The number of companies offering online or virtual chat assistants on their websites continues to grow, and you might be able to use them to save some serious money.

Research from Which? has found that you can cut the cost of your online shopping by haggling through these chat services.

While many will pop up as soon as you click on to a retailer’s website, some may only be found through the ‘contact us’ section on the site so will require a little more legwork on your part.

Here are Which’s top tips for landing that deal.

Build a rapport

Build a rapport before you dive in. It’ll help you close a deal if the salesperson likes you first.

Ask questions, be polite and thank the salesperson for their responses. Generally speaking, you should only ask for a discount after you’ve asked questions about the product.

According to Which?, using a line like this proved particularly successful: "I'm interested in buying this but it's a fair bit out of my price range. Is there any way I can get a discount?"

Don't accept immediately if you are offered a discount. You should hold out for a better deal and that includes giving the impression that you will walk away if necessary.

Make it clear that you’re shopping around for the best deal and you’ll buy today for the right price.

Search for discount codes before you start

Discount codes aren’t always displayed on retailers’ websites. In fact, most of the discounts given to Which? couldn’t be found online.

Search for retailer’s discount codes before you start haggling on the likes of VoucherCodes.co.uk or MyVoucherCodes. Even if they’ve expired, it’ll give you some idea of how much the retailer will be willing to slice off the price.

When Which? haggled with Dell, it mentioned a 10% discount code that had recently expired and Dell’s salesperson agreed to honour the deal.

It’s best to target items that are already on sale, because there probably won’t be as much demand for them.

[Related story: Aldi: how to grab the special offers and save money]

Keep schtum

When negotiating with any retailer, silence is powerful. With web chat it’s that bit easier because you don’t need to perfect your poker face to get results.

Keep the window open but try to go a few minutes without typing. The salesperson will stick around until you’ve left the chat.

At the very least, they’ll ask if you’re still there before ending the conversation.

Which? stayed silent when talking to a Bon Marche salesperson that said that it couldn’t offer a discount and within minutes it was revealed that the item in question was in a 20% off sale that very weekend. After a few moments more silence, Bon Marche offered a 10% off code on the spot.

Even if you can’t get a discount it’s worth asking about other perks like free express delivery.

[Related story: Lidl: how to save even more money on your shopping]

Put to the test

Which? tried online chat haggling with a number of retailers, with a variety of results, detailed below.

Online shop

Result

Allbeauty

No discount

Appliances Direct

No discount

Boden

20% off £189 coat

Body Shop

No discount

Bonmarche

20% discount on £40 coat

Carphone Warehouse

No discount

ChainReactionCycles

Instructions on how to get 10% discount voucher

Cotsworld Outdoor

No discount

Dell

10% discount on £1,350 laptop

Dyson

No discount

Feelunique

No discount

Lenovo

5% discount on £900 laptop

Liz Earle

No discount

Mac Cosmetics UK

No discount

Matalan

£10 off voucher code

Missguided

No discount

Nike

20% discount on £108 trainers

Not on the High Street

No discount

O2

£142 discount on 24 month phone contract

Perfume Shop

No discount

Schuh

10% discount on £110 shoes

Wiggle

No discount

Source: Which?

Even if you’re shopping from a retailer which didn’t offer a discount to Which?, try negotiating anyway. You never know what might happen.

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