Retailers: Let Us Now Give Thanks to Facebook, Groupon, Twitter, Whrrl…


An estimated 138 million shoppers will hit stores this Black Friday, up from 134 million last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

With more consumers getting an early jump on deals online — and skipping stores altogether, with one survey finding that 60% of consumers find Black Friday doorbusters “no big deal” — retail brands are rewriting their holiday marketing playbooks this year, relying on social media in particular to drive sales.[more]

“The rules for Black Friday have changed significantly,” says NRF President Matthew Shay. “Instead of waiting until Thanksgiving Day to announce their promotions, retailers are getting shoppers excited about Black Friday by offering sneak peeks of deals in advance, using social media to create buzz, and teasing upcoming deals on their web sites.”

This year, Walmart‘s Black Friday ad leaked a full week in advance, touting hot new tech toys such as the Xbox 360 Kinect (engaged in its own social marketing), Sony Playstation Move and free 3D Blu-ray players with 3D TV purchase — not to mention steep discounts to help spur sagging sales.

Major brands including Philips, Seagate, Elmer’s, Murphy USA and Hamilton Beach are participating in Whrrl’s new Holiday Deals Society, where shoppers can check in and check out recommendations for holiday sales from other members and a team of experts from Collective Bias. Rewards are activated by these brands when users check into Walmart, Target and Best Buy locations nationwide.

Sports Authority is taking a geo-social lead with a Black Friday line-up that includes Pepsi, JC Penney, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. Twenty random users will receive $500 gift cards for checking-in on Twitter via Foursquare between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. EST.

“I think there’s more of a compelling case for the shopper when there are 20 of these things at a great [reward], and they have a real shot to win,” comments Peter Thulson, e-commerce analyst for Sports Authority. “It’s not like trying to win the lottery.”

SA is promoting its deals to its 262,500 Facebook fans, its 5,100-plus Twitter followers, on its own website and through display ads and e-mail. “Basically, all the impressions we can put behind it, we are putting behind it,” said Clay Cowan, the brand’s VP of e-commerce. “We are going to push this thing digitally as hard as we can.”

Pepsi is partnering with Hess gas stations where check-ins can get a Brisk iced tea beverage and a Frito Lay item for $1.99. But the real reward is the promise of free gas and Brisk for a year via a sweepstakes for the initial check-in. Campaign runs through December 29th at 643 Hess locations across the country.

Over at Groupon, where “In a lot of ways, every day is like Black Friday,” according to CEO Andrew Mason, they’re battening down the hatches for their virgin holiday season as a major e-tailer.

Already straining under the traffic from an Oprah mention for micro-finance charity Kiva that coincided with announcement of a Nordstrom Rack deal, Groupon’s chief data officer Mark Johnson commented, “This is a great problem to have, but it is a problem nonetheless.”

Groupon’s October visitor count hit 6.4 million, eight times more than this time last year according to comScore – making it a major retail force this holiday season because its deals will be available for three to five days rather than just Black Friday, with the promise of return business from the increased exposure via social commerce.

Shopkick just launched “The 12 Days of Kickmas,” enticing shoppers with 12 daily prizes just by walking into a Best Buy, Target and Macy’s. The sweepstakes run from Black Friday through to Christmas Eve.

The grand prize is 4.25 million “kickbucks” reward points redeemable for product purchases that range from song downloads to a flat-screen TV. Brands on board include American Eagle Outfitters, Wet Seal, Simon Mall, Sports Authority and Target.

And then there’s Cyber Monday. Mariah Carey is among the first to announce a Home Shopping Network debut of an exclusive collection of jewelry, footwear, and a limited-edition fragrance. And she’ll appear on HSN to present her new life-style brand.

Amidst the pre-holiday hype and whrrl, social media remains a slice of most brands’ total marketing budget pie and evidentiary consumer behavior grows that people build relationships with people…not brands. So the jury is out — but attentive as Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach.

Nearly 100 million people participated in last year’s Cyber Monday specials, according to the National Retail Federation. 2010 is poised to break all records, as nine in ten retailers plan Cyber Monday deals, and social marketing delivers unprecedented deals to mobile users.

As brands wait to see how successful the social media sweetener proves this holiday, they’re also wondering if Cyber Monday has trumped Black Friday for good. We welcome your thoughts below.