It's almost certain to be found in your pocket or handbag anyway, so why not use your mobile device to uncover better bargains while shopping? Keep your device in hand while perusing the aisles—you'll be surprised what sorts of offers are there for the taking.
Go into your favourite retailer, armed with a few tricks to score the most savings and perks:
• Get the store app: Many major retailers offer their own shopping apps, filled with cool extras like mobile coupons, list-making tools, store event notifications, and more. Inside the store, an app's barcode scanner or price-check feature can help streamline your shopping experience.
• Look for QR codes: Using your smartphone to scan those small, square, pixelated bar codes found on shelf labels or product packaging can sometimes lead to special features.
You might find a discount code or coupon, online product reviews, or a direct link to order the product online if the shelf is empty (just think of the saved angst around holiday toy-shopping time!).
• Check in: If you think it's silly to share on your favourite social media site the exciting news that you're shopping at your local retailing giant, think again. A check-in on sites like Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter may earn you special promos, discounts or other perks, in return for your word-of-mouth marketing.
• Sign up for texts: Your favourite retailer may offer additional coupons and special offers via text message. Sign up to their list to have deal alerts delivered right to your smartphone and then have the cashier scan or input the discount code at checkout.
• Get app-happy: Sure, retailer apps are a great resource, but you can really sharpen your shopping skills with third-party apps.
• Comparison-shopping apps help you make sure you're buying the right product at the right time, and can even let you check prices at nearby (or online) competitors.
• Gift-list apps ensure that you never forget a special occasion, and that you're never short of ideas for the perfect present—which is especially useful during hectic holiday shopping.
• Coupon apps are handy to search while you're standing in line at checkout, just to make sure you're not missing out on a single deal.
Shop smart, shop securely
It's easy to get caught up in the fun of shopping, but just like you keep an eye on your handbag or a hand on your wallet in a crowded store, you need to be mindful of security when mobile shopping.
• Vet your apps: Think twice before downloading an app directly from a website or from an "app store" you've never heard of. Without the rigorous accreditation process performed by major app sources, it's all too easy for a rogue app to load malware onto your device.
• Lock your device: Password-protecting your phone or tablet may cost you a few extra keystrokes, but it's your first line of defense against security threats if your device is lost or stolen. With so many apps storing sensitive information like banking details and credit card numbers, entering a device password each time you need access is a worthwhile extra step.
• Install updates: You may roll your eyes when yet another app or operating system update alert pops up on your device, but there's good reason for those frequent notices. Among other improvements, software developers are constantly working to beef up security in their products, so downloading regular updates is the best way to keep yourself—and your data—protected.
• Beware of Wi-Fi: When mobile shopping in a public space, try to do so only via your carrier's data network or over an encrypted Wi-Fi network.
Many public Wi-Fi networks are just that: public, meaning any data you send goes out over the network unencrypted and could potentially be intercepted. Low-tech peeping can be just as dangerous, so make sure your device's screen isn't viewable by anyone else in your vicinity.
• Charge it: For an added measure of protection, use a major credit card for payment rather than a debit card. Most major cards carry fraud protection that will cover any fraudulent charges should your account be compromised, while debit cards typically don't offer the same level of protection.When it comes to scoring great deals and insider perks at your favourite store, your greatest tool may already be in your pocket. Count on your mobile device to save you time and money while shopping—just remember to keep one eye on your personal and financial data while scouting for bargains with the other.