Column: despite gripes, online deals still huge for smart shoppers

Katherine Degnen, left, Jim Thomas and Anna Hofmanova speak about how they could make the RetailMeNot app better during a meeting at the company’s downtown Austin headquarters on Sept. 8. Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This week's Digital Savant column is all about online deals. After the grumbles I heard over July's Amazon Prime Day, an echo of complaints that I also heard last Black Friday, I decided to get an idea of the current state of online coupons, deals and sales.

To do so, I talked to RetailMeNot and Offers.com, two Austin companies that are big in the online deals space and asked them what shifts they’re seeing among our online shopping habits. They were hugely helpful and I ended up with more information than I could fit into one column, so I’ll likely be revisiting the subject closer to the holidays.

In the meantime, you can read my story in Tuesday's American-Statesman print edition or on MyStatesman.com. Here's an excerpt:

Smartphones, apps and social media, RetailMeNot's Brian Hoyt says, have made shoppers a lot smarter about their shopping; but the need to get the best deal is a trend that has stuck since the 2007-2009 recession.

"People want to discern and get the best prices — and savings are just incredibly important to them," he said.

Some are engaging in what Hoyt calls "The Triple Play of Savings" by making purchases with an online coupon, buying the item with a discounted gift card (such as a 5-percent-off Target gift card bought earlier) and then making the purchase with a credit card or online sales site that offers points or cash back on all purchases. You could call the practice "stacking."

When e-shopping sites like Amazon emerged, retail stores worried about "showrooming," when consumers browse in a store then make their purchase online later. Now the reverse is happening. People are "webrooming" by browsing online, then making their actual purchase in a store and getting it price-matched to the price on the web. Why? People love instant gratification.

Read the rest of the column here and let me know where you're finding the best online shopping deals in the comments.