Companies Expand Holiday Deals as Cyber Creep Sets In

With a big Cyber Weekend expected – the National Retail Federation is predicting 59% of Americans will be shopping from Thursday through Monday – we wanted to take a look around the retail and ecommerce landscape to see what was on tap for merchants and shoppers.

Lots of holiday deals, and expansion of Cyber period

As the shopping frenzy starting on Thanksgiving Day continues to grow and evolve retailers and ecommerce firms are looking for creative ways to gain an edge. For instance, Amazon is looking to blow out the whole affair into a “Black Month” by offering 35 days of deals which started on Monday.

Walmart.com is pushing back against Amazon by offering Cyber Monday-like deals starting on Black Friday, typically a day reserved for store offers. The company has grown its online inventory for Black Friday by more than 50% compared to last year, and overall has increased its online inventory to 23 million items from 8 million at the start of the year.

Not to be outdone, Target brought back its popular 10 Days of Deals starting this past Monday, while expanding its free shipping period by a week.

According to credit report and deal aggregator WalletHub, Macy’s, Stage and JC Penney are 2016’s Best Stores for Black Friday, offering an average discount of at least 62.8%. WalletHub also found that more than 17% of items will actually be more expensive on Black Friday than they currently are on Amazon.com. Lastly, the company found that 11% of Black Friday deals are actually recycled from last year, per its Black Friday Freshness Report.

While companies like Best Buy and Target are offering unlimited free shipping to entice online buyers, Walmart is again keeping its $50 threshold during the holiday season. Company officials say it really doesn’t matter since 90% of orders placed over Cyber Weekend 2015 met that threshold anyway.

As for product categories with the greatest discounts on Black Friday, WalletHub provided a list of the top five:

  • Video games (average 31% discount)
  • Appliances (average 18% discount)
  • Furniture (average 15% discount)
  • Computers and phones (average 14% discount)
  • Toys (average 13% discount)

The “worst” five were found to be:

  • Books, movies and music (average 12% discount)
  • Consumer packaged goods (average 12% discount)
  • Consumer electronics (average 11% discount)
  • Apparel and accessories (average 7% discount)
  • Jewelry (average 0.4% discount)

Reflecting a healthy dose of cynicism, WalletHub found that 63% of American consumers believe Black Friday doesn’t offer the best deals of the year.

Early promotions bring in the crowds

Shoppers this year are taking full advantage of early promotions from retailers, according to the National Retail Federation. More than half of consumers have already made dents in their holiday gift lists.

“Consumers are looking for great prices and promotions earlier than ever, and retailers answered that demand by offering Black Friday deals as soon as the day after Halloween,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This time of year is about finding the right gifts while staying on budget. For those looking for anything from toys to apparel at retailers large and small, in-store or online, retailers are ready with great merchandise at affordable prices.”

An NRF survey found that 55.7% of shoppers already started buying holiday gifts ahead of Black Friday, down slightly from the record 56.6% at the same time last year. Only 3% said they were finished shopping.

Clothing and accessories remain the most popular gifts this year, according to the NRF, given by 61% of shoppers, while 56% plan to buy gift cards. Forty-four percent of shoppers will give books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games, 42% will give toys, 31% food or candy and 30% will give electronics.

More people shopping online than offline

A new study by Deloitte found 76% of Americans plan to shop over Cyber Weekend, spending an average of $400, slightly higher than last year’s $369.

Deloitte found online and store retailers in a close race, with shoppers planning to spend 54% of their holiday budget online and 46% of it in stores. Online and in-store will draw nearly equal amounts of traffic, with 84% of respondents plan to hit the malls and shops while 87% plan to buy online. Seventy-one percent said they believe they can find comparable deals online and in-store between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday.

The impact of social media increasing

The Sprout Social Retail Index revealed that retailers will get 30% more social messages this holiday season. One in three consumers said their gift buying is impacted by social media. Thirty percent of people will post about a gift on social media.

Fifty-six percent of social messages are expected to be received in the fourth quarter, so for many retailers this will require action, Sprout found. Retailers can expect a 15% increase in social messages that will warrant a response compared to last holiday season, giving brands lots of opportunities to engage with customers.

With Instagram providing a “Shop Now” button, retailers using the platform can expect upwards of 1,000 comments, likely requiring extra attention.

Customers also want retailers to go beyond the generic tweet this holiday season. While company blog posts and memes are great, the Sprout survey found consumers are looking for culturally relevant content. Nearly 20% want more promotional messages and 38.8% want a healthy dose of holiday cheer.

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