Online shopping is a great way to get the best bargains without having to brave foul weather or battle crowds. However, with worldwide inventory at your fingertips, finding what you want can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Savvy online shoppers know how to cut through the clutter to get the best item at the best price and also benefit from the insights of other online consumers.

Let Others Take Care of the Mousework

Whether you’re looking for a difficult-to-find book or that killer pair of sneakers, you don’t have to spend hours searching the Web and clicking back and forth between sites to make comparisons. Help is at hand when you use a Web bot. Short for “robot,” a bot is a search engine that gathers prices for products from a variety of vendors and ranks them for you. Bots can shop the Web for the best deals at a speed and on a scale that would be impossible for anyone but Superman or Wonder Woman. There are many sites that offer this kind of shopping service, and they offer different search options and levels of service.

BizRate.com is one example of a bot. Founded in 1996 as a consumer research business, BizRate.com not only finds the lowest prices, it also provides you with merchant ratings based on consumer feedback. BizRate.com gives you spot checks of the top deals and allows you to make side-by-side comparisons with similar products.

If you’re looking for books, there’s one excellent clearinghouse. Bookfinder.com is a dynamic search engine that finds the best buys from among 40 million new, used, rare, and out-of-print books for sale around the world. For example, a recent search for a favorite cookbook turned up twenty-eight copies.

PriceGrabber.com also searches for product information and great deals. In addition to its “user” reviews, the site includes “expert” opinions written by product reviewers. PriceScan.com is a similar site that allows you to sort by price from online and offline retailers.

With Shopping.com you get the search features of a bot combined with useful consumer reviews. You can also read reviews of products as well as reviews of their retailers, and Shopping.com also features extensive product specifications. For example, when doing research about cameras, you can get details such as weight, compression modes, and focal length.

With all the advantages bots offer, there is but one caveat online shoppers need to be aware of – some merchandisers pay bots to put their products at the top of the list.

Keeping an Ear to the Ground

Even shopaholics have to sleep sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they have to give up searching for bargains. Sites such as ShopItToMe.com keep an eye out round-the-clock for that perfect outfit. Here’s how it works: You register your favorite designer brands and the sizes you’re looking for. ShopItToMe.com scans the sites of leading retailers. When the items you want go on sale, ShopItToMe.com sends you an e-mail.

And if you’re looking for a teacup to complete your dinner service, the search is always on. At Replacements.com, you can register your dinner service. When items in your pattern become available, they’ll send you an e-mail. It’s like having an online personal spy keeping an eye out for bargains for you 24/7.

Tapping Into the Grapevine

But what fun is shopping without having someone else around to share your finds with? And from whom you can get insights about shops you may not know? That’s why there are websites that turn online shopping from a solitary pursuit into a social event, enabling you to become part of an online community. One such site is StoreAdore.com. This site works as an online forum where shoppers find and share information and stories about the best websites as well as boutiques and specialty stores in their area.

Clip and Save

Another great way to save when online shopping is with coupon sites. These sites act as a home page for discounts and savings across the Internet. Instead of selling you merchandise directly, these sites lead you to retailers where you can buy the things you want – at a discount. CouponCabin.com, Wow-Coupons.com and CurrentCodes.com are examples of coupon sites.

Giving Something Back

And just in case you’re feeling a little guilty about shopping for yourself, there are sites that donate a portion of what you spend to charity. GoodSearch.com is a one such charity portal that lets you choose a charity when shopping (there are several MS charities to choose from). GreaterGood.com and iGive.com are two other charity portals. Using a charity portal costs you nothing and you get a chance to contribute to a worthy cause – but you must use the charity portal for your donation to count.

So the next time you shop online, don’t do it alone. Join the crowd, shop with a bot, and become a part of the growing online shopping community.

Note: This website does not have a relationship with or endorse the third parties and/or third party websites mentioned in the content.