How To Shop Smarter this Season Starting with Black Friday

As Thanksgiving feasts wrap up, the worries of gift shopping start to unravel – and fast. Black Friday sales loom in the wings, but who really wants to camp out overnight and brave the elements to save big on a present for Mom, Dad, a significant other’s parents, or even that long-lost cousin who may be making a special appearance this year?

Technology has evolved, and so has shopping for Christmas, Hanukkah, and all of the winter holidays. Why physically show up to a store to fight the crowd and wait in a long checkout line to score that early-bird, extra-special deal when there are now plenty of online sales that will take a Black Friday shopping experience to a completely new level.

Black Friday
Shoppers waiting in line on Black Friday.

Since around 1952, the day after Thanksgiving has been designated as the start of the holiday shopping season. “Black Friday” is a more modern term that has come to light in the last decade and allowed retailers to amp their in-store promotional efforts in a more unified way. It’s also the day when they had the most significant opportunity to turn a profit and go from being “in the red” to “in the black” in the financial ledgers.

The massive retail holiday saw items such as toys, TVs, and computers marked down to some of the lowest prices of the year – but they had to be purchased in a brick-and-mortar store. Cyber Monday slowly made its way onto the scene, extending Black Friday sales a few more days and opening up avenues for retailers to draw crowds from their stores to their websites. Today, Black Friday and Cyber Monday focus heavily on online deals.

In 2018, Black Friday saw more people shopping online than in stores. The National Retail Federation noted that 41.4 million people bought gifts online last year, 6 million more than those who shopped exclusively in stores.

Smartphones, tablets, or laptops were used by 71 percent of consumers last year when they were researching gifts and making purchases. Of those, 47 percent said online searches were where they went for gift inspiration. That’s more than advertising circulars and word-of-mouth from friends and family.

Shopping online offers several benefits over carrying armloads of bags and packages through a packed shopping center or mall while dragging along a screaming child or uninterested spouse. The internet allows consumers to check out multiple websites at the same time – tab to tab to tab in a browser window – so they can find the lowest price. Being able to shop directly with a brand opens opportunities to find additional Black Friday perks that can differ from an average retailer.

Online Black Friday deals usually aren’t limited to a single arbitrary day, either. Some retailers have started posting, advertising, and even offering their Black Friday deals in early November before the Thanksgiving feast begins.

Consumer psychologist and former Golden Gate University professor Dr. Kit Yarrow notes that “consumers are valuing convenience almost as much as price.” Retailers are taking notice of this and adapting their sales tactics to meet their consumers’ desires and make it easier to get products in their hands without wasting their time.

Consumers are valuing convenience almost as much as price.

Physically being in a store is no longer a requirement to get a Black Friday doorbuster deal. Select retailers put these teases online as well but limit the quantity they will sell a consumer. The best way to snag one of these desired products is to pull up the item on the retailer’s website before Black Friday and then refresh the page when the sale goes live.

While there’s never a guarantee that the consumer will successfully be able to purchase the product, chances may increase – and the consumer can conduct the transaction in the comfort of their pajamas without ever having to leave home.

“Doing things that respect the value of the consumer’s time is something that’s only getting more important,” said Dr. Dee Warmath, a professor of financial planning, housing and consumer economics at the University of Georgia. Retailers are taking this into consideration and giving their consumers the deals they want minus the effort and time of shopping.

Shoppers who would normally camp out for a new laptop post-Thanksgiving feast can now refocus their efforts on less stressful activities such as decorating the house or putting up the tree with their family.

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