Making a living in an industry filled with calls to action, keywords and "activated consumers" can often make shopping online feel more like work than pleasure. That was until I began using knowledge from the inside to get better deals...
Of course, much of what I'm about to explain could also be discovered with a healthy amount of common sense. I’m merely framing it from my perspective as both consumer and man behind the curtain.
So, a little context. When you browse to a company's website or, even better, click on an ad for their product, you enter what's known in the business as a "conversion funnel". It sounds very 1984, but is merely a description of the journey one takes as they "convert" from a casual browser to a buyer. The further along the process you get, viewing product listings, providing contact details and so on, the further into the "funnel" you go. The narrowing of the funnel, of course, represents the number of potential buyers diminishing as the sales journey progresses.
During the journey, businesses and marketers can tweak things based on previous visitors (sometimes even specific individuals) to slowly but surely increase the number of sales made. A buy-one-get-one-free here, a free delivery there, a wink, nudge and a cheeky prod and more buyers are hooked. The nefarious detail varies, but most will use all manner of clever bells, whistles, smoke, mirrors and yes, my bit - persuasive language - to seal the deal.
But, for the consumer, the funnel should be equally important because, as is always the case, you are the one with the power. Go stick it to "the man"...
Like haggling with a car salesman, you can bluff their digital equivalent when you shop online and bag a better deal. While you don't have as many options as you do when talking to a human (remember when suggesting you wanted to switch phone carrier would unlock a shower of deals and discounts?), you can effectively hint at what you want to buy and delicately urge the seller to sweeten the deal.
Showing what you want to buy could be as simple as clicking on and studying a product, but may require you to go as far as putting it into your online basket. Ding. In the eyes of the seller you're "activated" and on the cusp of becoming "converted". But what if you were to walk away at this point? Simply close your browser and do something else. It's the digital version of agreeing a price for that secondhand Lamborghini then throwing away the pen and walking off the lot when the contract is produced. The car salesman can chase you down the street, but the website needs to work a little harder. That's why it pays, despite the risk of never ending spam, to provide some form of contact information, even if it's an email account you have set up purely for signups of this kind.
Often, your actions on the site will have triggered a response designed to make you buy at all costs. The company doesn’t want you to leave without buying but, as far as they can see, that’s exactly what you’re about to do. Alarm bells are ringing at HQ, salesmen are sweating and marketing folk are sharpening their pencils preparing to reel you in, the giant marlin to mount on their wall. (Okay, that last bit was more akin to the Mad Men era. These days it's probably just an algorithm. Sigh.)
Now you have them on the ropes (well, at least prepared to offer you a price closer to the actual value of the product) all you have to do is wait. Keep an eye on your inbox (plus your phone if you provided your mobile number) and, more often than not, a discount offer will fly in. It will normally feature a subject line as compelling as “Did you forget something?” or “Ben, your basket is waiting for you…”. The content of the email will likely provide a code or link with a free shipping offer, reduced price or add on items that may or may not float your boat. The latter plays on the simple psychology of "well, I don't want it but it's better than what I would have got".
I’ve received offers as hefty as a 40% discount using this method, I've definitely received free shipping and I know I got free chocolates or a teddy bear with an order of flowers. So, when time isn't an issue, why not try it and see what you get?.
It’s not an infallible process and relies on the brand’s technology investment as well as your perseverance but, even if it works 50% of the time, you’re still proving your broadband subscription is worthwhile. As a bonus tip, I received a discount email AFTER making a purchase recently, replied to the email voicing my discontent and received the same discount as a refund (see above).
So, my friends, I urge you to go forth, fill your shopping baskets and wait…