Web sites like ebay will send you an e-mail if you've been outbid, or when you win an auction item.

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Online Shopping Pricing Alerts

According to an article in the New York Times, Internet users downloaded 242 million coupons in a single year. A great deal of those coupons come from online shopping notifications and e-mailed newsletters. The same article said some companies only use e-mail notifications to offer discounts. If you didn't get the discount from your e-mail inbox, you missed out.

Pricing alerts help you get better prices, get inside tips on unadvertised sales, bargains and Internet-only deals. Every retailer has a different way of setting up online pricing alerts, but you may be required to register for the retailer's e-mail newsletter before getting access to the alerts. Some companies offer you more than one newsletter or price alert. Wal-Mart's Internet newsletter sign-up page has several options including entertainment, babies and books.

Coupon Web sites are another source of online shopping notifications. Coupon Heaven is dedicated to bringing Internet bargains via e-mail alerts and coupons available for download from the site. Sites like this offer several ways to customize your experience with search tools and menus to find coupons that are:

  • merchant-specific
  • brand-specific
  • category-specific

Many of these discount alerts contain coupon codes used when ordering through a company's Web site. These are simple to use, but you'll need to locate the place on the shopping cart or electronic order form to insert your code.

The Better Business Bureau recommends caution when responding to online price alerts from vendors that are new to you . If you haven't shopped at a Web site before, make sure you understand return policies, mailing costs and other details before placing your order. Don't buy a bargain only to find that you paid too much in shipping and handling fees. Be sure you know how the item will be shipped and what it costs.

There are few statistics available on the use of e-mail alerts, but it's obvious that the demand for these alerts has exploded. Sandy Carter, Vice President of Websphere Marketing, Strategy, and Channels for IBM, says 75 percent of the 175 million U.S. internet users are online shoppers. It's not clear how many of those millions use e-mail alerts, but e-commerce consultant company Javelin Strategy reports alert use doubled (based on a study from 2004 and 2006). That report also says even more growth is coming.

E-mail alerts are becoming as common as e-mail itself. At the moment, customers use them as an advantage; as more industries catch up to Internet retailers, investment sites and real estate companies, e-mail alerts could become an indispensable part of the online experience.

For lots more information about pricing alerts and related topics, check out the links on the next page.