Thanksgiving is the one holiday where tradition points to staying at home and spending time with the family to be thankful. Black Friday on the other hand, is Thanksgiving’s evil counterpart.
A day where consumers are prompted to buy, buy, buy, this “spending holiday” leverages the boredom of Thanksgiving, a day when everything is closed, with a sense of scarcity and urgency.
The result? Spending.
Black Friday represents a growing trend in the American degradation of real traditions.
Nowadays, it seems like every holiday from Halloween to Valentine’s Day, to Christmas and now Thanksgiving is revamped into a spending holiday, created for the corporate purpose to make money.
In the fields of marketing and advertising, there are certain key indicators that marketers take into account when selling a product. Professionals know that if there’s a sense of urgency and scarcity, consumers are more likely to buy.
If a consumer feels like they might miss out on a product or deal if they don’t buy it right away, they are more likely to make a quick purchase decision and buy immediately. Also, if there is a limited quantity of a product, consumers will feel like they need to buy before it’s too late and they’re suck with a lesser product.
Black Friday is a day that embodies these selling techniques through a fake holiday designed to create fake scarcity and fake urgency. Rather than using a big red “buy it now” button online or in a paper flyer, Black Friday organizers create physical versions of the aforementioned scarcity and urgency by driving consumers out in droves to cash in on deals.
Opening stores at 3 and 4 am and advertising limited quantities tells consumers that they have to get there early so not to miss out on major deals.
Electronics are one of the major categories pushed during Black Friday, which in my opinion is because electronics are easier to compare across stores because consumers are only interested in one feature: price.
Around Black Friday, stores like Best Buy and WalMart advertise electronics by name and price rather than by feature, which for the most part is their normal strategy. These companies know that consumers are watching TV commercials and looking through weekly circulars trying to locate the best price on an iPod Touch 4th generation. They don’t care about the features of the product because they’re already researched it in preparation for the Black Friday festivities.
The major push for electronics on Black Friday is a wedge tool to bring consumers to the store based on lowest price. It’s much easier to bring consumers out for an iPod because the store has the lowest price, rather than advertising something like a sweater, for which the purchase decision is much more complicated and arbitrary.
When buying a sweater, consumers will consider: price, style, look, feel, brand, etc. in the store, which may lead them to one of many styles at one of many prices. The store has less control over your purchase, whereas if someone is buying an iPod, the store may lure you in with one specific design where they can upsell you.
Although there is a certain amount of fake scarcity and urgency, that’s not to say that some of the deals aren’t great. Many items are marked down, where other remain full price.
Once consumers arrive at these stores, most are already in the mood to buy, so when they’re hit with the good old bait-and-switch technique, “We’re sorry, the netbook you wanted marked at $250 sold out instantly, but we have this similar $400 model available,” consumers are much more likely to buy. And buy they do.
The Wall Street Journal released statistics showing that in for 2009, 195 million consumers shopped in stores and online over the Black Friday weekend spending an average of $343.31 per person.
Some people partake in Black Friday for the thrill and energy of the shopping day, others for the deals. But if you’re willing to brave the crowds I say more power to you.
For me, I’d rather stay at home in my pajamas. Perhaps I’m the reason why marketers invented the extension of the physical Black Friday, Cyber Monday, a day for couch potatoes like me to shop online.