Black Friday Bargains May Boost Bleak Forecast

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by Judy Jefferson

The economic weather is still frightful, which is why consumers and business buyers will be looking harder than ever before this Black Friday and Cyber Monday for the best technology bargains at the right price.  

Roughly 27 percent of retailers across the U.S. expect Black Friday sales to increase this year, while 24 percent expect a bump up on the following Cyber Monday, when people turn to the Internet for the latest price cuts and discounts, according to for BDO USA, a professional services firm that consults for a range of public and private companies.  This is expected to translate into a 1.6 percent increase in Black Friday sales this year, which is down from about a 3.8% increase in 2010.

Cyber Monday may be the best bet in terms of buying activity and profits, as more people turn to the Web and trusted online resources,  like the TechnologyGuide review and evaluation sites, to provide game day research and tips on where the hottest bargains may be lurking. In fact, more than 50% of both online and brick-and-mortar retailers are expected to offer deep discounts on electronics, notes BDO in its recent survey.

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still key buying days for consumers, retailers will  be offering bargains right up until the final hours of Christmas to make up for a slow selling year.  In fact, up to 78% of the retailers polled in the BDO survey say they plan for steep discounts and price cuts spread throughout the holiday season – which is up 21 percent over last year’s plans.

Black Friday buying trends

Making a B-Line for Online
Although standing in line at 3am might snag you a deep discount on an all-in-one desktop, notebook or tablet computer at the local electronics retailer, bargains are available in virtual space as well.    This year more than ever, retailers will be relying on email and social media to get the word out on price discounts.  Planned campaigns this year will include email marketing (28%), search engine marketing (26%), and pure social media (18%).    Most all retailers agree, however, that the best incentive for online and virtual shoppers is free shipping.

Tablets will be tops in terms of what buyers are looking for on Black Friday, with about 32% of shoppers sniffing out the best buy in the latest Android device (Apple usually does not discount its products, so iPad prices will be the same wherever you go – although some retailers may be offering a promotional add-on giveaway of sorts).  Products topping the tablets wish list this year include the iPad and the new Amazon Kindle Fire.  About 24% of shoppers will be looking for a discounted notebook, and 19% routing out the best smartphone deal, says Retrevo, a consumer electronics shopping site.

Cash is also king this buying season, with approximately 52% of consumers saying they will eschew credit cards in favor of cash purchases, says Triton Digital a database and media company that surveyed more than 47,000 consumers from across North America .

Corporations may not like it, but for more than half the time shoppers will be using office desktop and mobile computers, as well as smartphones to look for bargains and make purchases this season, according to the ISACA, a professional association of 95,000 IT audit, security and governance professionals.   This might present a security risk; especially if location services are switched on to find the best bargains since this opens a door to data compromise or theft.    While companies can’t prevent an employee from using a company device for personal use, experts recommend educating them to the dangers and the risks.

The survey findings show that more than half of the time spent shopping will be done from computing devices used for work purposes, a trend called bring your own device (BYOD). According to the survey, online shoppers plan to spend 32 hours on average shopping online this holiday season, with 18 of those on a work device or personal device used for work.

Mobile among the Buying Masses
If you do decide to brave the crowds, in some cases the cold and the confusion of early Black Friday lines at your local retailer, you may want to keep your mobile phone handy to get a bit of an edge on dude in front of you who has been camped out since last week.    A fair number of people (15%) will be using mobile devices to do Black Friday Web searches to get some early info and perhaps a mobile coupon or two, according to Google’s AdMob.  

As many as 65% of consumers will also use their smartphones to find a business to make an in-store purchase.  Nearly 44% of searches related to last-minute gifts and stir locations will also come from mobile devices – a trend that will continue as more retailers turn to mobile to access bargain-hungry mobs.

Walgreens is just one retailer that has invested big in mobile technology and will be flaunting it starting on Black Friday and through the holiday season.  The retailer will be adding all sorts of mobile coupons to its mobile messages, ranging in value from 50 cents to $5, says a spokesman for the firm.  Coupons can be printed out or scanned directly from a smartphone screen at more than 7,700 Walgreens stores across the U.S.




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