MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: Online retail price fluctuation

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It used to be only hotels and airlines changed their prices several times a day, but now online retailers selling common household items are also making several daily adjustments.

While shopping online, Amy Shoaff noticed prices for the same item, on the same website, changed dramatically throughout the day.

"General everyday items fluctuating anywhere from $40 to $300," said Shoaff.

Retailers changing their online prices hour by hour - sometimes minute by minute! The goal is to have a product priced so it pops up as the lowest priced item in shopping search engines, or Amazon's coveted "Buy Box," where many consumers look to find the best deals.

"It's more a battle of getting the right screen position as opposed to trying to sell it as quickly as possible," said Chris Buckingham from the Professional Pricing Society.

The website monitors these prices. Look at the iPad costs - at midnight, the iPad was $511. At 6 a.m., it was $503. By 7 a.m. the price sunk to $475, where it remained until 2:30 p.m. - and then jumped to $510. At 10 p.m., the iPad increased to a high of $529. That's a $54 price difference, on the same site, all in one 24-hour period.

"The suppliers are constantly monitoring each other," said Buckingham.

Duct tape: in one day, the price ranged from a high of $7.83 to a low of $2.00.

"What has changed fundamentally in the past 12 months is the speed and scale at which prices are being set," said Eric Best for Mercent.

Some retailers hire software companies to monitor the prices of products and make changes based on their competitors.

And there are websites which monitor prices for items you want and alert you when the price drops. If you add an item to your amazon shopping cart and leave it there, amazon will notify you of price changes.

Amy Shoaff has a warning though about clicking on the least expensive deal found on search engines.

"Free shipping, returns, make sure you're using those things to your advantage because sometimes just price isn't always the cheapest," said Shoaff.

According to, the sites that change their prices the most frequently are, Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and Sears.

The products that change the most include games and consoles, printers, headphones, cameras, tvs and refrigerators.

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