NEW YORK (
) -- Remember when online shopping was all about the joy of buying holiday gifts from the comfort of your couch?
Well, step aside, ease and convenience, because the price war between major e-retailers has turned the online shopping world in a battleground for discounts -- or so we're told.
Indeed, this holiday season, while investors fret that their e-retailers will suffer from overly exuberant price-chopping, shoppers will be taking to their browsers to sift through online retailer after online retailer, all in the hope of finding the finest online deals.
But will they? To discover exactly which online retailer is offering the most valuable promotions this holiday season, TheStreet's Shopping Spy put her own wish list to the test on
And the winner was ... um, nobody.
Apparently, it turns out that when you add up 10 must-have items, including Leapster 2,
iPod touch, the
Blu-ray DVD, a Samsung HD television, Sarah Palin's new book, a Nikon Coolpix camera, an HP Mini netbook, a Garmin GPS and a Razor scooter, the prices are -- drumroll please -- nearly identical at all three sites.
In all, the 10 items in came to a total price tag of $1,818 at Amazon.com, $1,917.22 at Target.com and $1,834 at Walmart.com. And only three of the aforementioned items --
, the Nikon and the GPS -- had any significant price differences at all. All three items were more expensive at Target.com, which accounted for that site's slightly higher price. (And, it should be noted, the day
we conducted our comparison shopping, a sale at Target.com reduced the price on its TK, bringing it in line with price at the other two sites, and bringing Target.com's total price tag in with Walmart.com's.)
Indeed, instead of a standout winner, what we found is how easy it is to get trapped scrolling the sites throughout the day, hoping to stumble on a new deal or one you missed.
Amazon's Black Friday page, which features limited-time deals that change throughout the day, was, to that end, the most alluring. And ultimately the continuous clicking resulted in an impulse purchase of a Nintendo DS Lite for $97 (originally $129).
Eager to take advantage of the a sale, we quickly placed the order when the deal appeared on the screen, since a countdown clock said there was only two hours to get the hand-held gaming system at this low price. Turns out, just a day later, Amazon was still offering the same exact deal.
Similarly, Walmart.com hosts a special page for its online deals, while a blue shopping-bag icon alerts users to its "one-day only" promotions.
So how will shoppers chose which e-retail site they'll use to shop this holiday season? Instead of focusing on the prices these e-retailers are offering, investors should turn their attention to customer service.
Currently, none of these e-retailers have suffered any major snafus -- like the one experienced by
last weekend, when its searches, for the better part of a day, erroneously returned limited or no results.
And while Target.com may be slightly more expensive than its competitors sites, it does offer some nifty tools -- like a gift-tracker checklist designed to help shoppers stay on budget, and a Holiday 101 list that details all of the miscellaneous must-haves, like those infernal extra batteries, that shoppers often forget.
Likewise, both Target.com and Walmart.com also allow for easy returns directly to their brick-and-mortar locations. While on Amazon shoppers have up until Jan. 31 to return purchases shipped between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.
And then there is the free shipping. Target, for one, is offering free shipping on more than 100,000 items when customers spend $50 or more. Amazon also features its Super Savor Shipping on orders of $25 or more.
Ultimately, then, it might all come down to loyalty. Amazon.com remains the most popular shopping site, with 816.8 million shopping sessions taking place in the third week of November alone, according to Compete, an analytics firm. During that time, Walmart.com logged 315.1 million sessions, while Target.com saw 224.3 million.
And one thing we now know: Those 1.3 billion shoppers all got the same deals.
-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York
Follow TheStreet.com on
and become a fan on
Overall, however, you will be hard pressed to find many retailers selling Nintendo Wii consoles under $199 this year, and Samsung is being highly promoted across a majority of big-box retailers including
Video: Black Friday Stocks
Copyright 2009 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.