Black Friday might be the ne plus ultra of shopping holidays, but Cyber Monday is rapidly gaining traction with those who don’t want to brave the crowds at their preferred big box store as soon as their Thanksgiving meal is over. According to Adobe Insights, Americans spent a record $6.59 billion last year on Cyber Monday, marking the largest online shopping day in the country’s history.
In fact, it’s clear that Cyber Monday’s grip on the retail industry won’t be loosening anytime soon. Seeing as last year’s sales marked a 16.8 percent increase from the year before, it’s obvious that digital consumers are just as hungry for deals as their brick-and-mortar counterparts are willing to brave the frigid temperatures for a crack at a sale. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up expert-approved Cyber Monday tips to help you score the best deals possible.
Check for free shipping and free returns.
Though shopping online is far more convenient than trekking to the store, one of the downsides of e-commerce is that you can’t inspect the item you’re buying or, in the case of clothing, try garments on to make sure that they fit. Fortunately, Cyber Monday retailers understand the risk you’re taking by buying products online, and so many of them will offer free shipping and free returns. Of course, not every retailer is going to be so generous with their policies, so “be sure to dig into the fine print to see if each retailer is offering free two-way shipping,” says Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert with RetailMeNot.
Follow your favorite brands on social media.
Before Cyber Monday rolls around, make sure to follow all of your favorite retailers on social media. Brands will frequently reward their most loyal customers with custom deals and discounts released via Twitter, Facebook, or even Instagram.
Watch out for “bloated discounts.”
Don’t be fooled by a retailer’s supposedly stellar Cyber Monday discount. Oftentimes, stores will hike up the original price listed for an item in order to make the discount price look better, but this has no real tangible effect on your savings. To make sure that you’re actually getting a good deal, use apps like BuyVia to check out an item’s pricing history before finalizing your purchase.
Even on big sale days like Cyber Monday, retailers will offer additional discount codes on top of the savings that you see on their sites—you just have to know where to find them. For the best savings, Skirboll specifically recommends installing RetailMeNot’s Genie, a free Chrome plug-in that scours the internet for the best coupons and cash-back offers out there.
And sign up for cash-back apps.
Believe it or not, there are actually apps out there that will pay you money just for shopping as you normally would. One of the best apps for earning easy money is Ebates: depending which store you’re shopping at, the site will reward you with up to 10 percent cash back. While that may not seem like a huge discount, those savings add up fast when you’re making big Cyber Monday purchases on expensive items, like mattresses and KitchenAid mixers.
Fill up your shopping cart—and then abandon it.
A few days before Cyber Monday, head to some of your favorite e-commerce sites and fill up your virtual shopping cart without actually buying anything. If you’re logged in on those sites, then you might just be pleasantly surprised when your email inbox is filled up a few days later with a bunch of coupons trying to entice you to come back and finalize those purchases.
Before Cyber Monday arrives, Skirboll recommends stocking up on discounted gift cards. If you miss some of the great gift card deals that are going on during Black Friday, sites like Costco and RetailMeNot offer discounted gift cards all year round, and you can “use these to save on your entire purchase.”
Be prepared to start shopping early.
Though Cyber Monday doesn’t require leaving the house before dawn like Black Friday does, you still have to start shopping pretty early if you want to score the best deals. For the most part, online retailers make their deals available beginning at midnight—so the earlier you can get to your computer to start shopping, the better.
Compare prices before making purchases.
“With online shopping, it takes mere seconds to do a price comparison on the same product,” says Skirboll. And when you do compare prices, the shopping expert notes that it’s important to “take into consideration all the savings opportunities at each retailer—free shipping, cash-back offers, things like that.”
Sign up for accounts in advance.
If you want to guarantee that you score all your must-have Cyber Monday products, then make sure that you set up accounts with all of the retailers you know you’ll be shopping at before the deals go live. The best Cyber Monday deals come and go in the blink of an eye, and so there’s no time to waste setting up online accounts in the midst of all the chaos.