Small Manufacturers Embrace Cyber Monday

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For many American manufacturers, Internet sales can make or break a business. And with Cyber Monday gaining in popularity, many companies are turning attention to one-day Internet deals, promoted to potential consumers and current fans through email updates and Facebook (FB) posts.

How Cyber Monday Began

In 2005, debuted the term "Cyber Monday" in a news release hoping to persuade the public to shop online. E-commerce retailers had been looking for a way to highlight the spike in online spending seen the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Cyber Monday allowed consumers to shop from their desk or home, with equal or better discounts to the stampedes, fights and long lines on Black Friday -- which was creeping into Thanksgiving. In 2013, comScore (SCOR) reported that Cyber Monday sales topped $1.735 billion -- an 18 percent increase from 2012.

Joining the Monday Campaign

For smaller manufacturers trying to make a name for themselves stateside -- often only selling online -- Cyber Monday can be a blessing. Consumers looking for an extra-special gift can find unique items not available in stores.

The Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Co. in Jackson, Wyoming, does 60 percent of its business online and will embrace Cyber Monday for the first time this year. Owner Dan Marino purchased the company, which was founded in 1947, in 1997, when the Internet started to take off. He saw an opportunity to expand by offering the highest quality all-natural raised-in-the-USA products to those outside of Wyoming. "We do custom gift packs and corporate gifts, and we ship all over the USA," he said. "I saw a great opportunity to really make the Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Co. into a national supplier of game-type healthy meats, and make this company a household name brand."

The Great Alaskan Bowl Co. in Fairbanks, Alaska, has used the Internet to sell it one-piecebowls, from sustainably harvested birch, to the rest of the United States -- and as far as India and South Africa. "We have done Cyber Monday and continue to do so," said Malen Bratcher, marketing and wholesale director. "It does increase our sales and hopefully will continue to move us in the right direction."

Jacob Bromwell kitchen and household accessories has been around since 1819, and 50 percent sales are now online. "We've had an online store since 1999, and up until 2010 it was only a small part of our business," said Sean Bandawat, president. "In recent years, we've implemented many online marketing initiatives that have driven our online through the roof. That distribution channel has become extremely important to the overall financial health of the company." On Cyber Monday, it will offer 30 percent off all items.

13 Ways Black Friday 2014 Will Be Different
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Small Manufacturers Embrace Cyber Monday
Last year, to build anticipation, a handful of retailers offered sneak peeks of their Black Friday ads several weeks before the official, complete debut. The strategy was successful at generating buzz, so expect to see far more retailers doing the same this year. A few stores to watch out for include MacMall, JCPenney (JCP) and Macy's (M), which leaked its sales via its Pinterest page.
Doorbuster deals are super-cheap, small-volume deals designed to get shoppers inside stores on Black Friday (although they frequently appear online as well). But because doorbusters are so limited in quantity, they tend to run out before most people set foot inside a store -- prompting many shoppers to just stay home. But, retailers want you in-store, in the hopes that you'll make some impulse purchases. Thus, we expect more retailers to offer a handful of "guaranteed" doorbuster deals this year, meaning eligible shoppers will receive wristbands or vouchers that guarantee that item, even if supplies run out (but you might have to wait a few weeks to receive it). Walmart (WMT) and Toys "R" Us did this to great success last year, and we expect to see more stores join in this year.
Despite petitions and protests from employees, retailers are looking to stock up on cashiers this Black Friday. While that means more people will have to work extra hours this Thanksgiving, it also means shoppers should experience shorter lines and wait times in-store.
It was around Black Friday last year that Target (TGT) experienced the first of these massive security hacks, but it wasn't the last; then came Neiman Marcus, eBay (EBAY), Home Depot (HD) and more. There's no denying 2014 has been the year of the hack. As a result, both retailers and consumers will be extra cautious this year, guarding their credit card info from would-be thieves. We recommend brushing up on a few crime prevention basics and limiting the amount of times you use your debit card in public.
Despite those financial security concerns, tap-to-pay services are at the forefront this year now that Apple (AAPL) has joined Google (GOOG) Wallet in the mobile payment industry. This may spur competing platforms and retailers to offer promotions or loyalty rewards when consumers pay via their smartphone. So, be on the lookout for promotions tied to mobile wallet purchases this year.
Good news for online shoppers: The United States Postal Service has slashed shipping costs for select businesses by up to 58 percent, which may inspire more shipping discounts from retailers. But before you celebrate, the new lower prices may backfire and cause the USPS to be overwhelmed this holiday season, especially as UPS (UPS) and FedEx (FDX) prepare to raise their rates. Your best bet -- shop early and keep an eye on those tracking numbers.
Previous-generation streaming devices tend to see the best deals on Black Friday, but this year the market is busier than ever, meaning we could see significant deals on current-generation set-top boxes. Among the newer models to look out for are Amazon's Fire TV and Sony's (SNE) PlayStation TV, both of which debuted at $99 and cater to gamers.
There's no denying the fact that mobile shopping is on the rise, and studies indicate that consumers tend to shop more from their mobiles on Black Friday. Retailers, however, aren't investing in their mobile infrastructure; so even though more people will turn to their smartphones and tablets after their turkey dinner, your experience online will be the same as last year.
This year we expect to see no-frills 4K TVs hit well below the $999 mark. Leading the charge will be budget TV manufacturer Seiki, which broke all deal records this summer with its $280 39-inch and $429 50-inch 4K TVs. These and other Seiki screens will hit similar price-lows this Black Friday, bringing 4K technology to the masses.
Bargain bin laptops have hit rock bottom. These simple, low-powered machines can't get any cheaper than prices we've seen in years past, which range from $178 to $200. As a result, this Black Friday you're going to see better discounts on mainstream machines, i.e. laptops with Intel's (INTC) current-generation Core processors and a respectable spec sheet. Deal prices on mainstream machines have been steadily dropping since April, with deals already flirting with the $350 range at the start of the fall season.
There was a time when brick-and-mortar stores refused to price match their online competitors, but as more consumers turned to e-commerce, big-name chains like Walmart and Best Buy changed their policies. This year, Toys R Us, Walmart, Best Buy and Target will be just a few big name stores that will take on Amazon. Expect to see many more price match announcements as Black Friday approaches. And as always, make sure to read the store guidelines as not everyone will offer no-questions-asked price matching.
Despite a crash in sales, tablets are still a hot commodity and expected to sit atop everyone's shopping list this November. With growing competition from Apple, Google and Microsoft (MSFT), it's a buyer's market, which means you can expect more tablet sales this year than there were in 2013. If you're strapped for cash, Windows tablets could offer the most savings since 50 percent of Windows tablet sales this year have been Editors' Choice deals.
Traditionally, the best toy deals appear in mid December, just before Santa's big debut. However, last Black Friday week saw more toy deals than ever before, beating out every week in December in terms of Editors' Choice deals. While it's hard to predict what might happen this year, one thing is certain: If you have toys on your shopping list, you won't want to sit out this Black Friday.
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