Prepare for Black Friday Shopping With These 4 Tips

For one, don't worry too much about Black Friday, specifically.
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For one, don't worry too much about Black Friday, specifically.
Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

It's the most wonderful time of the year... for retailers who want to meet or exceed their annual revenue forecasts — and, of course, for shoppers hungry for deals. Adobe is forecasting online sales to surpass the $100 billion mark this holiday season at $107.4 billion. It's an important time for all of us who participate in the economy and you want to be prepared.

At the same time, days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday now have less significance than they've had since their inception, with all retailers boasting of online deals and spreading them out throughout November and December. So we looked at industry trends and insights from retailers and analysts to compile a few tips and tricks to keep in mind as you tackle the next few days of deals. Happy shopping! 

Don't put all your eggs in one Black Friday

Even though it might be the most publicized shopping day of the year, Black Friday... doesn't really matter. If it's a family tradition, then, sure go to Wal-Mart at the crack of dawn after Thanksgiving and try to get a TV. But this year, discounts are more spread out than ever. Amazon, for instance, will be rolling out deals consistently between now and Cyber Monday. In fact, you might even have already missed out on some deals, as many retailers began markdowns in mid-November.

That said, there are still many deals to be had. According to Adobe, Thanksgiving Day is the best day to shop for apparel (as well as computers and sporting goods); Black Friday is best for appliances, jewelry, tablets and TVs; and Cyber Monday is best for toys. Apparel is most likely to be out of stock on Cyber Monday.

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Prepare, and keep an eye on social media

The best way to get the best deals is to do your research and find out what sales are scheduled to take place when. This is especially important (and challenging) now that deals are so spread out. Sign up for newsletters and check the promotions tab in your Gmail (for once). You may also find ads for deals on retailers' websites, but another good place to keep an eye out is social media. Follow retailers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for any last-minute discount announcements. Some retailers, like Amazon, also have apps that will send you push notifications about sales. Spring and other similar online marketplaces will notify you when an item you "loved" on the platform gets marked down.

Use your devices

In addition to being notified about markdowns, phones are helpful for price comparison through apps like RetailMeNot and Shopkick. Use them whether you're shopping online or in a store to make sure there's not a deeper discount available elsewhere. You can also, of course, shop directly on your phone. Retailers are likely ramping up their mobile experiences in anticipation of the biggest mobile shopping season ever: Mobile visits to retail sites are set to surpass desktop for the first time at 54 percent, according to Adobe. And phones aren't the only useful device this season. Amazon is encouraging shopping with Alexa, giving those who do early access to deals.

Check shipping and return policies

Discounts are less discount-y when you have to pay shipping or return fees. Nadya Maffei, the VP of Brand Development at Spring, advises, "Take advantage of free shipping and generous return periods. Starting this time of year, most brands will extend their return policy to 2018, so you have plenty of time to shop now, and decide later (just double check that the item isn't final sale)." She adds: "There is no reason to spend anything on shipping costs this Black Friday (or ever)." 

Go ahead and shop for yourself

There's a lot of good stuff on sale this time of year, and a lot of it is bound to be stuff you can't resist buying for yourself — especially in the apparel/accessories category if you're anything like us. Those shoes you've been eyeing since September could suddenly be 40 percent off. How are you supposed to resist? You're not alone, either. Maffei observed that "Black Friday is actually more about self-gifting then getting your holiday shopping list done." Also, according to a study conducted by The Tylt, a whopping 64 percent of millennials would rather shop for themselves than for others. Does that mean we're bad people? Maybe! But it's fine.

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