- Many Black Friday and Cyber Monday "bargain" purchases are impulse buys that consumers come to regret.
- Scarcity messaging and multi-tasking are among the factors that lead to less-desirable decisions.
Globally, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are mega-sale events. In 2022, over 87 million people in the U.S. shopped online, and a staggering 196 million shopped in store and online, during Cyber Week, the days which follow Cyber Monday, when retailers continue with their offers.
It is easy to see why consumers get tempted by all the promises of fantastic deals and discounts. However, to make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and ensure that you get a genuine bargain, there are a few things you should be aware of.
1. Do your homework. Not everything on offer is a good deal. Make sure you know what the items cost previously so that you have a point of reference. Having as much information as possible can help your brain put the brakes on, allowing you to engage in more sensible decision-making.
Also, if you encounter an unknown brand on offer be cautious. You are more likely to make a rapid automatic unconscious decision when you have no previous knowledge of the product. However, if you look at buying familiar brands you are more likely to engage in conscious decision making. Meaning that you will have thought more carefully about the purchase.
2. Focus on the task at hand. It is not a good idea to engage in multitasking whilst shopping. Hence, stay away from chatting on the phone or texting whilst also looking for potential purchases. If not, you may find that multi-tasking prevents you from engaging in beneficial decision-making, which can result in a purchase that is unsatisfactory.
Further, try to focus on only a few products rather than many, as choice overload can also lead to making a sub-optimal decisions that can turn into regret.
3. Avoid overspending. Before shopping, determine how much you can afford to spend as well as what you want to spend it on. Making a list is a great idea but if you do, make sure you stick to it. If possible, shop in-store as it gives you a chance to pay using cash. Paying by card makes you more willing to pay for expensive items your budget may not allow for.
4. Don’t be afraid of missing out. Being fearful of missing out on what we think is a good offer can lead to rash decision making. Hence you need to be mindful of marketing messages. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are known to make use of what is known as the ‘scarcity principle’. This is when messages include phrases such as ‘when it’s gone it is gone’. Such messaging will make you feel pressurised to purchase the item and this often leads to impulse purchases.
5. If in doubt, leave it out. If you’re unsure about buying something, don’t. Studies show that people are less likely to experience regret if they fail to buy something than they would if they bought it. Hence you are likely to feel better off having resisted. When scarcity-based messaging can make you feel pressurised to buy it, it is important to remove yourself from the situation. If you are unsure, go do something else for 10 minutes, like looking at other things, or stepping away from the computer and making a coffee. Often you will find that you will not give that initial product a second glance.
6. If you know you can’t resist a bargain, stay away. Be self-aware and don’t go shopping and avoid going online on these days. Impulse purchases often lead to feelings of regret, but unfortunately, bargains can be hard to resist as the part of our brain that controls pleasure responds quickly to the sight of a ‘bargain’, making consumers experience a rush of excitement.
If you get it right and don’t just give in to temptation, this can be a good time to get some early Christmas presents. If you can stay level-headed, shopping during Black Friday and Cyber Monday may allow you to grab some real bargains.