Black Friday for Beginners: How to Survive the Busiest Shopping Day of the Year!

What is Black Friday?

Perhaps the most popular shopping day of the year, the day after Thanksgiving (Friday) is named “Black Friday” because this is the day that most retailers go from being not profitable (red on earnings statements) to profitable (in the “black” on earnings statements.) Deal finders love these sales, and I have been going for a few years now. Generally speaking, I love Black Friday, but with the birth of my new son, it doesn’t seem practical to get up at 4:00 in the morning to find these great deals!

Here is the strategy I have used to be successful in getting every item on my wish list:

1. Get the ads – Either online or the day that they come out in the paper, grab all the ads from the papers and sit down with a pen and paper. Remember that rural areas don’t often get all the ads from the retailers, so if you are missing one from a store you want to shop, you can probably go online and get one from them at their website directly.

2. Ad by ad, circle the items that you want the most. Remember that many stores will be offering the exact same items on sale, so price compare. I use 3×5 cards to make a list for each store on each card with the items I want for that store. Group them by department if you wish for easier navigation in the store.

3. Make note of the times that the stores open on each note card. The strategy will be to go to the stores that open earliest first, and so on so that you can grab those best deals as they become available.

4. The day before the sale – Lay out your clothes, wallet, notecards, and a quick breakfast bar or other item to snack on before you go or on the drive. Remember that it may be very cold at 4a.m. where you live, so dress warmly. Avoid bulky coats if you can (dress in layers), as you will not have room in your cart to stash your coat, and it will get very, very hot waiting in those lines.

5. The day of the sale – Hit the road with your best co-shopper. This works best with a friend.

6. Hit the earliest store first. Try to get there at least 10 minutes before the store opens. You will possibly have to wait in line, but get in there. When you door opens, never push or shove other shoppers. In fact, if it is overwhelming for you, hang back a bit and let the most aggressive shoppers through first. I usually wait casually until the rush gets in, and if there is already a cart or two in the parking lot, grab them! There will be a mad dash for carts that will cause the biggest confusion. (Sometimes they run out of carts.)

7. Head for each item on your list. Most of the really good early sales (those listed for opening until about 11 a.m. only) will probably be out in the aisles for easy access. If you find an item on your list that is hard to get to (due to crowds or narrow aisles) have one of you wait by the carts and the other grab the item. This teamwork approach works great for “divide and conquering.”

8. When you are about done, try to combine all items into one cart and head for the check out line. One of you wait in line while the other roams the store for any missed deals. Check out and head for the next store on the list!

9. Don’t forget to get some breakfast, coffee and bathroom breaks as needed. Don’t let the experience stress you out! After all, you are getting some great deals.

10. And last but not least, DON’T FORGET GIFT RECEIPTS! These are very important to have if you are claiming any rebates.

If you get home and want to venture online, many stores will be having some or all of their sale items online, too! You may find that this approach works best for items where you only have one thing to get at a retailer and it is not offered exclusively during that “early bird” morning window.

Once you go shopping with a plan in mind, this shopping holiday can become a favorite shopping tradition. Happy deals to everyone!

Product Reviews of Shopping Cart Software

Your website and the ability for customers to check out quickly and easily is incredibly important. As many website owners know, all too often a customer will place an item in their cart and go to check out. However, for whatever reason during checkout they change their mind and never complete the transaction. This could be due to any number of reasons, but in many cases it is simply because the checkout procedure is too much of a hassle. If you don’t want to lose sales at the last critical point then make sure you have the best shopping cart software. How do you do this? There are several ways, but one of them is to read product reviews.

Product reviews are important because it allows you to see from a website owner’s point of view the benefits and drawbacks a particular program might have. This is important because before you can learn from other’s experiences before you buy and install the software. You want to avoid as many lost sales as possible and the best way to do this is by reading product reviews and finding shopping cart software that will meet your needs. There are a few things to look for.

First, you want a software that makes it easy to checkout as well as make changes or return shopping. Some individuals may be in the process of checking out and realize they forgot to look through the clearance items. The last thing you want to do is have them start over so you need a shopping cart software that will easily let the customer return shopping and then back to the shopping cart with no confusion and seamless transition.

There are many different shopping cart software options on the market and some are great while others are just so-so. You don’t want a so-so shopping cart software but rather one that is right in line with what customers want from a checkout process. They don’t want to have to fill out a lot of forms, they don’t want to have to create an account, and they want to be able to make changes to their order and see the immediate price changes whether this be with shipping, taxes, or simply adding or removing items.

Finally, make sure your shopping cart software is never the reason why a potential customer leaves with her cart half full. This is the worst possible situation and if you are doing what it takes to get customers to your website and then making a purchase then the last thing you want is for your shopping cart software to turn them away.

The Rise of Social Shopping and User Reviews

Why I think customer reviews and social shopping are important. Social shopping is an interesting concept which divides opinion amongst web commentators.

Most are agreed that social shopping is a specific type of web service with its roots in the social explosion of Web 2.0.

In their purest form the best social shopping sites provide an open independent platform where users can add products, post a review or provide a product rating. The sites are service orientated, providing the tools for others to use and as such rely heavily on user generated content to set the agenda.

In essence the opportunity now exists for consumers to band together, discuss specific products and brands and provide an authentic alternative voice to the brand led marketing activity and conventional expert reviews we are all subjected to in other media.

By sharing product knowledge and experiences, creating useful content, an empowered community consensus can emerge, highlighting the gems and warning against the over hyped duds – the products which disappoint and fail to deliver.

This type of user generated content has a real value and satisfies an important element of the online shopping process – research, which accounts for 80% of consumer time when they are shopping online.

Social shopping sites combine social elements such as a social networking community features with aspects of shopping such as product reviews, ratings and deal hunting.

Some of the more agile social shopping sites are making use of the Twitter API and Facebook Connect to tap in to the online conversation, providing context for product related Tweets on Twitter and distribution of product opinion via Facebook.

Social shopping sites can be viewed as a value added evolution of the affiliate model – as they seek to monetize website content (the user generated product reviews and ratings) by sending traffic to third party merchant sites where they can purchase product.

My starting position is to agree with the mantra that “customer recommendation is the Holy Grail of Advertising”. We know this is true in the real world – if your friends and neighbours enthuse about their new car, lawnmower, laptop or digital camera – it will have weight, you take note.

The same holds online – reviews and recommendations are very powerful; especially those from people with status in a community, and those which are provided weeks and months after the purchase; only the scale and dynamics of relationships differ. The potential then of social shopping and what it offers us as consumers, product designers, specialist retailers and brands which really focus on and respond to their community is very exciting.

Some statistics and predictions from rantorave.

According to a global Nielsen survey of 26,486 Internet users in 47 markets, consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising among 78% of the study’s respondents. (Nielsen, “Word-of-Mouth the Most Powerful Selling Tool”).

83% of shoppers said online product evaluations and reviews influenced their purchasing decisions. (Opinion Research Corporation, an infoGROUP company, July 2008).

76% of US retailers said user-generated content would have a greater impact on their marketing goals in the near future. (SLI Systems/Zoomerang, November 2008).

56% of UK website owners say that user-generated content lifts conversion levels; 77% say it increases traffic; and 42% say it increases the average spend on site.(eConsultancy survey of 360 website owners across all sectors, November 2008).

By 2020, 84% of marketers agree that building customer trust will become marketing’s primary objective, and 82% agree that collaboration with customers will prevail over marketing. (1to1 Media survey April, 2008).

Top 10 Social shopping sites: (note I am only allowed to submit an article with 4 links)

  1. Kaboodle –  a great site, arguably market leader geared towards female consumers. Now owned by Hearst Digital Media.
  2. ThisNext – another strong site with an emphasis on female consumers, this site feels like a great window shopping experience with expert Maverns on tap
  3. Tribesmart –  this site is making use of twitter and Facebook connect. There are some great tools such as the personal list builder and community messaging features based on the ‘Tribes’ idea. Like Veedow, Wists and Crowdstorm it could appeal to both sexes and this is potentially where the gap in the market is as Kaboodle, OSOYOU and ThisNext seem to have marked out a claim on the younger female market.
  4. Veedow – a slightly confusing site, a neat idea, still yet to realize it’s full potential in my view
  5. Stylehive – feeling less like a pure play social shopping site these days, it has a strong emphasis on wannabe celebrity fashion/lifestyle writers who you follow – it is not as vibrant as twitter although you can see where they are going with it
  6. Jungle Raft – a new entrant, included as it is a new concept with a clear proposition in terms of pulling the best deals from Amazon
  7. Stylefeeder – offers to help users discover products based on their unique tastes. The looks a little off the pace and has some annoying and tacky pop up ads. All a bit old skool.
  8. Crowdstorm – the site is a Digg type site for products, it is based on buzz and an expert opinion network- although it does seem to have gone quiet in the last 12 months
  9. Shopstyle – feels like an ecommerce site with price discounts on display. Lacks obvious reviews or community features although the stylebooks feature is really nice enabling people to put looks together and share these – the ‘sale alert’ feature could be useful though and the site has hooked up with Elle magazine in the past.
  10. Wists – a trending site about what is new and what people plan on buying

There are many others, sites like Shopcorn and Naturalbornshoppers to name but two.