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How Big Will Black Friday Really Be?

Retailers are putting the final touches to their marketing activities for their biggest weekend of the year - Black Friday-Cyber Monday.  This year retailers have stepped up their promotions, says NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, with many offering sneak peeks of deals in advance, using social media to create buzz, or teasing upcoming deals on their websites. According to the Shop.org eHoliday survey, conducted by BIGresearch, more than half of retailers (54.9%) will send a special email to customers about Black Friday deals and nearly four out of 10 (39.2%) will use their Facebook page to reach out to shoppers.

Additionally, many retailers will utilize their websites home page (31.4%) and Twitter (21.6%) to announce and promote Black Friday deals.

70% of Retailers Turn to Email

Responsys, for its part, expects at least 70% of top online retailers to send promotional emails on Black Friday and Cyber Monday - with slightly more retailers sending on Black Friday. "Cyber Monday has been the biggest email marketing day of the year for the past three years in a row," says Chad White, Research Director at Responsys. "But as more retailers have become convinced of email and other interactive channels' ability to drive in-store traffic and as more Black Friday deals have become available online, email has become a critical channel for promoting Black Friday sales as well."

Last year, 69% of the top online retailers tracked by the Retail Email Blog sent at least one email to their subscribers on Black Friday, up from 59% in 2008. On Cyber Monday, 71% of retailers sent email, up from 70% in 2008. The email marketing push helped propel online sales to all-time highs, with Black Friday sales up 11% year-over-year and Cyber Monday sales up 5%, according to comScore.

But Just How Big?

Some 138 million people are expected to hit the malls on Black Friday weekend, according to a preliminary Black Friday shopping survey conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch, higher than the 134 million people who planned to do so last year. According to the survey, approximately 60 million people say they will definitely hit the stores while another 78 million are waiting to see if the bargains are worth braving the cold and the crowds.

But are retailers and marketers being set up for a fall this year with these projections? Especially after the last two years of cautious and conservative shoppers keeping a close eye on spending, retailers are clearly looking forward to a more abundant season. There's no question, shoppers will be out in droves during these days, The Street reports. But it goes on to point out that two research firms have released somewhat conflicting data about this. There is the National Retail Federation projection of 138 million shoppers. However Consumer Reports said fewer Americans plan to shop on Black Friday weekend this year compared to last year, with 102 million shoppers planning to go to the malls, down 16 million from last year.

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