November 5, 2010, 1:36 PM

The Black Friday rush is on

Consumers already are searching for the deals they know are coming.

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New research shows that large retailers capture most of the referral traffic from Black Friday deal sites on Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving, often called Black Friday, when many retailers offer deeply discounted one-day sales to kick off the holiday shopping season.  72% of all Black Friday search referral traffic goes to the top 50 retailers as ranked by Experian Information Solutions Inc. However, experts say there is room for more retailers to capture the fervor of Black Friday and get their best deals in front of shoppers before and after Black Friday.

One tactic is to reach consumers already searching online for Black Friday offers. “There’s a lot of advertising support driving Black Friday traffic to the largest retailers,” says Heather Dougherty, research director at Experian Hitwise, which tracks and analyzes Internet traffic. At the same time, retailers want to broaden the concept of Black Friday, she says, to capture consumers’ increased appetite for sales.  She says searches for “Black Friday” online last week increased 12% from the same time in 2008; comparable data from 2009 were unavailable. Total search queries including the words “Black Friday” grew 50% from 2008 to 2009.

E-retailers hope to exploit that interest with early promotional offers that take advantage of the Black Friday terminology. For example, Bluestem Brands Inc., which operates general goods retailer Fingerhut.com, today launched a holiday program it is calling “Black Friday Jumpstart.” Offers posted on the site tease consumers with savings of up to 50% every Friday from now until Nov. 26, the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, electronics retailer Newegg.com, No. 12 on Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, calls its run-up to Thanksgiving “Black November,” and posts special sales on Fridays that last for 24 hours. Toys ‘R’ Us, taking a different path, has a prompt on its Facebook page encouraging consumers to sign up to receive a mobile text alert the instant the toy retailer’s Black Friday deals post on the social networking site. 

Search and traffic data from Experian also show that the week following Black Friday, which kicks off with the often-referenced Cyber Monday, finds consumers trying to snag the rock-bottom prices they may have missed out on Black Friday. Experian data show that consumer searches for coupon codes and promotional codes peak that week. Dougherty says retailers should be ready to play offense and offer such discounts the week after Thanksgiving. “You have to make sure your competition isn’t ahead of you,” she says.

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