Black Friday has already become one of the most frenetic commercial events in the world whose sales record new records year after year. Three out of four Spaniards make purchases taking advantage of this discount campaign. These consumers spend on average more than 100 euros this day. However, interestingly, several studies show that around 14% of the items sold on Black Friday Not only do they not have a discount, but in fact they can be more expensive than on a normal day.
The reality is that as consumers we are so subject to techniques that influence our decisions that many times, in addition to buying more expensive, we do with products that we do not need and even gifts that we finally do not give. This has nothing to do with the emotional or mental strength of each one, but rather it is due to a series of psychological effects that, in days like Black Friday, lead us to take questionable resolutions. Therefore, understanding them is key to making the most of this day of lightning deals.
The starting point is that, as we have already said, we believe that the Black Friday offers are indeed very good, even though the statistics often show the opposite. Why does that happen?
The culprit is the effect known as illusory truth or illusory truth, which gives name to our predisposition to accept as valid information when we have been exposed to it repeatedly. Thus, the businesses worry that we are sufficiently informed of the supposed reductions of this day: they bombard us with ads on television and radio, banners on websites, advertising on the streets and, of course, with emails with all kinds of bargains. Even many financial institutions take advantage to launch loans at reduced rates for a limited period.
This effect, in addition, is very linked to another cognitive bias known as focusing effect -Or focalization effect-, which indicates our tendency not to take into account the multidimensionality of reality but to give prominence to a single aspect of an event instead of considering the situation as a whole. In the case of Black Friday this translates into the difficulty of evaluating discounts objectively: we compare less, we validate the offers more quickly and we evaluate the usefulness of the products more lightly.
The shortness of the discounts also affects our ability to make rational decisions. The feeling of urgency created by the offers of a single day causes us to act quickly and get carried away by emotions. This is due to a simple principle of behavioral economics: avoiding losses motivates us more than achieving profits. So, the possibility of waste The discount encourages us to take action.
The less time we have to decide an offer, the more likely we are to evaluate it positively.
The amount of time dedicated to assessing an issue also affects the importance we attach to the positive or negative aspects of it. In 2008, American psychologists Heather C. Lench and Peter H. Ditto They conducted an experiment that showed a group of people twelve situations that could happen to them – Six positive and six negative – and these should indicate if it was likely to happen in the future. The researchers found that, by reducing the time to respond, respondents estimated the probability that negative events would happen 50% less. If we move it to the consumer field, this means that the less time we have to decide an offer, the more likely we are to evaluate it positively.
Finally, and always within the framework of the principles of behavioral economics, another important factor that influences our purchasing decisions is the so-called projection bias or projection bias, which indicates our propensity to misjudge our attitude or future internal state. For example, we think that in a year we will have more desire to do something that now is difficult for us, when it will always be that way. Imagine that we have to choose a movie to watch today, next week or in two. As we move further away from the present, we will choose more movies thoughtful, whereas for today we probably choose movies easier.
This bad prediction of the future also applies to the purchases we make during Black Friday, imagining that we will use sneakers to go running when we never do; that we will put on a dress that is clearly very bold for our style; or that certain gifts will be perfect for Christmas, although the preferences are likely to change that time.
All this does not mean that there are no good offers during Black Friday, but simply that to take advantage of them we must be aware of the cognitive traps. Actually, we just have to repress our impulsiveness, ask ourselves if we really need what we are going to buy and if the cost is right. In the ideal case, before the day comes, it is very useful to prepare a list of products that we would like to buy with the current reference prices. In this way, we can better evaluate, with more tranquility and objectivity, the offer, without being so affected by our cognitive biases.
Manuel Pingarrón is a director of Simon-Kucher & Partners