Amazon isn't always the best
Amazon is a firm favourite with the nation's online shoppers, but how does it really shape up to the competition?
If you’re familiar with online shopping, chances are, you’ve also bought something from the goliath that is Amazon.co.uk.
Amazon has come a long way since its UK launch in 1998, evolving dramatically in terms of both diversity and price.
And, it seems to have paid off. The online retailer reported its best ever Christmas in 2008, with profits up 9% to $225m (£150m) last year. In these credit crunching times, Amazon must be doing something right.
These healthy numbers are also backed-up by our recent poll. Over half (55%) of respondents said they bought most of their DVDs from Amazon, and a whopping 79% stated they bought most of their books from the online powerhouse.
Books, which were Amazon's primary focus when it launched, are a stronghold for the retailer. But Waterstones.com (which used to have a deal with Amazon) a distant second, with only 6.6% of respondents buying most of their books from there.
Good on service, good on price?
Despite Amazon's dominance, it’s important not to become complacent when shopping online.
After all, though Amazon reduced its Super Saver delivery from £15 to just £5 last October, (meaning many of us no longer have to add a 'filler' item to take it over that magical £15), rivals such as Play.com have always offered free delivery on all purchases.
In addition, while 85% of you rated Amazon as either very competitive or competitive when it comes to price, Amazon’s price drop policy, which refunded you the difference if the item you bought dropped in price within 30 days, was removed in September, providing a blow to many shoppers in the run-up to Christmas.
So how does Amazon compare when it comes to price?
Here’s a list of some of the most wanted items at the moment, and how the different online stores compare. The cheapest prices can be found in bold:
|Store||Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama||Eclipse: Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer||Mamma Mia DVD||Nintendo Wii||Left 4 Dead (XBox 360)|
Prices correct as at 16th February 2009
The results show that while Amazon proves the best value for many items, this is not always the case.
And, despite Amazon lowering its free delivery policy, delivery prices can still make a difference. For example, if you fancied finding out what happens in the third book in the popular Twilight saga, Eclipse, Amazon offers the cheapest option, at £3.86.
However, the £5 minimum required to qualify for free delivery means you’ll also be hit with a £2.75 delivery charge – taking the total to a not-so-bargainous £6.61.
On the other hand, Waterstone’s also sells the book, and while it will cost you 12p more, you’ll also get it delivered to your door at no extra charge.
In addition to watching out for delivery charges, popular items such as the Nintendo Wii are also worth researching. While Amazon’s Wii sells for £176.16, I found the console for just £166.37 at ShopTo.net - that's nearly £10 less.
In fact, ShopTo is a very good place for getting bargain games and consoles, and often has Wiis and Wii Fits in stock where others fail to deliver.
Sniffing out a bargain
So, what can you do to ensure you always get a good deal when shopping online?
The first piece of advice isn’t exactly rocket science: shop around.
Using a comparison engine such as Kelkoo, Pricerunner or Sccope to check available prices will ensure these shopping Googles do all the hard work for you.
Once you’ve done this, double check sites such as HotUKDeals to see whether you can get an extra discounts, or free delivery codes to add more power to your pound.
Downloading from the Amazon
Finally, one other area where Amazon is excelling is MP3s. The service launched last December and is fast becoming one of the biggest rivals to iTunes.
With songs from just 59p, Amazon’s offerings undercut many iTunes prices, so if you enjoy downloading your music, it's definitely worth considering, as are the options in this article.
At the end of the day, Amazon is a great store. I've bought many items from there in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.
Just be sure to shop around, and don't become lazy when it comes to clicking that checkout button. Do your research, and those pennies will soon add up to pounds.