Why fight the crowds on Black Friday, or even leave your house to shop at all, when digital retailers offer deals that are equal to, if not better than, those at brick-and-mortar stores?
In recent years, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) have become increasingly larger players on the biggest shopping day of the year. They've also been a major part of making the Friday after Thanksgiving less important when it comes to getting the best deals.
Both sites have participated in Black Friday, offering special deals on that day, but the two digital players have also extended the season, offering deals before Thanksgiving and right up to Christmas. Amazon and eBay continue that trend this year by making holiday shopping a nearly two-month affair.
These two online leaders make it possible to complete your holiday shopping -- complete with big deals -- before putting your turkey in the oven (maybe before even buying it). They also make it so last-minute shoppers won't be stuck with whatever gifts the local convenience store has in stock.
It may be Black Friday only in spirit, not in the technical sense, but Amazon and eBay are offering a unique take on the holiday shopping season.
It's Black Friday every day
Amazon officially launched its holiday deals on Nov. 2. That gave people a day to put away their Halloween decorations before it was time to start prepping for Christmas.
The online retailer will be offering Lightning Deals every day through Dec. 22, which Prime members can access 30 minutes ahead of regular customers. The selection will change daily.
"Shoppers come to Amazon to discover the best deals on the best gifts, and this year we're pulling out all of the stops," said Amazon Vice President Steve Shure in a press release. "We're giving Prime members early access to more than 30,000 Lightning Deals and, for all customers, tens of thousands of great deals in the Black Friday Deals store."
For people who don't want to check in with the retailer every day, Amazon has also created an Electronics Holiday Gift Guide, a curated section of its website that helps people shop. The gift guide can be set to make selections by category and price, and it also offers gift lists.
Amazon hasn't released any specific deals for Black Friday, but in the past it has amped up its offerings for that day and for Cyber Monday, three days later.
eBay gets in on the early action
Like Amazon, eBay also kicked off the holiday season early. Its "Wish Bigger" campaign launched Nov. 2 as well and runs through New Year's Day. New items are added often, while some seem to be permanent, at least for the season. It's a broad selection of sales items, and the online auction site is also offering gift guides and curated lists.
"We are using the power of eBay's global marketplace to enable people to shop, sell, and give in new ways this holiday," said eBay executive Hal Lawton in a press release. "We have a unique opportunity to celebrate the traditional retail milestones, but to also create a new calendar based on what we know eBay shoppers and sellers need."
In that way, eBay is attempting to have its cake and eat it too (while also selling a piece or two). In addition to its broader season-long sales campaign, the site will also having a Black Friday-style shopping event on Thanksgiving Day. The company explained in its press release:
On Thursday, Nov. 26, Thanksgiving Day, shoppers will head to ebay-wish-bigger.com (coming soon) to vote to break open and unlock a series of incredible deals on the season's most coveted gifts across tech, toys, fashion and home. Beginning at 4 p.m. EST until 10 p.m. EST, competing deals will be featured on each side of the wishbone, and the item that receives the most votes over the course of an hour will be released to shoppers in a limited quantity.
In addition to the Wish Bigger deals and the Thanksgiving event, eBay will also offering new deals every hour through Cyber Monday.
A new definition of "holiday season"
In many ways Amazon and eBay have changed the holiday narrative. There's no reason for the online leaders to conform to the traditional shopping season timing and this year they have broken from that more than ever. The challenge -- and the ultimate determination of success or failure -- will be marked by whether extending these season leads to more overall sales.
It seems very likely that breaking from tradition has worked in past years and the trend should continue in 2015. Both companies are walking a bit of a tightrope by trying to win early sales while keeping Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) special. That may have seemed like a risky idea as recently as a few years ago, but now it's an accepted norm that these digital leaders are uniquely able to capitalize on.
Holiday shopping is now a marathon, not a sprint and Amazon and eBay look to be in excellent shape to win the race.
Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He does not want to have to shop for two months. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com and eBay. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.