If you’ve started making a holiday gift list that includes toys, gadgets, sweaters, video games, vacuum cleaners, or trampolines, chances are you’ll stop by Amazon.com (AMZN) between now and Dec. 25. For most people who do any bit of shopping online, Amazon is the first place they go. According to one recent study, Amazon has grown its lead as the place where consumers initially search for products: now, 55% of consumers turn to Amazon first when searching for products online.
The mega e-tailer dominated Black Friday sales last year, and since Nov. 16 has been aggressively pushing its daily deals. With so many deals and sales flying around, shopping on Amazon can be overwhelming. It’s good to have a strategy before you start adding items to your digital cart. Here are some tips for how to win at holiday shopping on Amazon.
Start early, check in often
Back in the day, Black Friday deals could only be found on one day. Today, stores are advertising deals earlier and earlier, with Amazon announcing more than 35 days of Black Friday for the 2016 holiday season. Between now and Dec. 22, customers can find a new lightning deal every five minutes here. The deals range from 20% off of a Bissel vacuum to a 43-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV for $199 — they’re random and fall under nearly every category. The best strategy here is to check in a few times a day to see if there’s anything you really want.
Use the app
The Amazon app might be the single best way to stay on top of all of the deals. After clicking the “Black Friday Deals” tab, it displays all the current promotions with a clock showing when they expire. It updates in real time, so you can easily monitor new and expiring deals from your phone.
The app also has an “upcoming” tab that shows deals that Amazon plans to release. Take a peek at what’s coming down the pipe, and click “watch” so the app will alert you when the deal actually starts.
If you’re new to the app, Amazon will give you a $5 off referral code to share with friends. If they use the code for their first purchase on the Amazon app, you also get a $5 off coupon.
Join Amazon Prime
All of Amazon’s lightning deals are available as long as supplies last. To increase your odds of snagging a popular discount, consider joining Amazon Prime, which gives early access to some of the best lightning deals. For really hot ticket items, inventory might even run out by the end of the early access period, but being a Prime member is the best way to avoid that disappointment.
The best part about joining Amazon Prime now is that you get a 30-day free trial, which provides you with free 2-day shipping, Prime Video, Prime Music and access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. During the trial period, you can cancel any time for free. So if you join now, you can get early access to lighting deals and free shipping during the holiday season. You won’t have to pay for anything as long as you cancel before your 30-day trial is up. (After that, Prime costs $10.99 a month.)
Wait for the good stuff
While Amazon will be posting new deals all day every day, don’t spend all your money right out of the gate. Amazon announced that the bigger deals will be rolled out during the “Turkey 5” — the five days of shopping between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. So pace yourself! The best is yet to come.
Order items through Alexa
Alexa is Amazon’s voice-activated helper that can assist in answering random trivia questions, playing music and ordering household items through Amazon. This year, Alexa can also help you score big deals by using “voice shopping.” From Nov.18 – Nov. 21, Amazon Prime members that own an Alexa can ask, “Alexa, what are your deals?” to access discounts including a 32-inch Samsung 1080p LED TV for $119 and $50 off an Amazon Tap. Customers that buy an Alexa deal costing more than $10 will also receive a $5 Amazon gift card until midnight on Nov. 28.
New Alexa-exclusive deals will also be available on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout December.
With all of these sales flying around, it’s hard to know if you’re actually getting a good deal. Add in the fact that Amazon changes its prices about 2.5 million times a day, and it can be hard to know if you’re actually getting a bargain. One quick way to determine if Amazon’s sale price is the best you’re going to get is to search for your item on Google Shopping. By displaying the cost of your item at thousands of different retailers, this comparison search engine lets you know if you’re getting a good bargain…or just getting caught up in the Black Friday hoopla.
Brittany is a writer at Yahoo Finance.