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Updated on Thursday, May 21, 2015
This article comes to us from consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch.
One of the most powerful tools retailers use to trick you into spending money is dynamic pricing. This refers to the practice of fluctuating prices on products throughout the month, week or even day. Both online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores use analytical tools to manipulate prices based on demand, time of day, weather and even zip code with the ultimate goal of maximizing profits. For example, a study tracking Amazon found the online giant changed the price on a GE microwave nine times in just one day.
By adjusting prices based on consumer and market behavior, retailers can capture more customers while getting the most money from each sale. That means the price you viewed on a product in the morning could change by the time you get home from work at night. These analytical tools may also identify an IP address for repeat searches and subsequently send a price soaring.
With such advanced technology working against you, dynamic pricing may seem unbeatable. However, the following tactics can put you back in control of your spending and help you snag the best price on a purchase.
Clear Your Cookies
Cookies (in Internet-speak) are what help you avoid entering your login information every time you check your bank statement, but they’re also responsible for tracking your buying patterns across the web. This creates a digital profile of your purchasing behavior and sites adjust pricing and search results accordingly. Erase your cookies before your next online shopping task to receive unbiased results.
A study about price discrimination from Northeastern University in Boston revealed registered users to sites like Orbitz were sometimes presented with better deals than non-registered users. Clearing your cookies as advised above could impact member pricing, so in these cases it’s best to browse covertly. If you’re a repeat customer with a login, use Chrome’s Incognito mode or Firefox’s Private tab to search for prices and compare them to traditional browsing to determine any price differences.
Compare and Track Prices
The biggest weapon against dynamic pricing is price tracking. Knowing the history of a product’s price can show you how high or low it’s been, and during what times. CamelCamelCamel offers price history and tracking for Amazon products, while TrackIf.com helps you track products from other retail websites. You can also use price comparison search engines like PriceGrabber to find out who has the best price at the moment. Finally, browser add-ons like Invisible Hand alert you when a product you’re looking at is better priced elsewhere.
Set Sale Alerts
When you’re short on time, setting sale alerts is helpful to learn when a product’s price drops due to a promotion or available coupon. Pinterest actually has a setting to alert you when something you’ve saved (or “pinned”) from a retail website drops in price. You can also use SnapUp, an app that organizes your mobile screenshots of products into a database and lets you organize by category (“clothing” or “John’s birthday”), and sends you an email when product prices drop. PoachIt offers similar price-tracking features but highlights specific coupon codes that help you offset the cost of your purchase.
Apply a Coupon
Obvious, yes, but oh-so-important! If a checkout page has a field for a promo code, take a moment to look for one before you proceed. Sea