Remember when back-to-school shopping required a trip to a crowded store? And if an item was out-of-stock, there was nothing to do but wait? Few among us are as grateful for online shopping as parents of small kids, and the Internet has done its part to answer our pleas for help. In fact, online shopping has become so convenient that the National Retail Federation says nearly 20 percent of consumers are planning to shop online more often. We'll also be doing more shopping on the go; a study on back-to-school shopping from Alliance Data found that 71 percent of consumers expect to use their smartphones to price-shop and download coupons.
Our attachment to online shopping has caught the eye of retailers, Web developers, even social networks. This week it was reported that Twitter plans to incorporate a shopping feature. By next year's back-to-school shopping season, it might be possible to stock up on jeans and Sharpies within leaving our Twitter news stream.
In the meantime there are services like Poach It, a bargain-hunting tool designed to help you save on purchases made online. Install the free button on your bookmark bar, press it whenever you're on a retail site, and Poach It will seek out all available deals. While it doesn't always work for obscure or speciality items, it has found me coupon codes and free shipping on everything from kids' pajamas to socks from Gap.
New iPhone app Pounce is useful in helping you buy online what you see in print. Take a picture of a product in a catalogue or ad from stores like Staples, Target, and Babies "R" Us (more options are sure to come), and Pounce will let you order it right from your smartphone.
As we spend more time shopping online, and grow more comfortable with e-commerce in mobile form, time- and money-saving services like these will become increasingly useful. School is back in session. We'll take all the help we can get.