Black Friday

Black Friday in Mansfield, Ohio.

It’s been a long weekend, and it doesn’t look like it is going to ease up just yet.

Last Thursday at midnight, many stores opened their doors to kick off their Black Friday sales as early as possible. Hordes of shoppers, many still reeling from the gustatory decadence of the Thanksgiving meal, began the American tradition of fighting for bargains. The madness continues through tonight, when the more recent retail tradition of Cyber Monday grinds to a halt.

So, what makes the Friday-through-Monday consume-a-thon different in 2012? The use of social media and mobile apps top the list. As with each year prior, we see a deeper social media penetration into our daily lives. People have become used to the real-time communication it affords, and more of them are leveraging it in search of the latest holiday deal.

Peter Kafka writes on All Things D about how Twitter is being used to track the most sought-after retail items:

The data comes directly from the Twitter ‘firehose’ that generates 400 million comments a day, and it’s sorted by Mass Relevance, a company that makes its living sorting social media for brands and other clients.

Not surprising: Twitterers are talking about Apple more than any other electronics brand, by a long shot. A bit surprising: They are more interested in talking about the Xbox 360 than any other gadget.

And when it comes to toys, it’s Lego, then Barbies, and then everything else is so far behind it barely registers.

I’m sure that many brands are sitting up and taking notice.

Michigan’s MLive used Storify to collate commentary about Black Friday from Twitter, an effort that brought us an almost even mix of love and hate for the shopping holiday. Which brings us to an interesting point: It seems that the Black Friday “experience” is more of a draw to many shoppers than the deals themselves.

Business2Community posted an analysis of Twitter data showing that the tradition of Black Friday not only gets shoppers into the stores, but it also keeps more than one in 10 of them away:

While many people think the sales are the big draw of Black Friday, Crimson Hexagon discovered, using our social media analysis tool ForSight, that the shopping experience and the tradition of shopping on Black Friday significantly motivate consumers to turn out after Thanksgiving. However, the shopping atmosphere that motivates some shoppers repels others.

Notably, opinions expressed on Twitter are evenly divided between positive and negative, both at 38% of the conversation.

In an analysis of over 900,000 posts on Twitter, we found that the shopping experience is a significant draw on Black Friday. Of positive conversation (38%) about Black Friday shopping, 10% indicated that shoppers are looking forward to deals and sales, while 28% expressed anticipation and excitement for Black Friday. Many people tweet simply, ‘Can’t wait for #BlackFriday.’ […]

At the same time, the frenzied atmosphere of Black Friday shopping keeps some people at home. Of negative sentiment about Black Friday, 11% of the conversation criticizes the mayhem and incivility you find in stores on Black Friday.

Now, I will freely admit that I am one of those who stays home. If I’m going to deal with crowds like that, I had  better be having fun, and shopping just doesn’t strike me as fun. I’m one of those people who is much more at home with the Internet Age traditions of Cyber Monday and Black Friday online sales.

This year, retailers are using social media more than ever, partially because of its deep penetration into our everyday lives, partially because it’s a cost-effective path in a time of diminished spending and tightened budgets.

Lindsay Stein at PRWeek gives us some details:

Last month, the NRF’s division surveyed online retailers to see how the economy is changing their plans for the holidays. More than half (57%) said they will increase their use of Facebook; 40% will boost their use of Twitter; and 45% will utilize Pinterest more, said Grannis.

Another reason is that social media is more cost effective than other promotional options, and Grannis noted that e-retailers know ‘that’s where shoppers want to find out about deals.’ Mobile options are also growing, she added, because more companies are using in-store payments to help customers avoid long checkout lines. Interactive mobile apps or microsites with games are also an important part of retailers’ Black Friday plans, Grannis explained, adding that some stores offer ‘wishlists’ for children that are automatically emailed to their parents.

Combine this growing use of social channels with online sales, and it is easy to see why Cyber Monday has taken off. There are some amazing deals out there, and finding them in time can be very game-like. Being able to do so in a browser window, without being trampled, is something I personally value.

Linda Shaw, who writes for Gather: Business, confirms that Cyber Monday will be huge this year and that Twitter will be the place to keep up with it:

Over 122 million people are expected to shop online Monday with deals at almost every big box retailer and online-only store. But what’s the best way to keep track of the deals? It is impossible to shop every website at once, after all.

Apparently, the easiest way to keep track of all the deals — well before the sales actually start — is to use social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to your advantage.

Overall, whether you embrace the adrenaline rush of the brick-and-mortar establishments or chasing the bargains from your laptop using social media, particularly Twitter, makes a big difference.

So, what did you do on Black Friday, and what are you doing today for Cyber Monday? Let us know!

Image by George Artwood.

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