November 11, 2011, 9:07 AM

Online holiday sales are social

Major online retailers are letting their Facebook fans determine Black Friday discounts.

Lead Photo

Soap.com's Battle of the Brands.

Several Top 100 e-retailers are making holiday shopping a social affair this week, as some are rolling out sneak peeks of Black Friday deals to Facebook fans, and others are allowing shoppers to pick which products they want deals on for the day after Thanksgiving.

Hoping to cash in as it did with a similar social promotion last year, Amazon.com Inc.’s subsidiary Quidsi Inc. this week unveiled its Battle of the Brands contest on the Facebook pages of its e-commerce sites Soap.com, Diapers.com, Wag.com and YoYo.com. The challenge pits popular branded items against each other and allows Facebook fans to vote on their favorites. The retailer will discount the winning products in each category by 30% from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, Quidsi says. Black Friday refers to the day after Thanksgiving, while Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving.

“This is one of our main social media promotions throughout the year,” says Teju Prabhaker, marketing director for household goods e-retailer Soap.com. “We like this one a lot because typically on the days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday there are heavy discounts from a lot of retailers. This is a great way to engage our customers and tell us which brands they like the most.”

Last year, Quidsi ran a similar promotion with Soap.com and Diapers.com, and it drew more than 100,000 votes on Facebook and significantly more orders than that on the winning brands, Prabhaker says. “This year we think it will be a lot more. We just sent out an e-mail promoting this two hours ago and we already have 10,000 votes.” Pet products site Wag.com and toy site YoYo.com launched this year.

Sears Holdings Corp. was promoting a similar program dubbed People’s Pick on its Facebook page this week. Every Sunday through Tuesday until Dec. 24, shoppers can go to Sears.com/pick and vote on their favorite products within categories like “Him,” “Chef” and “Techie.” Each Wednesday the e-retailer will announce the winning products that will be available at a discounted price the following Friday and Saturday; Sears says the discounts will vary. The People’s Pick program will run each week except the week of Thanksgiving.

Other major retail chains are using Facebook to promote holiday deals in other ways. Walmart.com, for example, posted a link on Facebook yesterday directing shoppers to a localized online version of the retail chain’s Black Friday Doorbuster deals. In a YouTube video posted on its Facebook page, a Walmart spokesman says the retailer released its discount flyer two weeks before Thanksgiving to give shoppers a chance to plan in advance.

Best Buy Co., meanwhile, posted a link on its Facebook page that gives fans a sneak peak of offers the retailer will make available online and in stores the day after Thanksgiving. Walgreen Co. has a First To Know tab on its Facebook page, which promises that if consumers enter their e-mail addresses and click Like, the retailer will give them previews of upcoming holiday offers.

While retailers such as Quidsi, Best Buy, Walgreens, Sears and a few others are blanketing their Facebook pages with holiday promotions, a survey this week by Internet Retailer of Facebook pages of the Top 100 merchants in The Top 500 Guide showed that mentions of the holidays were noticeably absent from the Facebook pages of more than half of the retailers.

Retailers could be missing out, as 44% of consumers plan to use social media sites when holiday shopping, according to a recent survey by market research firm Deloitte LP. Of those who plan to use social media, 57% percent will seek discounts, 51% read reviews and 49% research gift ideas.

Amazon.com Inc. is No. 1 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. Sears is No. 7, Best Buy No. 11 and Walgreens No. 73.

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