Are Online or In-Store Black Friday Deals Better?

Trying to decide whether to do your Black Friday shopping online or in person? We've laid out the pros and cons of both options.

Adam Oram Senior Editor, Deals
Adam Oram is a Deals Writer at CNET. He studied Media at Newcastle University and has been writing about technology since 2013. He previously worked as a Senior Writer at iMore, Deals Editor at Thrifter, and as an Apple Genius. His spare time is spent watching football (both kinds), playing Pokémon games, and eating vegan food.
Expertise Deals, Apple
Adam Oram
3 min read
Target storefront

Debating whether to shop at the store or via the web this Black Friday? Each approach has a good side and a bad side. 

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Black Friday is just a couple of days away, and there are already some early sales and deals you can take advantage of. It's peak season to save money on holiday purchases, with major retailers offering some of their lowest prices of the year

For instance, many Apple Black Friday deals are already live, as is Best Buy's Black Friday sale. There are also early Walmart Black Friday promotions going on now, with more to be added as we officially approach Black Friday.

The great news is you don't have to go to a brick-and-mortar store to find the savings. All the aforementioned sales are running online as well as in-store. There are still a few reasons you might want to get out of the house and hit up your nearest big box outlet in person.

What's the difference between shopping in a physical store on Black Friday and taking advantage of the best deals you can find online? We'll explore the pros and cons of each approach below. 

And for more Black Friday info, check out CNET's Black Friday Deals liveblog for the latest Black Friday bargains. 

Why online Black Friday deals are better

Best Buy Black Friday Sale
Best Buy

Shopping online during Black Friday provides several benefits. First, you don't have to ditch your family on Thanksgiving or get up super-early the day after in order to line up outside a store in the cold. While you'll have to wait a few days for your purchases to arrive, they'll get brought right to your door. Talk about convenience.

It also means you can shop across multiple retailers efficiently. After scanning through some Black Friday ads, you might have noticed some particularly appealing deals at Walmart or Home Depot or Staples, but you can't be in more than one place at once. Online, however, you can make purchases at several retailers within minutes. It also means you can compare prices and make sure you're getting the best deal possible from the retailer at which you prefer to shop. 

In recent years, online deals have been mostly identical to those offered in stores, too. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, most retailers have shifted to offering their best deals online rather than encouraging people to crowd into stores, which is great for folks who never liked doing that. Some deals are available exclusively, or at least sooner, online with several sales kicking off hours or days earlier for online shoppers before appearing in stores. 

Why in-store Black Friday deals are better

Target storefront

Although Black Friday sales have certainly shifted to online-first over the last few years, shopping in person still has a few pros to consider. Although it's convenient for all of your Black Friday purchases to just turn up at your door, there can often be a delay between placing your order and actually having the product in your possession. Whether it's a few days or several weeks due to products going on backorder, nothing beats getting your hands on the product you want and taking it home with you. 

Plus, though the number gets smaller each year, some doorbuster deals only launch in stores. It's also a chance to score some of the best Black Friday deals that sold out online shortly after going live; your nearest store may still have stock to sell once doors open on Black Friday morning. 

Ultimately, the best experience will come down to personal preference and the strength of your desire to snag the most exclusive deals. Unless you really prefer to shop in-person this year, the online Black Friday sales will likely suffice for you. For more tips ahead of the holiday shopping season, why not check out our guides on how to avoid shipping feessave on electronics and send surprise holiday gifts via Amazon?

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