The stock market may be showing signs of a rebound, but consumers still have a lock on their wallets at retail.
Shopping online for the right products at better prices can be quite overwhelming, but with some know-how, it's less intimidating and certainly worthwhile. These 12 tools will not only help you save cash, but they might also make you more confident about your purchases. I am.
Frucall: Frucall is a really great service. When you're at a brick-and-mortar store checking out a product, you can either call Frucall's free telephone line, text-message the company, or access its mobile site and compare the store's price with online pricing. When you input the name or bar code, it returns the pricing on the product from Amazon.com, Shopping.com, and other services. It's quick and easy. Plus, it's free, though standard text-messaging rates do apply. I really liked Frucall.
Google Product Search: Formerly known as Froogle, Google's Product Search is a relatively useful tool for finding cheaper prices on desired products. It will return a good portion of the online stores currently selling products that match up with your search terms. It also lists their seller ratings, based on customer reports. It's a nice tool, but it doesn't quite stand up to some of the more useful sites in this roundup. Consider Google Product Search a backup.
Hawkee: Hawkee boasts that it's a "technology social network." Although I wouldn't go that far, it's certainly a well-designed (and unique) price comparison tool. You can check product pricing at major online retailers like any other price comparison site. But Hawkee is distinguished by its users. They can upload pictures of products, add videos from YouTube, and "like" products they recommend. Users can also get updates whenever their friends post comments or "like" an item. I was impressed by Hawkee. I highly recommend it.
MySimon: MySimon features one of the best designs in this roundup. You can use its search field to find products or use its intuitive menu system to sift through product categories. I especially like the site's listings of top brands--it makes finding popular products pretty easy. (MySimon is a part of CBS Interactive, which also publishes CNET.)
NexTag: NexTag helps you shop for products in industries ranging from automobiles to collectibles. It has the basics, like electronics and clothing. But it's the grouping of niche categories that attracts me to NexTag. I searched through the site to find the best price on cars, and it helped. I wanted to find some collectibles for family members, and it was my best resource. If you're looking for products outside the norm, NexTag is for you.
PriceGrabber.com: PriceGrabber.com is your run-of-the-mill price comparison service. You can use the site's search field to find specific products. You can also use its individual categories to drill down into industries. It works well, and it has a slew of sites with prices offered. It doesn't boast extras, but it's worth trying out.
RefundPlease.com: If you buy a product online, some retailers will refund the difference between what you paid and the new, discounted price, if the item was purchased in the past 30 days. But sometimes you miss the savings. That's where RefundPlease.com comes in. The service lets you input all your recent purchases. It then monitors the product's respective online page for 30 days to see if the price drops. If it does, you'll receive an alert containing the new price and link to where you can receive the credit on the retailer's Web site. It's a great service that you should definitely try out.
Scanbuy Shopper: Scanbuy Shopper is downloaded onto your mobile phone. Whenever you go to a store, you can fire it up, input the product's bar code, and the application will then search the Web to find the best prices online. It's as simple as that. I like Scanbuy. It's not as convenient as Frucall, but it's worth using.
Shopping.com: Whether you want to buy clothes or gadgets, Shopping.com will help you find the best deals. The site is designed well. It makes finding your desired products quick and easy. Once you find what you want, it lists the product and online stores selling it. Most of the stores listed in the service are sites you've probably heard about, but don't worry if you haven't--they've all been vetted by security vendors. Finding products on Shopping.com is simple and quick. Check it out.
TheFind.com: Instead of listing topics like Shopping.com and others, TheFind.com provides a search field to find products. Once you input your query, its results page lists a matrix of search results, including pictures of the products and online stores selling them. You can view prices from all the stores. But TheFind doesn't stop online. If you want to buy products at a brick-and-mortar store, the site automatically determines your location and lets you search for availability in your area. Within seconds, you'll have a listing of the respective product's price and availability. It's a neat tool.
TicTap: TicTap helps you find cheap prices online. It searches only Amazon, so it's not as useful as some competitors. But where TicTap shines is in its extras. It provides alerts, which tell you when a product you've searched for has dropped in price. It has store locators, in case you want to shop at a brick-and-mortar. And it even features Amazon Unbox previews, if you want to buy a movie. TicTap is a fine site with a bunch of extras. I just wish it would search more sites.
Yahoo Shopping: Yahoo Shopping is one of the leaders in the price savings space for good reason. The site lets you search for any product, and within seconds, you'll have a list of stores showing all their prices. I found that Yahoo Shopping features the best list of stores in this roundup. And its search field returned the best results when I input generic terms like "laptop cases." Overall, Yahoo Shopping provided an outstanding experience. It tops my list, when I search for cheaper products.
The Top 3
If you're looking for the best of the best, here they are:
1. Yahoo Shopping