these.
Finally, do some research on the company you’re looking to buy from.
Look for customer service reviews. Do they solve problems? Do they
have a simple return policy? Do they charge restocking fees or other
hidden fees? It’s worth paying a little more money for a product
to buy it from a reputable source. Furthermore, buying from the same
company has its perks. You don’t have to create additional user Ids
and passwords, and if you do have a problem you can show the customer
representative that they have something to lose if they don’t take
care of you. And be willing to take your time. Don’t fall for marketing
gimmicks or sales. And remember this important online rule, “If it
sounds to good to be true, it probably is.” Happy shopping!
© Web Renown, 2005
Web Renown's shopping guide.