How Smartphones, Price-Check Apps, and Daily Deals Are Changing Black Friday—and the Entire Holiday Shopping Season

  • Share
  • Read Later

Smartphones—and therefore, deals—are everywhere this holiday season. This means that shoppers should have an especially easy time getting the best price on gifts. Then again, it also means that retailers have an especially easy time reaching consumers and tempting them into making purchases.

A New York Times story focuses on how all sorts of retailers—online and brick-and-mortar alike—are embracing mobile deals lately. On Black Friday especially, everybody from Best Buy to HSN, Amazon to Nordstrom, is expected to offer special mobile-only deals meant to appeal to shoppers, no matter if they’re lying on the couch at home, at work in an office cubicle, or waiting on lines inside physical stores at the mall.

One reason the primarily brick-and-mortar stores are pushing mobile deals is because of the popularity of helpful shopping and price-comparison apps like those rounded up by Techland. These apps, which allow shoppers to scan items and check prices at a wide range of retailers, were already popular among consumers last holiday season, and it’s expected that more and more shoppers will be using them to ensure they’re getting good deals.

(MORE: 6 Black Friday Secrets Those Deal Sites Won’t Tell You About)

Reuters reports how stores like Lowes are arming employees with smartphones of their own, to help workers make sales before a shopper leaves empty-handed:

When shoppers are in Lowes stores scanning bar codes with their phones, reading product reviews and checking prices, employees can engage them better using iPhones to track down similar information.

Staff can also check quickly if products are in stock or if items are available on Lowes’ website or another store nearby, and can often match or beat a price a consumer finds elsewhere via a smart phone.

Not only do brick-and-mortar stores have to compete on pricing with the likes of Amazon, they’re also facing competition from daily deal vendors such as Groupon and LivingSocial. The annual holiday survey from Discover shows that consumers are increasingly comfortable with the idea of giving gifts purchased via daily deals:

When asked if they would buy a gift through a group-buying site, more than half, 55 percent, of consumers gave a jolly nod to the idea, up from 22 percent who said the same last year. In 2010, just 6 percent of those surveyed said they had purchased a gift through a group-buying site, which more than tripled in 2011 to 20 percent.

(MORE: Black Thursday: Will Shoppers Really Show Up at Stores on Thanksgiving Night?)

Increasingly, flash deal and group-buying sites aren’t conceding the idea that Black Friday craze is and will always be a primarily brick-and-mortar experience. The Times notes that the Gilt Groupe is going to offer mobile-exclusive deals on Friday, November 25, starting at 6 a.m.—about the same time that many shoppers will be elbowing for sale merchandise at malls. Normally, Gilt’s flash deals are available beginning at noon daily.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, reports that LivingSocial will offer a slew of national deals starting on Black Friday, and more becoming available on Cyber Monday. The deals include one-year magazine subscriptions for $5 (normally $12) and discounts of 50% or more off products from the likes of Skechers, Verizon Wireless, and OfficeMax.

(MORE: ‘Occupy Best Buy’? Shoppers Are Already Camping Out for Black Friday Sales)

What with all of these options, shoppers can have the surreal experience of browsing the offers and snatching up merchandise from the likes of Amazon, LivingSocial, and Best Buy … all while strolling the aisles of a Walmart. Due to the ubiquity of free-shipping promotions, it’s also quite easy to physically go out shopping, browse goods in person, and make purchases—and never actually have to schlep goods to the register, let alone your home.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.