We’re already well into Black Friday. In many US stores the frenzy began last night at 10 pm or midnight (as opposed to the normal 4 am door-busting start time). People barely had time to overcome the sleep-inducing effects of L-tryptophan before getting out into the melee. And the word “melee” aptly describes the scene in a Southern California Wal-Mart store as one woman unleashed pepper spray on her fellow shoppers to prevent them from getting in her way.
Today and for the next few days people will be using a wide range of tools and resources — hopefully not pepper spray — to help them determine what and where to buy to get the best prices on items on their holiday shopping lists. This year there are more tools, sites and mobile apps than ever it would seem. Indeed, there’s just no way to deal with all the online shopping sites and apps comprehensively in one post, but here’s a sample of what’s out there.
Search: where it all starts
Google just this week beefed up its Product Search site with a number of new features and capabilities. Product Search now has more information and is much more “visual” than it used to be (courtesy of the shuttered Boutiques.com). The home page of Google Product Search doesn’t feature any Black Friday specific information but it does promote Google Offers, the useful Google Shopper mobile app and the recently relaunched Google Catalogs for the iPad.
Google Product Search and Google general search results also show information about where you can buy items in stock at nearby stores. This is a nice feature of Google’s product search that isn’t available on Yahoo or Bing.
However if you’re looking for Black Friday information Google Product Search isn’t a great place to start. Yahoo has much more Black Friday content, including a dedicated deals site with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. All same information is also accessible from the main Yahoo Shopping site.
You can browse all the Black Friday ads online in one place on Yahoo, albeit in a somewhat awkward scanned-pdf format. Probably the best place to see all the Black Friday Ads in a browse-able and searchable format is ShopLocal.com. It’s not a great user-experience but it gets the job done. The Black Friday sites also have all or almost all the ads online as well.
Not as good as ShopLocal but better than Yahoo, Bing does good job with formatting and presenting the weekly “circular” retailer information, including Black Friday ads. However the “circular” information is unfortunately quite limited. Luckily there is a dedicated Black Friday-Cyber Monday section in Bing Shopping that also features some editorial picks.
You can, of course, also use Google, Yahoo and Bing to search for “Black Friday Ads” or “Black Friday Deals” sites. There are dozens of them (e.g., BlackFriday2011).
Shopping engines: Amazon, eBay and beyond
Amazon is the most aggressive of the online shopping sites, with loads of Black Friday specials including hourly “lightening deals.” Amazon also has a range of iPad and mobile apps for your cross-platform shopping convenience.
These include Windowshop for the iPad, the Amazon Mobile app and several other mobile apps. For example Amazon Deals allows you to rapidly flip through Amazon’s Gold Box and Lightening Deals on your smartphone. There’s also Amazon Price Check for in-store price comparisons.
Amazon rival eBay is also featuring Black Friday deals and daily deals on its home page. PayPal, which is owned by eBay, also has shopping and deals. However, PayPal mainly uses email to promote shopping to its existing users. There are no Black Friday specific promotions apparently.
There are numerous mobile apps from eBay including RedLaser, a barcode scanning app that offers an expanding array of content and functionality (i.e., pricing, reviews and local inventory data). The local inventory data is from eBay’s Milo.com and is available online (though buried) and through a dedicated Milo mobile app, in addition to RedLaser.
Shopping comparison engine PriceGrabber has a Black Friday-Cyber Monday section. Nextag is also offering some Black Friday deals. However most of the shopping engines seem to be sitting out Black Friday-Cyber Monday in terms of specific promotion. That includes eBay’s Shopping.com. As an aside, one of the best sites for general online shopping and price comparisons is TheFind, which also has a mobile app and a local store inventory finder.
Mo-Lo: mobile apps and local inventory sites
In addition to those already mentioned there is an ever growing list of shopping-related mobile apps. Most major retailers now have mobile apps, which typically include sale and deals information. And most of them will have their Black Friday deals there too. There are also at least 10 Black Friday specific mobile apps in the iTunes store right now, the highest rated of which is TGI Black Friday.
ShopSavvy is another mobile app that offers deals, as well as local store inventory data and newspaper weekly circular information. The app also features a barcode scanner that accesses price and product reviews content. Goodzer is another site and mobile app that tells you what stores carry products locally. It doesn’t guarantee real-time inventory information, but claims to have a larger catalog of local products than any of its competitors.
There are also a number of mobile apps that offer venue maps to get you efficiently around the mall so don’t get frustrated and have to use pepper spray on your fellow shoppers. Among them are: Micello, Point Inside and FastMall. Point Inside also features local deals content.
Decide.com, from the people who created travel site Farecast (acquired by Microsoft), will tell you whether you should buy a gadget or electronics item now or wait, based on historical pricing data. It also includes a barcode scanner and features product revenues and nearby local inventory data.
Foursquare and Shopkick are running special promotions in conjunction with credit card issuers Amex and Visa respectively. Foursquare’s is part of a promotion tied to “Small Business Saturday,” which sits between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Most of the above-mentioned apps are also available in the Android Market.
Deal sites: where every day is Black Friday
Among the top daily deal sites only LivingSocial seems to be doing a Black Friday specific set of promotions. Groupon is offering its normal deals. That generally seems to be the case for the other major deal and “flash sale sites” that I checked.
However Groupon anticipates a big holiday season and expects that consumers will be giving deals (in the form of services and experiences or Groupon purchase credit) in addition to more traditional gifts.
That’s more than enough information to digest. If I were to write more and you were to spend more time reading this you’d be delayed in getting out there and grabbing the deals before they’re gone. However if you’re reading this on a mobile device you may already be in the store or in a checkout line.
Some people have already been shopping all night. But if you haven’t started yet, here’s a little taste of what you may be in for: SNL’s mock Black Friday ad from last season.