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Being a power shopper is real art: they know everything about the reputation of any retailer, current deals, and limited-time offers. How do they do that? Playing with available online shopping tools is the key.

Both retailers and resellers (as well as their affiliates) are getting more creative offering easy-to-use web-based tools that update their users of the company news and recent deals.

Here are the four common methods :

Getting Updated via Email

Offering their customers or readers a newsletter subscription option is the most popular way to keep them updated of the site news.

With email alerts you never miss a deal as it will come right into your email inbox. You don’t have to remember anything. All you need to do is just to check your email regularly – which you most probably do in any case.

Do you like receiving plenty of email messages daily? At some point you think you can control that but in reality you end up subscribing to anything that seems useful. Besides, the majority of services maintaining opt-in lists stuff their newsletters with ads and promotions you never agreed to receive.

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With email subscriptions I tend to be rather picky choosing those services that either don’t bug me too often (e.g. FreeShipping sends email alerts once per week) or those that allow me to choose the update frequency (RessellerRatings offer to choose between daily and instant alerts).

Freeshipping.org email alert

Some online services go even further allowing their users to track only selected product(s). Both [NO LONGER WORKS] BeatThat and PriceGrabber offer to create watch lists monitoring certain product prices and availability:

This option allows for full control of what you want to track. You will never miss the best deal for the product you are most interested in (example: get alerted only once the product price matches your preferences (e.g. gets below some line)).

Again, that’s a great option only if you don’t mind receiving (multiple) updates to your email inbox. However in this case you of course have more power to control how many messages and how often you are going to receive them.

PriceGrabber Watchlist Alert

Getting Updated via RSS Feeds

Most coupon code directories and merchant rating communities maintain a blog where they post the hottest deals allowing you to subscribe via your preferred RSS reader.

With RSS readers your email inbox is kept free from heaps of mail. Besides, with RSS readers your subscriptions are more organized (either by category or based on your personal preferences).

Unlike email newsletters, with RSS readers, you need to always remember checking it out. However, if you’re in habit of checking your RSS subscriptions regularly, that’s no problem for you. Other potential disadvantages are directly connected to your favorite RSS reader: some of them, for example, allow for limited space (e.g. with PageFlakes you are limited to your screen size to avoid scrolling).

Getting Alerted by Your Browser

Some shopping resources develop FireFox extensions that alert you to current deals once you visit the merchant’s website.

The updates are limited to the addon provider’s website database. If you enter an online shop that is not included in the database, you will not see any coupons, offers or price comparisons.

You are only alerted once you enter the merchant’s site: no multiple notifications when you don’t need them, no full email inbox, etc.

Example: PriceAdvance‘s FireFox add-on that shows other sellers’ prices for the product you are viewing:

PriceAdvance FireFox Addon

Getting Updated via Twitter:

Twitter has been the hottest social networking service recently. From “What you are doing right now?” concept, it has evolved into the rapidly growing business tool all the potential of which is yet to be explored. Dell , for example, uses Twitter to update their customers of recent deals and limited time offers (see: Refurbished Dell computers).

Due to multiple Twitter clients, this type of offer-tracking is by far the most customizable. With Twitter you can get updates to Google Talk, Jabber, Livejournal, to your FireFox, right to your desktop, mobile phones (if you are in the US, Canada, or UK), etc.

The only disadvantage I can see here is that if you are a Twitter newbie, you will have to learn to use it and choose among hundreds of Twitter clients, the one that best suits your needs – that might take some time but is definitely worth the effort! On the other hand, if you are an active Twitter user, you can’t afford following everyone you would want to; as in the end you will end up receiving hundreds of updates every single minute.

So which alerting method is preferable?

There is no definitive answer, I would say. Here is my personal take:

  • I hate receiving hundreds of email messages daily;
  • I can’t afford subscribing to all the RSS feeds I would like to;
  • I can’t follow more Twitter users as I am already unable to keep track of all the existing Tweets;
  • I can’t add more extensions to my FireFox as I already have too many of them installed by now;

So what to do? First, I can choose to stick to only a few really valuable resources (the ones mentioned above) and refrain from tracking any new ones until I am persuaded they are really worth it.

Secondly, like I said, I can stick to customizable services that allow me to set the alert frequency, watched product or merchant.

Last of all, I can keep track of recent hacks to find more better easier solutions: for example, Twhirl allows me be logged in to several Twitter accounts simultaneously – so I can maintain a separate account that tracks online deals and shut it down once I don’t need that.

Which alerting method do you prefer?  Is there any online shopping tool I missed out?   How do YOU keep track of the best online shopping deals?  Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments.

  1. Alan
    December 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Check out http:www.SeeSpend.com for a flexible online shopping mall of the top sites. Search for a product or brand and see just which stores have it. Open a free account and you can add your own ratings to personalize it or use each site's shortcut icons to jump to special features like gift cards or sales.

  2. Marina
    July 28, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    And if you're sick of driving store-to-store to check inventory, or you're sick of waiting for a CSR in-store to answer your questions, just use http://Milo.com which shows you products locally in-stock now.

  3. SOUTHSPICE
    November 24, 2008 at 1:33 am

    I really liked your article which benefits any Online Shoppers. Really this content is of worth of Bookmarking @ http://southspice.corank.com

  4. Jeff
    October 5, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks for covering these. I agree with the comment above, just in time for holidays. :-)

  5. ThinkingSerious
    October 4, 2008 at 10:43 am

    A great topic, just in time for the holidays.

    I like keeping an RSS feed of cheapcheapcheap.com

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