Black Friday goes high-tech
NASHUA, Nov 22, 2012 (The Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
With a mediocre holiday shopping season looming, retailers are pulling out all the stops to drive up Black Friday sales, embracing online shopping fads and taking to social media and smartphones to reach consumers.
A search for "Black Friday" in the iPhone app store reveals more than 50 applications, nearly all free, to aid shoppers with planning for the big shopping weekend, and comparing prices once in the stores.
There are dozens of Facebook sites and Twitter accounts that do the same, alerting shoppers on where to find the best deals.
Retailers' online, mobile and in-store promotions continue to grow as well, according to Shop.org's eHoliday survey. The survey found that 29 percent of retailers will promote Black Friday deals with mobile alerts, up significantly from the 18.4 percent who planned to do so last year.
The number of retailers who plan to use Facebook to alert shoppers to deals is also up: 80.6 percent this year, compared to 73.7 percent in 2011.
Experts say it's the increasing number of consumers using smartphones and similar devices to find the best deals that is pushing retailers to embrace new technology.
More than half of Black Friday shoppers will keep up with advertising circulars throughout the holiday season to prepare for shopping, but there are a growing number of Americans who prefer to see things digitally, according to the National Retail Federation.
About 27 percent will follow retailers' websites, and 31 percent will track emails from retailers to get the latest shopping news.
Shoppers also are expected to use their smartphones while exploring big box stores next, using "showrooming" applications that enable shoppers to identify cheaper deals online.
According to an International Data Corp. survey released last week, showrooming may influence up to $1.7 billion of holiday retail sales.
Shoppers are most likely to showroom big-ticket items, the survey found. Online comparison shopping also will be a part of about 1.4 percent of all consumer electronic purchases this holiday season, according to the survey.
Many retailers are embracing the technology and using it to their advantage. Target is offering reviews from technology news sites alongside its products on store shelves, hoping to alleviate the need for shoppers to pull out their smartphones at all. Target and Best Buy, among other retailers, also will offer price-matching for online deals.
The International Data Corp. survey also found that in-store help can have a big impact on shoppers as they sort through the many products and deals available in stores and online.
Between 56 percent and 60 percent of shoppers armed with smartphones said they'd be more likely to purchase goods in stores when helped by a knowledgeable salesperson.
Still, another 41 percent of shoppers surveyed said they'll continue to rely on smartphone and other online research to make purchasing decisions.
It's a trend that shows no signs of going away anytime soon. And thankfully for shoppers, there are more smartphone applications to help with Black Friday and other holiday shopping out every day.
Material from The Washington Post was used in this report.
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