12 Sites Putting a Unique Twist on Online Shopping
Looking for something different? These 12 websites offer novel goods or a unique shopping experience, and potentially good value for the money. Find the latest crowdsourced products, get lower group prices from manufacturers, or even list the price you want to pay and have retailers bid against each other for your business.
ThisIsWhyImBroke doesn't sell anything directly; rather it is a directory of interesting products. Some, such as a custom-made underground parking dock for $61,000, could make you go broke. But visitors can browse all kinds of other oddities, and the site sends price-drop alerts. A coffee mug that looks like a camera lens ($20) could make a good gift for a shutterbug. The curved Oreo dunking spoon $5) is a fun and inexpensive addition to the kichen. SkyMall fans will be hooked.
Greentoe lets shoppers name the price they want to pay for appliances, musical instruments, and photography and home theater equipment. Offers are submitted to authorized retailers who ship the items directly to the buyers, should their offers be accepted. All the items are new, shipping is included, and there is a 30-day return policy.
Betabrand is a retailer and crowdfunding platform for clothing designers. If a sufficient number of preorders are submitted for a new item, it goes into production. Dress pant yoga pants (starting at $78) and a gray pinstripe "executive hoodie" ($168) are some of the products that have emerged from the process. The site offers free shipping and free returns.
Boxed sells bulk groceries and home goods, a bit like Costco or Sam's Club, but with no membership dues. Shipping is free on orders over $50, and shoppers earn 1 percent back on purchases. The retailer warehouses and ships its products, including some that might be bought and then resold from Costco. New customers get $10 off an order of $50 or more through the end of February with code BOXEDLOVE.
This retailer used to charge a $50 membership fee but now is free. Jet is like an online big box store that lets shoppers save money when they buy multiple products classified as "smart items." After adding an item to a cart, the potential savings that come from buying additional smart items are shown. Shipping is free on orders over $35 and takes two days for items shipped by Jet and up to five for those coming from third-party retailers that sell products on the site. Shoppers can waive the option for free return shipping (paid returns are still allowed) and get a discount on their orders.
Woot sells a wide variety of household goods, from computers to sporting goods to kids and parenting items. Each category offers limited-time deals and shoppers can find anything from cat furniture to wine on sale. A sellout section offers even deeper discounts. Woot also has a unique shirt category, where members can submit designs and vote on shirts they would like to buy.
This site looks for products that are unique and innovative but haven't received much attention -- what it calls Grommets. Designers list items they want to sell on the site, providing a description and a biography and picture of the creator. Current best-sellers include a hair-tie bracelet (starting at $45), liquid plastic welder for product repairs and DIY projects ($20), and edible chocolate birthday candles ($12). Shipping is free on orders of $50 or more.
Need to get a gift for a geek? ThinkGeek has shirts, electronics, toys, and other novelties that are sure to please. Consumers will find many Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. No, Fallout, and Marvel products available, including some branded products that are exclusive to ThinkGeek. Shoppers earn GeekPoints for their purchases, redeemable for select products, and get free shipping on orders of $75 or more.
The site's name gives it away: UncommonGoods sells all sorts of unique and odd items in nearly every category imaginable. Items sold on UncommonGoods must meet five standards of uniqueness and sustainability, and helpful buying guides give recommendations based on occasion, price, or recipient.
There are many online marketplaces, including Zazzle and CafePress, that let people print designs or pictures onto clothing, phone cases, posters, stationery, drinkware, and more. Personalized products can make great mementos or gifts and be reasonably priced -- mugs start at $13 on CafePress.
Outgrow.me is a marketplace for crowdfunded products. Outgrow.me curates finds from sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, as well as independently crowdfunded projects. Some of the featured products include a bike mount for smartphones ($14), a pillow that helps busy people take naps on the go ($45), and ready-to-go cubes of pressed coffee and sugar ($15).
On group-buying site Massdrop, members can suggest and vote on products they are interested in purchasing. If enough votes are cast, Massdrop will try to work out a deal with the manufacturer to guarantee a low price. The product then gets listed and the price drops as more people commit to a purchase.