3 Ways Online Retailers Get You to Open Your Wallets Wide

Updated January 11, 2024 by Kyle James

A couple months ago I exposed 4 Secret Retail Tricks and how to avoid them altogether. But what about shopping online? When I’m sitting on my cozy couch buying something online, how can online retailers get me to pay more or buy something I don’t necessarily need? Or worse yet, are they tracking me via technology like something out of 1984.

Well, I’m here to tell you they’re doing both, and much more. In some ways, it’s the price we pay for using technology. Yes, it makes our lives easier, but also makes it easier for retailers to track where we go and what we do. Here are the sneaky ways stores get us to open our wallets wide and what we can do about it.

3 Ways Online Retailers Get You to Open Your Wallets Wide

1. Special Coupon Treatment

Were you aware that many online retailers pay companies to analyze how shoppers use their website and then target them with coupons accordingly?

For example, if you visit the American Eagle Outfitters website, login to your account, click on a men’s polo shirt, play around with the shirt colors, read a review, then use the zoom feature to take a closer look at the shirt you’re much more likely to be considered a “highly interested buyer” and receive a coupon via email to come back and make your purchase then if you just perused several shirts quickly then left the site.

The takeaway for you? Other than the kinda scary thought that everything you do online is being tracked, it is good to know that a coupon which shows up in your inbox might be because you didn’t buy.

It can be used as a cool little trick to score a coupon, a bit passive aggressive perhaps, but definitely worth a shot on larger purchases.

See Also: 12 Insider Tips on Store Markdown Days…Know When to Shop

2. Retargeting Strategy

A couple days ago I was shopping online at Amazon looking for a castration tool for our new baby goats here on the farm.

Later that night I was online doing some reading on a couple news websites and low and behold, there on the sidebar, was an ad for the castration tool I almost bought and a couple other related products. Don’t ask because you don’t want to know.

This is becoming a very popular strategy that many online retailers are implementing and it’s called retargeting.

Taking your attention back to the product you almost bought or trying to get you to buy something related.

Pretty smart and it sometimes works if you don’t have your guard up. It can easily trigger the “Oh, I could totally use that!” part of your brain.

Look for this trend to continue to grow as retailers see the HUGE benefit of delivery highly relevant ads to your eyeballs.

See Also: I Cracked the Price Tag Code at a Bunch of Major Retailers

3. Big Brother is Watching & Tracking

Many websites now use your physical location in the country to target specific products to you.

For example, if you’re shopping online in San Diego at a clothing retailer you might see swimsuits on sale. Shopping online at the same website in Minneapolis, look for outerwear items all over the homepage.

While this seems like smart marketing, it could easily get “Big Brotherish” and quite creepy.

Trends like getting a coupon via email when you’re in the vicinity of a particular store or even retailers tracking where you walk in the actual store so they can target products towards you.

According to this New York Times article, Nordstrom actually admitted to doing this last year, shoppers quickly cried “Foul”, they admitted it was a mistake and stopped doing it…for now.

Many stores can now track you by the mere fact you have a smartphone in your pocket or purse.

You don’t even have to download their app or be a registered shopper.

If your smartphone searches for nearby wireless hot-spots, and the retailer has a wireless network in-store, they gotcha and they can track where in the store you go and how much time you spend there.

They can even track if you’re a return customer because smartphones send unique ID codes when they search for WiFi hotspots.

Crazy? Yes. But this is clearly the future of shopping as brick & mortar retailers continue to combat online shopping and try to bring the Amazon experience into their stores.

Ask the Reader: How do you feel about being tracked online and in-store? Are you cool with it if it means you’ll get better coupons on products you actually need or does the whole thing creep you out?

By Kyle James


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DC @ Young Adult Money

This is some crazy stuff but I’m not surprised. Companies will do just about anything to get an edge on their competition and a big part of that is capitalizing on their customers and getting them to spend more money, more often.