How to master Black Friday shopping

Before the turkey has been in the fridge long enough to be called a leftover, many families will hit their favorite retailer ready to strike a deal on Black Friday.

For the experienced Black Friday shopper, this official start to the holiday shopping season is a welcome challenge full of its own tradition. In fact, the National Retail Federation reported in its 2015 Thanksgiving weekend survey that tradition was the second-most-popular reason consumers braved the Black Friday crowds to shop in a brick-and-mortar store.

But there is one motivator that surpassed tradition to bring out shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving: The deals were too good to pass up.

About half of Black Friday shoppers showed up for the deals, and April Gilman — a Philadelphia, Pa. resident with a penchant for deals — has been one of them for the last 15 to 20 years.

“I live for deals,” Gilman says. “I would rather buy something that’s a good price than something I actually want or need.”

The fact that there are shoppers looking for deals on Black Friday is hardly a surprise; however, the survey showed that the way they are finding these deals is changing. Whether consumers are shopping in-store or online, technology is influencing the process. If you’re looking for tips to master Black Friday Shopping, you can learn from the tech-savvy habits of these experienced deal-finders.

Based on the habits of those surveyed, here are some suggestions for using your smartphone or tablet to improve your in-person shopping experience.

Search online and in print
While sale circulars were the most popular research tool, almost a third of those surveyed last year planned their trip by doing an online search. Retailers keep a close eye on their competition during Thanksgiving weekend, so you never know when a last-minute deal will be introduced.

Research products before you go
The highest level of smartphone activity on Black Friday — even higher than online purchasing — was researching products and comparing prices. When you’re in a crowd of competitive shoppers, it’s not very convenient to stop and read every detail on the box. But it might be worth an extra minute to do a quick search from the store to make sure you’re truly getting the lowest price.

Check for digital coupons
Coupon redemption was also a common use of smartphones in 2015. Several digital coupon apps with built-in GPS technology are available for iPhones and Android devices. If you’re near a store with a coupon or special sale, most of these apps will send you a push notification. Some even let you set the app to check your favorite stores.

Check in-store availability
Sometimes retailers limit their inventory of deeply discounted products and a great deal will go fast. Many store websites allow you to enter your zip code to check in-store availability of an item before you go. This way, you don’t waste time looking for a product that was advertised nationally but wasn’t stocked at your local store.

Online or in store?
Technology is helpful for both in-store and online shopping, and each method has its own set of pros and cons. If you do decide to go out and shop on Black Friday, Gilman offers some practical tips from her years of hitting the stores:

  • Dress in layers
  • Don’t wear a coat
  • Replace your purse with a messenger bag
  • Carry plenty of snacks and water
  • Have a clear plan for a few major stores for specific items

These practical tips, combined with the advantages of technology, can help you master Black Friday shopping like a pro.