Smaller retailers take page from Amazon, offer free shipping, price match to woo customers

Industrials Associated Press

Amazon.com's low prices and seemingly endless array of goods have made it the biggest online retailer in the U.S., commanding about 20 percent of all e-commerce. The company is projected to have over $89 billion in revenue this year. Its massive success has driven other sites to offer similar perks and deals to woo customers and hold on to their piece of the retail pie. Some retailers now even offer to match Amazon's prices to try to win your business.

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That's good news for shoppers. So if you're searching for anything from beauty products to books, here's a look at some Amazon-like deals to take advantage of:

USED OR NEW — AND CHEAP!

An old standby that may offer more than you think is eBay. Though it made its name as the world's biggest auction site, it has expanded in recent years to host a vast array of new and used merchandise from third-party sellers, often for flat prices.

"We don't see a lot of people going to eBay as their first stop in the way we see people going to Amazon," said Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "But there's an opportunity for people to find the same items they're looking for at different retailers."

Other one-stop shopping discount sites include Overstock.com, which offers retailers' excess inventory, ranging from mattresses to clothing and gifts. Another option is the little-known Aliexpress.com, a site operated by Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba.com. The site offers Chinese goods to shoppers in the U.S. and some other countries. And while quality varies, the prices are definitely hard to beat. Or check out Rakuten.com, a similar site from Japan that delivers to other countries.

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PRICE MATCH

Best Buy, Target, Staples, Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Home Depot, Office Depot, Office Max all price match Amazon.com items. (Some exclude marketplace goods, and most matching is limited to in-store items, not online). Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said Thursday it is considering matching Amazon's online prices as it gears up for the all-important holiday shopping season.

FREE SHIPPING

One of the biggest perks of the $99 annual Amazon loyalty program is free two-day shipping on many items. Retailers are increasingly taking a page and offering to ship you goods at no charge.

ShopRunner.com, which partners with many retailers to offer free two-day shipping, is a good alternative, says Mark LoCastro, a spokesman at Dealnews.com. You pay an annual $79 membership. And ShopRunner works with major retailers such as Neiman Marcus and American Eagle and smaller brands such as the NFL Shop and Beauty.com.

A service by Sears and Kmart called Shop Your Way Max also offers free two-day shipping for a $39 annual charge that follows a 90-day free trial.

Another option, if you've got the coin: Shop luxury, LoCastro says. Many upscale stores such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom offer free shipping with no minimum purchase.

Or wait until the November-December holiday shopping season. At least 41 percent of retailers plan to offer free shipping, according to ChannelAdvisor.

CONSULT THE SPECIALISTS

Category-specific sites can have deals, too. For books, check out independent sites including Alibris.com and Powells.com. Niche toy stores online such as Fatbraintoys.com or Melissaanddoug.com offer a wide range of toys. Electronics stores like Newegg.com can offer deals on gadgets.

But how do you know that you are actually getting a good price? Use a price-comparison service. Pricegrabber.com, Shopzilla.com, Google Shopping and eBay's Decide.com all can help you weigh how good the deals are.

GROCERIES ON YOUR DOORSTEP

Amazon.com Inc. offers same-day grocery delivery service in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Brooklyn, with free delivery on orders over $35 for Prime members who pay the $299 annual fee for the loyalty program plus the delivery service.

But if you don't live in one of those cities, don't despair.

Instacart offers a service in about 15 cities that lets you shop online, and then have the food delivered from local grocery stores like Whole Foods, Costco and Kroger. It costs $3.99 for two-hour delivery and $5.99 for one-hour delivery when you spend $35 or more.

Google Express offers a similar service that includes stores like Costco and local grocery stores for $10 a month or $95 a year, with free delivery for orders over $15. It currently serves parts of California, New York and Los Angeles and recently added Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston.

Peapod operates in East Coast and Midwestern states; it costs $9.95 to deliver orders under $100 and $6.95 for orders over $100. And major grocery store operators such as Kroger and Publix are testing programs that let you shop online and pick up the items at stores.