Mobile Deals Set to Lure Shoppers Stuck in Line
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD November 19, 2011
As retailers battle to draw customers into their stores on Black Friday, online merchants are plotting a cunning ambush - offering an arsenal of mobile-only deals intended to pick off shoppers as they wait in line.
The Gilt Groupe, for example, which operates several Web sites, usually offers sales at noon. But on Friday, it will promote mobile exclusives at 6 a.m. - precisely when shoppers are expected to be crammed into checkout lines at some of its high-end competitors.
"We haven't had the ability to compete effectively with Black Friday, and now we do," said Andy Page, president of the Gilt Groupe, who predicted that poaching in-store shoppers would lead to Gilt's best Black Friday ever.
The aggressive promotions by Gilt, Amazon, HSN and other online companies are creating a frenzy among traditional retailers, who have counted the Friday after Thanksgiving as the busiest shopping day of the year.
A few are fighting back. Best Buy, already acquainted with the sting of online price-comparison apps, declines to display standard bar codes on some products so they cannot be easily scanned by smartphones.
But online merchants have technology - and increasingly, consumer behavior - on their side. Almost 10 percent of e-commerce purchases made in October came through mobile devices, according to research from IBM Coremetrics, up from about 3 percent a year earlier. About43 percent of Americans with cellphone service own smartphones, according to Nielsen. Amazon, the nation's biggest e-commerce site, says that the number of American customers who shop Amazon via only their mobile device has nearly tripled since last year.
Not only can online merchants now offer a relatively annoyance-free alternative to shoppers stuck in crowded stores, but they can also even exploit the faster download speeds on free wireless networks promoted by retailers like Nordstrom and Macy's. And most are throwing in free shipping.