Love it or hate it, Black Friday has become a seasonal touchstone that retailers, vendors and shoppers have helped make into a competitive (and occasionally blood) sport.
Headline notwithstanding, next month you can expect the usual drumbeat of lunatic pricing and long queues of sales seekers, both of which will begin even earlier than last year.
And yet in many ways this Thanksgiving will be different due to evolving shopper habits, increasing cyber-crime sophistication and changing industry dynamics.
Given those assumptions, DealNews, an online aggregator of promotions, product discounts and sales events, has posited the following ways Black Friday 2014 will be expressly unique, as compiled by their senior features writer Louis Ramirez:
1. Super-Cheap UHD TVs Will Be Everywhere
This year we expect to see no-frills 4K TVs hit well below the $999 mark. Leading the charge will be budget TV manufacturer Seiki, which broke all deal records this summer with its $280 39-inch and $429 50-inch UHD TVs. These and other Seiki screens will hit similar price-lows this Black Friday, bringing 4K technology to the masses.
2. More Retailers Will Price Match To Compete With Amazon
There was a time when brick-and-mortar stores refused to price-match their online competitors, but as more consumers turned to e-commerce, big-name chains like Best Buy and Walmart changed their policies.
This year, Toys “R” Us and Target will be just a few of the big-name stores joining Best Buy and Walmart in taking on Amazon. Expect to see many more price-match announcements as Black Friday approaches.
3. More People Will Shop on Smartphones
There’s no denying the fact that mobile shopping is on the rise, and studies indicate that consumers tend to shop more from their mobile devices on Black Friday. Retailers, however, aren’t investing in their mobile infrastructure; so even though more people will turn to their smartphones and tablets after their turkey dinner, their experience online will be the same as last year.
4. More Stores Will Offer Guaranteed Doorbusters
Doorbuster deals are super-cheap, small-volume deals designed to get shoppers inside stores on Black Friday (although they frequently appear online as well). But because doorbusters are so limited in quantity, they tend to run out before most people set foot inside a store — prompting many shoppers to just stay home.
But retailers want you in-store, in the hopes that you’ll make some impulse purchases. Thus, we expect more retailers to offer a handful of “guaranteed” doorbuster deals this year, meaning eligible shoppers will receive wristbands or vouchers that guarantee that item, even if supplies run out (but you might have to wait a few weeks to receive it). Walmart and Toys “R” Us did this to great success last year, and we expect to see more stores join in this year.
5. Retailers Will Tease Shoppers With Black Friday Ad Sneak Peeks
Last year, to build anticipation, a handful of retailers offered sneak peeks of their Black Friday ads several weeks before the official, complete debut. The strategy was successful at generating buzz, so expect to see far more retailers doing the same this year. A few stores to watch out for include MacMall, JCPenney and Macy’s, the latter of which leaked its sales via its Pinterest page.
6. Stores Will Be Better Staffed
Despite petitions and protests from employees, retailers are looking to stock up on cashiers this Black Friday. While that means more people will have to work extra hours this Thanksgiving, it also means shoppers should experience shorter lines and wait times in-store.
7. Retailers and Consumers Will Guard Credit Card Info Like Never Before
It was around Black Friday last year that Target experienced the first of these massive security hacks, but it wasn’t the last; then came Neiman Marcus, eBay, Home Depot, and more. As a result, both retailers and consumers will be extra cautious this year, guarding their credit card info from would-be thieves.
8. Mobile Payments May Yield Promotions for Shoppers
Despite those financial security concerns, tap-to-pay services are at the forefront this year now that Apple has joined Google Wallet in the mobile payment industry. This may spur competing platforms and retailers to offer promotions or loyalty rewards when consumers pay via their smartphone. So expect promotions tied to mobile wallet purchases this year.
9. More Stores Will Offer Discounted Shipping
The United States Postal Service has slashed shipping costs for select businesses by up to 58 percent, which may inspire more shipping discounts from retailers. But the new lower prices may backfire and cause the USPS to be overwhelmed this holiday season, especially as UPS and FedEx prepare to raise their rates.
10. More Tablet Deals Than Ever
Despite a crash in sales, tablets are still a hot commodity and expected to sit atop everyone’s shopping list this November. With growing competition from Apple, Google and Microsoft, it’s a buyer’s market, which means you can expect more tablet sales this year than there were in 2013, with Windows tablets likely offering the most savings.
11. Better Deals on Streaming Devices
Black Friday deals are generally more generous for previous-generation streaming devices, but this year the market is busier than ever, meaning we could see significant deals on current-generation set-top boxes. Among the newer models to look out for are Amazon’s Fire TV and Sony’s PlayStation TV, both of which debuted at $99 and cater to gamers.
12. Mainstream Laptops Will Pack Better Hardware at Lower Prices
Bargain bin laptops have hit rock bottom. These simple, low-powered machines can’t get any cheaper than prices we’ve seen in Black Fridays past, which range from $178 to $200. As a result, this Black Friday you’re going to see better discounts on mainstream machines, i.e., laptops with Intel’s current-generation Core processors and respectable spec sheets. Deal prices on mainstream machines have been steadily dropping since April, with deals already flirting with the $350 range at the start of the fall season.