“If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is”. Oh yes…It’s Black Friday! One of the few days of the year when you’ll see people standing in long lines, similar to a ‘Sauce Doubles’ line in Curepe, waiting for that discounted 45″ tv at ‘PriceSm@3t’.
The name originated from the fact that the Friday after thanksgiving was the day retailer’s accounts went from “in the red” (loss), to “in the black” (profit). The modern concept of Black Friday began in the 1950s to signal the start of holiday shopping season.
Within the 2000’s, it has made its way into Trinidad’s socio-economic behaviour—where many local businesses have conveniently adopted it into their yearly strategic marketing and promotion.
However, there is a psychological reasoning for this major consumer behavioural trend. Throughout the week many companies ‘ratchet’ up their sales and aim to boost their profits. You would think people would prefer to shop with a bit more room to maneuver, but there’s some strong psychological factors at play, all working to drive consumers to buy more and more. Let’s dive into the top 6 reasons.
#1 – Fear of missing out
Fear of missing out (FoMO) is characterized as anxiety revolving around a compulsive concern that a person might miss a potentially satisfying event, such as an important social interaction, a rewarding experience, or a profitable investment. It’s the main driving reason behind marketing on Black Friday, as companies aim to promote sales and make it seem like only limited quantities are available. This makes people susceptible to thinking that they’re missing out on deals, while others may see large crowds in front of a store and start thinking that they too don’t want to miss out on whatever is so great about that store’s sale.
#2 – Competition
Competition is a key driver of the psychology behind shopping on Black Friday as consumers try one up each other, buying out items at discount prices and leaving others without a chance to make the same purchase. While competition may drive people to the stores, it’s also the source of much Black Friday misbehaviour, as customers often get into fights over the store’s merchandise.
#3 – To fill an emotional need
This isn’t the most direct reason why shoppers will choose Black Friday to venture out into crowded stores, but many retailers market their products to fill the emotional needs of consumers. It’s no surprise that the nature of marketing, including that of Black Friday, means targeting these emotions.
#4 – Satisfy the Darwinian grab/pluck arm flexion
As the behavioural psychology strategist John Gibbard explains, the physical act of picking up parcels off the shelf registers as a reward unto itself in our brains. He equates the addictive nature of shopping with the behaviour of our ancestors, who found pleasure in picking fruits and other food to eat from nature, particularly when the sources were abundant.
#5 – Partake in a unique experience
Online shopping might seem like a more convenient experience—and it generally is, as evidence by the effect it’s had on retail stores—but Black Friday, as a yearly event, gives an entirely different feel compared with everyday shopping. Like ‘Machel Monday’ or that hot-ticket cooler fete, consumers act like groupies trying to buy out the store and embrace the unpredictable nature of the event.
What’s your perspective on the psychology of Black Friday?