Online shopping

5 Online Shopping Tools You Should Try Before Your Next Order

Shopping online is almost second nature these days. But with the right apps and extensions, you can be a more aware consumer, protect yourself well, and even save money.

Far too often, online shopping extensions and apps pay a lot of attention to retailer interests, like keeping you hooked to the Amazon ecosystem alone. But these apps put you first as a consumer. With services like tracking parcels from different sources, creating a single wishlist across all stores, and finding support from your local community, these apps make online shopping better.

1. Radar Package (Web, Android, iOS): Track all packages and orders in one place

One of the biggest challenges of online shopping is knowing where your packages are. You are shopping from multiple sites, so there are already different apps to check out. And then sellers will use different shipping services, so it’s all the more confusing and overwhelming. Package Radar tries to simplify this whole ordeal.

First, create an account. Second, when you receive a shipping notification with a new tracking number, enter the number into the Package Radar app or website. That’s it; you have finished. It’s simple, fast and completely free. Currently, the app supports 235 shipping services, including all popular services, official government postal agencies, and several obscure services. In a simple dashboard, you can see where all your packages are, when they’re due and when they’re likely to arrive.

For the last part, Package Radar relies on its extensive database of commands. Thus, it can analyze the average delivery time anywhere in the United States (as well as in several other countries). It can even predict the average time based on the first or last letters of your tracking number, which is a really cool feature.

To download: PackageRadar for Android | iOS (Free)

2. Shop Nearby (Chrome): Find local stores selling the product you’re looking for

Although the convenience and prices of online retailers are hard to beat, there is a growing movement to support local businesses instead. It helps build community, keep jobs near you, and help those struggling to offset the effects of the pandemic.

Buy Nearby is a simple extension to show you local businesses selling the item(s) you are currently looking at. For example, when you’re on a product page or an Amazon or eBay search page, clicking the extension icon displays a drop-down pane of a Google map. Here you will see markers of all local stores selling the same or similar items.

Click on any marker to find information about the business, like hours of operation and phone numbers (which you can call immediately to find out if they have the item). It will be much faster than even Amazon Prime. You can also search the Shop Nearby pane for particular products, but this feature didn’t work well in our testing.

To download: Buy Nearby for Chrome (Free)

3. Finch (Chrome, Web): Find the Durability Score of Any Amazon Product

As a modern, conscious consumer, it’s natural to want to know how a product affects our planet before buying it. Sustainability is not just about “being green”, but about several other factors. Finch is a smart extension to calculate the durability levels of any Amazon item before hitting that Buy button.

When you’re on a product page, you’ll see a little Finch sidebar on the right. Here you will find the product’s sustainability rating on a scale of 10, based on six social and environmental footprints: climate, water, human well-being, ecology, waste and raw materials. This data is drawn from more than 250 sources. Finch also uses authentic human reviews to determine a product’s sustainability score.

Along with this information, the little box also tells you a snippet of what Finch likes about the product and what could be improved. Finally, you’ll also see recommendations for alternatives with a higher sustainability rating to make a more planet-friendly choice. You can also visit Finch’s website to browse their “savvy guides” that recommend sustainable alternatives for commonly wasted items like diapers, laundry detergent, baby wipes, towels, and more.

To download: Finch for Chrome (Free)

While most shopping sites allow you to create a wishlist and share it with others, you cannot share your actual shopping cart. But it makes sense to do it sometimes. If you’re shopping for the whole family, you can share a cart with others and let them add to it. Or people can individually add a gift they want to a cart, and someone else pays for it. There are many other useful scenarios, and that’s why we’re grateful Share-a-Cart exists.

You can also use it through the website, but we found the extension much simpler. Install it, head to your favorite retailer, and start shopping like you usually would. When you’re ready, click Create Cart ID in the extension icon. You don’t need to register to use Share-a-cart, nor does the recipient.

Share your unique ID with the recipient, who can paste it into the browser extension or on the website to see the shopping cart you created. Now they are free to add to cart or remove any item from it, and you will see the changes.

Share-a-Cart has individual extensions for Amazon, Walmart, Instacart, and AliExpress, if you only use one. But since our first in-depth Share-a-Cart review, they’ve expanded their portfolio to support over 90 other online retailers, including several famous brands. So the best option is to install the multi-store extension.

To download: Sharing a Shopping Cart for Chrome | firefox | safari | Edge (free)

Sometimes you come across an app that makes you wonder if this isn’t the default way things should work. For example, right now you’re creating a wishlist on Amazon, another on eBay, another on Best Buy, and so on. Why? This is your product wishlist, after all, so it should be a customer-centric wishlist, not the retailer. This is the simple premise that OneCart operates on.

This extension works on all popular online shopping sites, allowing you to create a universal wishlist of items you want to buy one day. It also updates prices for all these products, so you don’t have to go to each website individually to track the latest prices. Instead, if you click on an item, you’ll also see similar items or prices for the same item from other online stores.

OneCart also lets you create folders to organize your wishlists. It’s much easier than scrolling through a long list of product items. It is advantageous to find certain products only in niche stores because you may not visit that niche store often and end up forgetting something you wanted.

To download: OneCart for Chrome | firefox | Opera (Free)

Let technology help you, but buy smart

These five apps do so much to make the average consumer a better shopper. But sometimes you have to be prepared for what technology offers. Our mind struggles with issues like seeing a bargain over a durable product or an item on our wish list that is falling in price but an invisible expense in everyday life.

Just because an app finds a good deal or recommends a better solution doesn’t mean you should take it. Limit those “retail therapy” instincts, trust your mind, and choose wisely. Technology is only meant to help you, not to make decisions for you.