Google is fast, and offers shoppers a simple way to track down information, goods or services. Its no-nonsense approach has made it the king of all search engines, but some smaller search engines might be a better bet if you like to track down the best deals - especially if you have had a sneaking suspicion that it’s getting harder to find real bargains online. It’s not only the proliferation of websites and online resources that’s making it harder. Some major retailers are using new, sophisticated software to track your buying habits and are offering "sale" prices tailored to your shopping patterns and what they think you’ll pay. This somewhat controversial approach to target marketing has its critics, but many large retailers - including Overstock.com and Dell.com - have been using versions of it.
You may have encountered "targeting technology," a system by which retailers offer different deals to different customers, without really recognizing it as such. Perhaps you’ve encountered the bewildering "disappearing discount" scenario. The "disappearing discount" occurs when a shopper finds a great deal online, leaves the website for a short while and returns to it later only to find that the price has escalated - often within a few minutes. What’s going on? This controversial form of target marketing aims to offer the deal that fits your personal buying patterns. Another version of this "pricing roulette" is more random, and involves 4 or 5 different versions of a retailer’s web pages, with each version offering different products and prices.
What can you do? Well, for a start, you might put targeting technology to work on your behalf and use vertical search engines to zero in on the specific product or category you want to find. These category-specific search engines may be dwarfed by Google, which is accessed by some 380 million people a day, but they can be extremely effective in locating the best prices by scanning thousands of offers on relevant sites to track down the best deals. Many haven’t been around for a long time, but here are the names of a few that have a good track record and a loyal following:
Not all vertical shopping sites are created equal, but www.nextaq.com, www.pricegrabber.com, www.shopping.com, and www.shopzilla.com get high marks from Internet savvy shoppers
Both www.sidestep.com and www.kayak.com search flight and accommodation offers from more than 100 web sites - including well known travel sites like Orbitz as well as major and discount airlines.
- Magazine Subscriptions
The best discount offers for many magazines may be found at www.MagazinePriceSearch.com. The site covers a wide range of periodicals from general interest, to how-to magazines.
- Job Search
www.simplyhired.com rounds up millions of postings from job boards, corporate websites, and newspapers ads. You can do a broad-based search or narrow your search to specific categories - such as international corporations or non-profit organizations.