Unless price is no object, you are likely to want to compare prices, and products too, before you make your decision to buy. It is much easier to compare prices online than the old method, where you spend a day browsing through the stores in a mall - or two - (where you think they will carry the product you want). If a 'Sales Associate' comes to help you before you knew what you wanted, you might say, "Oh, I'm just browsing." Especially if you don't have the courage to ask for help.
Today we can go online, and if we understand how to use shopping engines, also known as price comparison sites, we can search all our local stores and those across the country, or the globe, for the exact product and the best price. Once you have some practice with this kind of search and online price comparison, you can do it in a matter of minutes. Besides Google and other search engines, you can try out a dozen or more shopping engine sites and determine which are your favourites. Then narrow future searches to those sites, unless they come up empty for you.
If you are new to price comparison I recommend you open a few of them in your brower tabs, and do a search for something you want to buy soon. You will discover that they are not quite the same. For instance, I just did that with some Canadian price comparison sites I had not noticed before. I know that later today I want to find the best place to buy Bibles in bulk for a children's program. I put 'Bibles,' and then 'Bibles bulk' into the search bar at the top of these sites, and one came up with two electronics Bibles, otherwise none found that item. So I know they can be stumped. (The Google ads on those blank search result pages were more in line with what I had in mind).
I also need lithium batteries for my digital weather station at home that shows me the temperature outside while I'm still dressing in the bedroom. There I had much better results, and so I clicked on the one with the lowest price, and found myself at a site which had many good prices and offered wholesale prices if I ordered large case quantities. Even battery chargers for lithium batteries. I did not know they existed.
So you do end up browsing somewhat and discovering other things than what you first set out to look for. Best part is, you don't worry about any Associate eyeing you carefully while you study a product area in depth, to compare their details.
You may wonder how such sites operate. How exactly do they compare prices? Well, some use shopping bots, software programs that go trickling all over the internet from site to site, and are trained to spot items for sale and to fetch the basic info back to the shopping engine site. Others invite merchants to set up their items for a fee, or at least, they will pay a fee when a potential customer clicks on the product linked to their sales site. Some will use a combination of methods, and new ones are invented all the time.
That gives me a good reason to hesitate to say which is the best one. It's a lot of work for me to keep updating my list. So I remind you to try out various price search engines and if you fall in love with a particular one, go ahead, use it to compare prices for your shopping. Until you find another, better one.
The best way to use most shopping engine sites, is to;
1. Enter the produce name, if you know it in the search bar at the top, and hit your Enter key, or click the Search button.
2. If you don't know what exactly is correct, or most popular name for the product, check out the site's toolbar with their categories such as; computers, electornics, fashion and accessories, home/decor or furniture, videos/books, etc. Choose the one most likely to have what you want, and then browse within the category until you spy your desired product, or see what more specific name to use.
3. Don't be in such a hurry you grab the first item or two you see, and go on. Those are featured spots that someone may have paid for - it doesn't mean they are the best. Instead, use the search filters on the sidebar to bring the best-priced first, or the most popular buys, or certain brand names.
4. Click on, and then examine the details on the products at the various shopping sites you have opened. Switch from one tab in your browser to another as your compare prices. Jot notes. Discuss with a family member or friend if you wish. When you have made your decision, you can move to the purchase stage. Read the details on the product carefully and watch for things that may be added for free, such as free shipping, or whether the item is refurbished (not new), the return policy, and so forth.
5. Compare not only the sticker prices, but calculate the taxes and shipping costs if there are any. Sometimes, for instance, there is no shipping cost, and on the next site, that is a huge hidden fee, larger than the price of the item.
6. Look for reviews of the shopping site or the product. The more reviews the better. Read the negative ones too. They will give you an idea of what problems other customers have had. Don't take them all as the gospel truth, but weigh the over-all sense of the reviews. If a site or product has no reviews it may mean it is very new, or that everyone is shrugging their shoulders at it. Caution!
Obiviously, if nothing turns up quite as you'd hoped, you may need to open some other price comparison sites, or general search engines, and try other names for the product. Repeat the steps above.
To give you a starting boost, I've got some links to some of those shopping engine sites. Don't forget after you've decided where to buy, to first visit any Rebate sites you've joined, in case you can get a rebate buying the product by clicking to that store through the rebate link first. Hey, that could give you from say, 8% to 25% of your money back!
Sometimes you'll find a site or organization that has run some tests to see which shopping engine does best in helping you to compare prices. www.marketwatch.com did such a test with certain items on a range of sites, and they say their top choice now is, www.pricegrabber.com.
I like to check one of the gas price comparison sites from time to time to find out whether I'm still buying gas at the lowest price in my city. These are updated in nearly real time, and I'm happy to know that the lowest price in Saskatoon right now, is just a few blocks from my home!
www.gasbuddy.com - is the first one I look up to compare prices of gasoline.