The Secret Art Of Online Shopping Negotiation: 3 Tactics To Help You Save

An artful and delicate combination of charm, wit, subtle guile, cunning, and candor, the ability to expertly wheel-and-deal is often thought to be an innate attribute reserved for closers with no need for the Glengarry leads.

used car negotiation

photo: jim_bedford / Flickr

While there certainly is truth to the notion that the art of negotiation is congenital, the advent of eCommerce and the online shopping market has helped to level the playing field. Now, more than ever, consumers are empowered by the nearly endless amount of tools and resources they have at their disposal.

Be it on a used car lot or in a digital shopping cart, having the perspective to recognize that every negotiation takes place on a two-way street. Being able to place oneself in the shoes of the party with whom you're dealing with is the key to any successful, diplomatic negotiation. Online then, one must first understand the data-driven marketing that retailers use to leverage their position with consumers in order to retain their business.

But not only do retailers want to retain their customers, they want to create brand advocates through the utilization of marketing tactics such as customer loyalty programs, shopping cart abandonment programs, shoppable media and other innovations in in-store technology, and targeted ads. While cynics may consider some of these methods ugly or intrusive, the truth of the matter is that consumers can and do benefit from them.

Keep in mind that the greater your value to the retailer, the more clout and leverage you'll have. That means that if you're a regular customer who has a relatively regular level of interaction with a brand (typically in the form of a spending history), you're going to be treated better than someone who otherwise doesn't have that history with a brand.

Think of it this way: That cute bartender at your local watering hole may give you a free drink every now and then because you've developed a good rapport together, they know that they can count on a solid tip when it comes time to settle your tab, and the bartender wants to give you a reason to come back the next time you need a place to wet your whistle and gripe about your 9:00 to 5:00. Conversely, that same bartender is far less likely to dish out a free drink to a first-time patron with whom they have no prior relationship or experience.

So, the more you're able to establish yourself as a valued customer, the better and more rewarding your experience will be when it comes time to put these tactics into practice.

What can you, the consumer, do to bolster and utilize such leverage? Let's find out.

1. Abandon Your Shopping Cart

Lonely Shopping Cart

photo: hometownzero / Flickr

Have you ever gone so far as to load up an online shopping cart, gone through almost the entire checkout process, only to decided you either didn't want to or couldn't afford to finalize your purchase? Have you ever received an email the next day or two saying something to the effect of, “Oops! You forgot to finish your checkout with us! Here’s a coupon code for free shipping on your order!”?

If so, you've experienced a shopping cart abandonment program - the modern retailer’s digital answer to the age-old walk-out negotiation tactic - in action.

According to the Baymard Institute, an average of 67.75% of all online shopping carts are abandoned before the customer completes their purchase. This means that retailers are missing out on a ton of potential sales and are now making more of an effort to entice you into following through on a purchase.

Candace Massari, one of our editors at Brad's Deals and someone who regularly wheels and deals in this realm, had this to say about her experience with shopping cart abandonment programs:

The majority of [retailers] didn't give me a special coupon, but had a humorous image (Starbucks was the most entertaining, showing a guy leaving his coffee mug on the top of his car) and showed my cart, along with other items I might be interested in.  Also, I thought [readers] might be interested to know that some merchants send "Oops!" or "We're sorry!" emails with special discount codes. I think, in most cases, they're not apologizing for anything that has actually happened. I feel that there's some data or a belief floating around that if you apologize to someone and give them [an incentive to return], they respond to it. So, "Oops, sorry! Here's 25% off!" does better than just, "Here's 25% off."

So, while abandoning your shopping cart never guarantees that you'll receive an offer for free shipping, an item-specific discount, or a percent-off coupon code, it can be a very effective way to get a retailer's attention and see how willing they are to get you back.

CLICK HERE for our list of merchants that use shopping cart abandonment programs in order to bring you back.

2. Negotiate In 140 Characters Or Less

For almost any brand, the consumer’s ability to become an advocate for them is far more valuable than nearly any dollar amount you can run up in a shopping cart. If retailers can give you a positive experience that you can then relay to family, friends, followers, or even random internet users and readers, they're able to build a better, stronger, and more constructive brand image.

MicrosoftHelps replySocial media, while still a relatively new and ever-evolving customer service platform, is a great way for consumers to interact with and get the most out of a business' customer service. According to a study from social media analytics firm Simply Measured, 32% of top brands now have Twitter accounts dedicated solely to customer service.

Brands are listening to their customers. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by simply expressing an opinion, asking questions, detailing a positive or poor experience, or even giving a brand a goofy shout-out via Twitter or Facebook.

@NikeSupport@Zappos_Service@XboxSupport@UPSHelp@WarbyParkerHelp, @comcastcares, @SamsungSupport, @AskAmex, @AskeBay, and @MicrosoftHelps are all Twitter accounts that do an excellent job of regularly interacting with and aiding customers that reach out to them. Taco Bell even has a separate Twitter account, @TacoBellTruck, that'll tell you when and where they'll be handing out free Taco Bell tacos!

Tip: When communicating with any brand on Twitter, be sure to place a period (.) before the at sign (@). That way it becomes a public @ mention visible to all of  your followers, placing a greater impetus upon the brand's social media coordinator to acknowledge and answer you. Example tweet: .@bradsdeals You guys are the best!! Keep up the awesome work!

3. Use Online Review Sites To Gain A Merchant's Attention

Girl on macbook outside coffee shop

photo: JPott / Flickr

Much in the same way that abandoning a shopping cart or ing at a retailer are ways to engage and interact with a brand, contributing to online review sites is another means of demanding a response from a merchant.

Unhappy with the quality of the food you ordered at a restaurant? Have an excellent experience with a customer service rep? Let them, and anyone else who might be looking for information about a business, know. You can use sites like YelpMerchant CircleAngie's ListInsider Pages, and Citysearch to disseminate your opinion and feedback to the masses through the magic of the Internet.

Again, the consumer's perception of a brand is very important to any business but this - and any other negotiation tactics - should never be used by consumers as a means of extorting a business, as has been the case in the past with some Yelp users have threatened to post poor reviews of businesses unless they were otherwise compensated. It's simply poor form and gives brands little incentive to want to do business with you in the future.

Know something we don't? Have an experience with or opinion about online shopping negotiation you'd like to share?

If you come across any other retailers that utilize shopping cart abandonment programs - or any other marketing methods used to retain customers - let us know in the comments section below. We always love to hear about and learn from your experiences!

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