Cheap and Cheerful: How AI Is Making Bargain Hunting Easier Than Ever

I’ll admit to a certain skepticism about AI and bargain hunting. I have tried letting it write poetry for me, generate complaint letters in Spanish, and make presentations. But shopping? I have spent years honing my bargain-hunting skills both online and offline. I’d cheerfully give any robot — even one that’s swallowed half the internet — a run for their money.

That said, stalking products online consumes a lot of time. If AI can help, that’s time I can spend on other things. Here are some of the ways AI makes bargain hunting more straightforward.

1. It makes research easier

If you’ve ever bought something on sale only to find the product isn’t quite what you wanted, you’re not alone. Sometimes it is hard to know what questions to ask, or what reviews to trust. This is one part of bargain hunting where AI can make a world of difference. After all, it isn’t a money-saving deal if you wind up spending your hard-earned cash on something that isn’t fit for purpose.

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I asked Bard and Bing to help me find the best-value convection microwave oven. Bard came back with a bunch of questions, such as what budget, size, and specific features I wanted. It helped me hone in on what I was looking for. Bing went straight for the money and offered up a range of microwaves, some in stores I wouldn’t have checked on my own.

Having picked a make and model I liked, I asked Bard about customer sentiment. It used people’s reviews to generate a great summary of the pros and cons. This saved me trawling through the comments and its findings matched my research.

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On the topic of reviews, check out Fakespot. This AI browser extension weeds out fake reviews and quickly highlights both positive and critical comments. It told me the reviews were mostly reliable, but also that Amazon had altered or removed some reviews from the listing.

Top tip: Before you start shopping, use AI to ask the right questions and whittle down your options. It can save you time and highlight issues you may not have considered.

2. It can find coupons and cash-back opportunities

None of the AI tools told me that credit cards might earn the best rewards on my microwave purchase. Not that I needed telling, since it’s one of the most reliable ways to get cash back on all your shopping. Still, I’d have liked at least one of the robots to speak up.

Bard told me that Amazon had a $20 coupon for my microwave and directed me to other coupon websites that aggregate deals. SimplyCodes — praised as one of the leading AI coupon sites — did not have any offers on microwaves. There were a lot of deals, and if I’d been in the market for a speaker, I’d be laughing as it had a 10% discount at Bang & Olufsen.

PayPal’s coupon site, Honey, came up with a few deals on the convection microwave I was after, including a Walmart deal with 0.5% cashback. I used its droplist function to get notified of any future price reductions. There’s no mention of AI on Honey’s website.

Top tip: Online plugins, whether AI powered or not, can highlight real-time discounts and deals. Even if you don’t find a discount today, these apps will tell you if and when the price falls.

3. Finding the best price

Here’s where AI discount sites stepped up to the plate. Dealspotr — an AI-powered e-commerce site — showed me several places with discounts on Toshiba brands. This included a 30% discount on Toshiba at Kohl’s and a 20% discount with Back Market’s mobile app. However, these didn’t stand up to closer inspection. Neither of them had any Toshiba microwaves for sale.

Bing’s AI fared a little better. I asked it to act as a personal shopper and find me the best price on Toshiba convection microwaves. It gave me four options with prices and summaries for each. That said, all roads ultimately lead back to Amazon, where I’d already been tracking prices with no robot assistance.

It was AI-powered payment and shopping app Klarna that stood out. It found various Toshiba convection microwaves at different price points in different stores. As a bonus, Klarna gives the price history and shipping information for each option. The Klarna app also has a nifty AI snap-and-search function. This lets you take a picture of anything you see and have Klarna find a similar item in shops.

Top tip: Experiment with different discount sites and apps to find the ones that suit you. Don’t just assume AI is always best; treat it as a supplemental source of information.

A word to the wise

Be aware that some AI browser extensions want you to sign up for ChatGPT Plus — the paid version of ChatGPT. That’s one thing if you’ll use ChatGPT Plus for other things. But at $20 a month, it’s going to have to find a lot of bargains to make that cost worthwhile.

All in all, I was reluctantly impressed by the AI shopping assistants I tried — not least because the focused search reduced the temptation to impulse buy other products. Even so, it is early days, and questions remain over cost, privacy, and accuracy. Double-check the information you get and be prepared to do a little old-fashioned leg work as well.

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