Apps target US shopping frenzy
This Black Friday, to the tech-savvy go the spoils. Retailers are trying to lure shoppers away from the internet, where they have increasingly been shopping to avoid today's "Black Friday" madness, and back to the stores.
The bait is technological tools that will make shopping on the busiest day of the year a little more sane - and give shoppers an edge over their competition.
Those with smartphones in hand will get better planning tools, prices and parking spots. Wal-Mart has a map that shows shoppers exactly where, in all 4,000 stores, the top Black Friday specials can be found.
A Mall of America Twitter feed gives advice on traffic and gifts, and the Macy's app sends special deals for every five minutes a shopper stays in a store.
"The crazy mad rush to camp out and the crazy mad rush to hit the doorbusters have really made people think, 'I'm just going to stay home on Black Friday,"' said Carey Rossi, editor in chief of ConsumerSearch.com, a review site.
"This is going to invite some people back and say, 'You know what? It doesn't have to be that crazy'."
Part of the retailers' strategy is to slap back at online stores such as Amazon.com, which last year used apps to pick off shoppers as they browsed in physical stores. But the stores are also recognising that shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving need not require an overnight wait in line, a helmet and elbow pads. A smartphone gives shoppers enough of an edge.
"This takes away that frantic Black Friday anxiety," said Lawrence Fong, co-founder of BuyVia, an app that sends people price alerts and promotions. "While there's a sport to it, life's a little too short."
Denise Fouts (45), who works repairing fire and water damage in Chandler, Arizona, uses apps including Shopkick, Target's app and one called Black Friday.
"There still are going to be the crowds, but at least I already know ahead of time what I'm going specifically for," Fouts said.
Last week, Macy's released an update to its app with about 300 Black Friday specials and their location. In the Herald Square store, for instance, the $49.99 cashmere sweater specials will be in the Broadway side of the fifth-floor women's department.
"With the speed that people are shopping with on Black Friday, they need to be really efficient about how they're spending their time," said Jennifer Kasper, group vice-president for digital media at Macy's.
When shoppers keep the app open, Macy's will start sending special deals to the phone every five minutes. The deals will not be advertised elsewhere.
Wal-Mart has had an app for several years but recently introduced an in-store mode, which shows things like the current circular or food tastings when a shopper is near a certain location. Twelve per cent of Wal-Mart's mobile revenue now comes from when a person is inside a store.
For Black Friday, the app will have a map of each store, with the precise location of the top sale items - so planners can determine the best way to run.
"The blitz items are not where you think they would be, because for traffic reasons, maybe the hot game console is in the lawn and garden centre," said Gibu Thomas, senior vice-president for mobile and digital for Wal-Mart Global eCommerce.