If you want to find the best price online, it pays to check multiple ways on multiple devices.
With online shopping on track to generate as much as $105 billion in sales this holiday season, a study conducted by researchers at Northeastern University suggests some of that spending could be the result of sites altering the results users see when they search.
Researchers found that more than half of 16 big travel and retail e-commerce sites displayed different results for the same search, showing more expensive items higher on the list or different prices for the same product. This happened more often on travel sites, but some retailers also varied results.
“These companies have big piles of data about consumers,” said Christo Wilson, an assistant professor of computer science at Northeastern and one of the study’s authors. “There’s a lot of work and engineering going into using this.”
His advice for shoppers: Run a search, then repeat it with your browser’s private or anonymous feature activated. Use your computer as well as your phone or tablet. As an extra measure, ask a friend or relative who lives far away to look for the same item and see what turns up.