Black Friday Sites: Retailer Friend or Foe?

Aija Lehtonen / Shutterstock.com

One of the growing trends over the last few holiday seasons has been the earlier and earlier start to the shopping season.  As reported last week in Compete Holiday Insights, 60% of respondents indicated that they have begun holiday shopping already.  Retailers seem to be paying attention and are seemingly challenging each other to see who can open the earliest on Black Friday.  Walmart and Toys ‘R Us plan to open at 10PM, with a number of retailers set to open by midnight.All of these trends illustrate the appetite for consumers to gain an edge on what deals they can expect heading into one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

A few years ago, several niche sites set up with the goal of publishing image scans of Black Friday circulars from the majority of the nation’s largest retailers.   An ensuing legal battle has played out over the last few years – circulars get leaked/posted on these sites, then lawyers from the retailers send a cease and desist order to the website.

These niche sites have become increasingly popular for 2-3 months of the year, according to Compete.

Close to 12M visits were made to bfads.net and also to blackfriday.info during last November, with the traffic sharply dropping off after that.

Retailers are rightly concerned that these leaks might influence final merchandising decisions at competitors – particularly online retailers.  However, one has to wonder if retailers should be doing more to partner with these sites to create some buzz based on a Compete analysis.

Compete took a look at the cross-shopping rates of consumers who visited one of the three largest Black Friday sites and visited one of the large retailers.

As you can see, 40% of people who visited bfads.net also visited Walmart.com during November 2010.  Legal ramications aside, sometimes a little controversy can be a great driver of traffic to a site.

Although Black Friday deals are not ready for purchase on November 10, perhaps this drives consumers to the site and increases share of engagement online with a brand heading into Black Friday.  Or – in a perfect world – this casual engager decides to buy some other products online or offline as a result of seeing a Black Friday circular that made retailer X top of mind to a consumer.

6 of the top 10 destinations that visitors to BlackFriday.info went to immediately after leaving the site were retailer sites.

On the other hand, the top 3 search providers all show up on the list.  This raises the question of whether consumers are doing some research ahead of time to price compare the current price of an item vs. the Black Friday price.

What’s your take, are these Black Friday leaks worth their risks to create heightened engagement?