Sure, there are a slew of black Friday TV commercials and you'll be inundated with glossy newspaper insert ads. But that's not all retailers are doing this year to get your attention — everyone from big box stores to boutiques is pulling out all the stops to deliver deals directly to consumers, to compel them to spend. This year's high-tech marketing push isn't expensive —technology leverages all the data retailers have about their shoppers — and it may be far more effective than a generic ad that goes straight into your trash.
Of course retailers are investing in a presence on Facebook and Twitter — it's unavoidable—but they did that last year. This year the likes of Wal-Mart and Target , plus specialty retailers like American Eagle Outfitters are going one step further—they're personalizing deals, delivering them to consumers at the most opportune time—when they're standing in the aisles of the store or looking to shop.
Take Wal-Mart's "Crowdsaver" app on Facebook: it takes a page from Groupon and Gilt Group, offering limited quantity, limited time online sales. If enough people sign up for a certain discount, it unlocks a low price. Gap's three chains—Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy -- have also offered limited time offers. In a holiday season where consumers are hunting for deals, offering thirty percent off for a three hour period is a good incentive for shoppers to pull the trigger and make a sale.
Anther trend: customized product recommendations. It's de rigueur for retailers to alert shoppers via e-mail of discounts and deals — Nordstrom's and J.Crew encourage shoppers to sign up for alerts of sales and discounts in areas. Sears is one of the retailers that makes those product recommendations an active process for shoppers—it's "ad your way" service allows customers to sign up for certain types of sales alerts, and to follow the price on certain products to find the best deal.
And deals are that much more relevant if they're delivered to shoppers when they enter a store. That's exactly what an app called "Shopkick" does. If you download the location-based coupon app to your iPhone or Android device and walk into one of 1,000 participating stores, you get instant coupons or "Shopkick points," which translate into dollars. Shopkick works with mega retailers like Best Buy, Macy's , Target and American Eagle Outfitters. Plus there are 250,000 items you can scan with your phone to get discounts.
This is the first year retailers have deployed new technology like Shopkick on such a mass sale. It's inexpensive for retailers to participate, especially compared to primetime TV spots. The question is whether direct appeals to consumers will drive Black Friday Sales higher. We'll be waiting to hear the results on Saturday.
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