NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Holiday shoppers love their coupons, and particularly so in the week leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The discount services website Coupons.com says coupon activation codes grew by 30,000 in 2012 and by 280,000 last year in the week leading up to Black Friday.
The company recently canvassed 2,000 U.S. consumers and asked how they've used discounts and coupons on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, discovering that last year the top 10 most popular code activations included brands such as Bath & Body Works, Macy's, Dick's Sporting Goods, J.C. Penney, Amazon, Toys 'R' Us, Wal-Mart, Budget Rent-A-Car and Ulta.
The "most searched coupon code" retail sites included Target, Kohls, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Bath & Body Works, Sears, Buca di Beppo, Macy's, Best Buy and H&M.
The insiders at Coupon.com say there's an art form in finding the best deals. Jeanette Pavini, the site’s savings expert, offers some tips:
Plan your hunt. "Start gathering all of the ads that are sent to you so you can compare deals," Pavini says. "There are even websites that gather together all of the Black Friday ads so you can find them all in one place."
Rank your best leads. "Make a shopping list and prioritize it," she says. "If you really want an iPad, that should be No. 1 on your priority list and your first store or website you visit.”
Get the best shipping deals. "Note any free shipping minimums and see if you can combine purchases at that website to meet the minimum," Pavini says.
"Free" yourself. Look for any free gifts with purchase or bonus offers you can get, Pavini advises.
Combine shopping with pickup points. "Some stores will even let you make your purchases online and choose the in-store pickup location," Pavini says. "That way you can take advantage of the convenience of online shopping — but in some cases pick up your items within an hour."
Make a mobile plan. "A lot of people are also researching right from store aisles with their smartphone," Pavini says. "This is a great idea especially if a store has a price match policy. Depending on the retailer's policy, you may be able to show the competitor's lower price right on your phone and they will match it on the spot — so make sure you are familiar with a store's price match policy."
— By Brian O'Connell for MainStreet