Amazon is launching several Black Friday deals early, with prices slashed on items in 30 categories, including toys, electronics, fashion, beauty, kitchen and sporting goods. Prime members get early notice of many of those deals, plus Amazon's suite of fulfillment and delivery options — including a restaurant delivery service in certain areas of the U.S.
Customers who voice shop with Alexa get an exclusive shopping window several hours earlier than the general public, starting at 5 p.m. PT, on Wednesday, Nov. 22. In addition, Amazon's mobile app can be set for "Watch a Deal" alerts to notify customers of a price drop, and it also features AR view so customers can see how items look in their space.
Meanwhile, eBay is also launching Black Friday shopping early; starting Tuesday through Nov. 17, the marketplace began its own special Black Friday pricing and price-matching, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive. Special prices are flagged as beating or matching Macy's, Kohl's or other rivals whose prices are higher. eBay said price-matching will continue through Cyber Monday, with no blackouts during the Black Friday shopping days.
Several retailers seem to have taken a lesson from Alibaba, which began the hype three weeks early this year for the massive "Singles Day" event. Advertising for the red-letter shopping days has intensified — the two weeks leading up to Black Friday remain the most popular time period for holiday advertising, according to a report from Kantar Media that was emailed to Retail Dive. Retailers spent $474.6 million last year and $488.4 million in 2015 during that period, Kantar Media found.
But this year the hype is more than a "heads up" for incoming sales; it's also a notice at many retailers that sales have already begun. Amazon is maintaining urgency by plunking a ticking clock next to some deals, though holiday shoppers can turn to Target, Best Buy and many other retailers that have also launched special prices early.
But if they only focus on prices and the rush to capture deals, retailers may exhaust consumers. That's especially true in light of consumer sentiment against retail openings on Thanksgiving Day, according to Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor at research and advisory firm Gartner.
"A shared values campaign can be especially effective around Black Friday as it serves as a response/rebuke to the unvarnished capitalism/materialism that seems to come with Black Friday of late," he said in an email to Retail Dive. "It's a brand's opportunity to say 'we're more/better than that' — especially important given the recent backlash against stores opening on Thanksgiving itself and hordes of shoppers climbing over each other to get their hands on that 20%-off flat screen TV."
Holiday shoppers are actually primed for such counter-messaging, he said, "because the holidays represent a time of introspection and reflection, leading to good discussions of core values to begin with." Examples are the classic happiness, peace and love themes from Coca-Cola, he said.
Retailers are disrupting the holiday season by stretching out a shopping event that once upon a time fell just on one day. But they can cut through the resulting marketing noise with another kind of disruption, Adamson says.
"In an effort to stand out, capture greater consumer attention, and scale their messages more broadly, the best brands, we find, turn to messages built on what we've come to call 'cultural disruption,'" he said, citing campaigns like Dove's "Real Beauty." "They piggy-back on cultural debates of the time and clearly take a side in a memorable, powerful manner that moves that debate forward in a productive way. At a time when brands are bending over backward to offer quick-hit discounts, cultural disruption offers a very different way to capture consumer attention."