The Rise of Bargain Bots

It should come as no surprise to marketers that online shoppers spend a good chunk of time performing product research before purchase. Heck, most people research things they aren’t even planning to buy online. But exactly how many consumers are doing this? As it turns out, almost all of them.

According to AdWeek and MineWhat.com, nearly 81% of consumers are researching the products they want to buy, with 61% reading reviews before considering a purchase. During this research, products are being compared and contrasted to determine what site or seller offers the best deal. (We’ve all been there.)

With all this research going on, someone looked at the plight of these tiresome toilers and decided to do something about it. Now, technology is answering the call with new tools to aid this consumer experience.

Enter the Bargain Bot

If you’ve used the internet in the last five years, chances are, you’ve encountered one of these babies. They come in the form of browser plugins and platform engines that are able to perform a variety of tasks for the online shopper—and I mean a VARIETY.

From curating viewed products and auto comparing prices, to tracking purchases, finding coupons, and compiling wish lists, these tools help reduce the level of research needed to expedite purchases online. This is great news for you, the marketer.

Three of my favorite tools include:

  • ShopTagrThe personal assistant every avid online shopper needs. ShopTagr follows you across the interweb, saving items you want but may not be ready to purchase. Not only does it curate these for you, but it also tracks price changes and product availability.
  • HoneyThis browser extension works to identify any and all coupons that can be applied to your potential purchase. In addition, it can also track recent price changes and compare between sellers on the same site to find the absolute best deal. It’s basically free money.
  • Invisible HandThis tool hovers in the background as you browse sites for goodies. While you think you may have found a winner, Invisible Hand appears to alert you that SiteXYZ has this same item for 30% less. Especially useful for airline and hotel reservations.

Drawbacks for the Marketer

Of course, every retail rose has its thorn. While bargain bots are an obvious win for shoppers, they don’t always spell success for sellers. Before, marketers could somewhat rely on the laziness or ignorance of consumers to snag a purchase over their competitors. Now, however, these bots are able to cut through the woo of your site’s catchy marketing to alert the user of better deals elsewhere. This forces online retailers to optimize every detail of their products if they hope to land in the bot’s good graces.

Additionally, these bots could spell disaster if the retailer isn’t aware of the hosting site’s functionality. One such instance involves an Amazon seller losing nearly $45,000 due to a coupon loophole. The seller offered a 100% off coupon code to one customer as a make-good for a botched shipment.

Unfortunately, the seller didn’t realize that Amazon makes active promotional codes available on their backend, thus allowing coupon bots, like Honey, to find and apply them. So, what started as one small transaction ended in literally thousands of purchase requests using the single 100% off code. RIP.

All Things Considered

Overall, if you’re an online consumer, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be taking advantage of these indispensable time-saving resources. For most, they only require a simple account creation to gain access to their helping hands.

For marketers, a word to the wise: Explore and research how these individual tools work to best optimize your own goods. Remember: the bots are only bad for poorly positioned products. If yours is the best (or even somewhat close to the best), it’ll reap the benefits of being referred to over your competitors.

Questions? Comments? Interdimensional cyberspace concerns? Email [email protected] for a quick chat.

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