In a one-day blitz of shopping, consumers are expected to empty their wallets of more than $1 billion on Cyber Monday, the online shopping spree on November 26, according to spending projections from research firm, ComScore.
The day follows closely on the heels of Black Friday on November 23, which kicks off the holiday shopping season at stores, and is often the busiest shopping day for retailers.
Come Monday, not every Web-browsing window shopper will hit the "buy" button, and 65 percent of shopping carts are typically abandoned by online shoppers, says the Baynard Institute in Copenhagen. These consumers may be motivated by a belief, often correct, that there's a better deal out there.
Cyber Monday 2012 may offer the best deals on technology products this year, says Brian Hoyt, senior writer for RetailMeNot.com, a coupon code site.
That's because merchants have held back their best deals for the Black Friday-Cyber Monday shopping bonanza to whittle down their inventory, and they are likely to sell out without needing to discount further, he says.
Here are strategies that should help you navigate Cyber Monday and enjoy the best possible prices this year.
MAKE A LIST
Successful Cyber Monday shopping is not about aimlessly browsing or getting everything in one place, says Hoyt. It's about honing your list down to specific items and searching for the lowest prices for each of them.
One way to do this is to browse at stores over the holiday weekend, to scan bar codes of desired products into a price-checking application like Red Laser, and to check reviews or browse ads at home.
"If I were a consumer trying to be as thrifty as possible, I would invest my time at the aggregated websites that are compiling the Cyber Monday deals," says Andrew Baker, assistant professor of marketing in the College of Business Administration at San Diego State University. (Some such sites are http://dealnews.com, http://cybermonday.com and http://slickdeals.net)
And, when stores are shut, check for deals online.
"That's what retailers want you to do," says Dan Olds, who runs Gabriel Consulting Group, a retail trend watching firm.
Once you've narrowed down your wish list, it should take minutes to find the lowest price, says RetailMeNot's Hoyt. Simply plug the item into a search engine like Nextag, Google Shopping or Pricegrabber, and evaluate.
Then, enter details on the stores with the best prices into a coupon code site (such as http://RetailMeNot.com or http://couponcabin.com, http://dealcatcher.com) to see if there are codes that come up.
When you do the math, you may find that the merchant in the No. 2 spot may be offering a 10 percent discount deal or free shipping, offering better overall value than the store in the top spot.
Indeed, try to avoid shipping costs altogether.
To broaden your chances of finding deals, "Like" and follow your favorite stores on Twitter and Facebook; some retailers will post deals just for their online fans.
If you are an active online shopper, you may receive personalized deal offers as the holiday season progresses. For example, if you like to buy Coach handbags at Nordstrom, you might see offers to get 20-percent off of Coach accessories.
"The conversion rate of a typical coupon deal is less than one percent, which is very low, but the conversion rate for tuned and personalized offers is much higher - in the 5 to 10 percent range," says Kevin Sterneckert, vice president of retail research at Gartner Group.
Lands End, LL Bean and CVS are among retailers who are tapping their databases to entice shoppers with customized offers.
Should you jump at these deals? Only if the items are on your shopping list and you've done your research on prices.
BEST PAYMENT METHODS
You can reap additional rewards by picking your mode of payment wisely.
For online shoppers, Brian Kelly of ThePointsGuy.com recommends checking your credit card's rewards website and visiting retail links from there. Some cards will offer a 5 percent bonus for such transactions. You can check your card benefits for details.
This year, PayPal is offering price-match guarantees and free return shipping for purchases made using PayPal. Citi, Visa and MasterCard also frequently offer price matching. Other shoppers rely on various reward and cash-back cards to maximize their benefits.
If you've taken all these steps and still don't like the deal you're getting, you could take your chances and wait - December 17 is "Free Shipping Day" (http://www.freeshippingday.com) for procrastinators who want a day of their own.
(Additional reporting by Chelsea Emery and Lauren Young; Editing by Linda Stern and Bernadette Baum)