Firmly rooted in UK consumer culture, Black Friday seems to get bigger and bigger each year. This day, which traditionally follows Thanksgiving in the US, has grown to become an eagerly anticipated shopping event on the British calendar. But what drives individuals to spend during this event both in-store and online? The psychology behind Black Friday shopping is fascinating, so we’ve decided to look into this to find some answers.
We’ll look at the motivations behind shoppers’ readiness to physically camp outside stores, set early alarms, and meticulously search online for the best deals. We will also delve into the emotional triggers that guide their choices and actions, from the thrill of finding discounts to the stress and competition that comes with the hunt for bargains.
From a marketing POV, it’s a busy time of year for many ecommerce businesses and signals the beginning of the build-up to the big Christmas push, so understanding how Black Friday effects consumers can be beneficial for campaigns and driving end-of-year revenue. In 2022, total sales during Black Friday totalled an estimated £12.3 billion in the UK, up 8.3% YoY, so understandably there’s plenty to gain from this annual event.
While Black Friday was originally an American tradition, it has rapidly gained traction in the UK and other parts of the world. The day after Thanksgiving in the United States has been a long-standing holiday, creating a natural occasion for shopping. The term ‘Black Friday’ itself appears to refer to the day when retailers’ ledgers went ‘into the black,’ signifying profitability. It then attached itself to retail stores before being heavily marketed in the 90s.
Here in the UK, Black Friday gained significant popularity in the 2010s, with retailers adopting the American tradition of offering massive discounts. It now marks the start of the festive shopping season and has become a cultural event that generates billions every year.
Black Friday’s appeal lies not only in the discounts but also in the excitement and anticipation it generates. Many shoppers eagerly await this day, marking it on their calendars and planning their shopping strategies. Retailers, in turn, capitalise on this anticipation with pre-Black Friday promotions and teasers, building excitement in the weeks leading up to the event.
Discounts and Savings
One of the main motivators for Black Friday shoppers is of course the allure of substantial discounts and the promise of saving money on products and services they want. 51% of UK adults are planning to spend over the Black Friday weekend this year, that’s 12% more people than last year, so the opportunity to grab products at a fraction of their regular prices is a key factor. The fear of missing out (FOMO) also plays a significant role here – shoppers worry that if they don’t seize the opportunity on Black Friday, they might miss out on the year’s best deals.
As we are social creatures, this influences our Black Friday shopping behaviour. The concept of ‘social proof’ suggests people tend to follow the crowd and make decisions based on the actions and opinions of others. 39% of shoppers will spend more time browsing social media during Black Friday, and will often feel influenced by the behaviour of their peers and the desire to be part of a collective shopping experience – they don’t want to be missing out!
Scarcity and Limited-Time Offers
Retailers are well aware that creating a sense of urgency and scarcity can be powerful motivators for consumers. Black Friday is full of time-sensitive offers and the idea that items may run out if not purchased immediately is extremely effective. Consumers will often feel compelled to act quickly and decisively so that they can get their desired products before they disappear, or the deals expire. FOMO is a psychological trigger that retailers expertly use to their advantage on Black Friday.
Joy and Gratification
Black Friday shopping isn’t just about bagging a great deal (although it certainly helps) – it’s also about experiencing the joy and gratification of finding and purchasing items at significantly reduced prices. For many, the moment of successfully securing a bargain often leads to a rush of positive emotions. Some shoppers will take pride in their ability to navigate crowded stores and online marketplaces to find a real bargain, creating a sense of personal achievement.
The act of buying something at a discount also triggers the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine, which is linked to pleasure and reward. This reinforces the positive feelings associated with Black Friday shopping.
Stress and Anxiety
While Black Friday can be thrilling for some, it can also be stressful and anxiety-inducing for others, especially in-store. The chaos of the day, including large crowds, long queues, and the pressure to act quickly, can lead to heightened stress levels. Shoppers often find themselves in situations that are far from the peaceful retail experiences they’re accustomed to! The psychological stress of Black Friday shopping may even leave you feeling exhaustion and discomfort. Doing your Black Friday shopping online is certainly more comfortable and less hectic.
The competitive nature of Black Friday shopping cannot be underestimated. Shoppers often find themselves competing with others, whether it’s to grab the last discounted TV on the shelf or to secure an online deal before it expires. This competitive mindset can lead to a surge of adrenaline and a sense of accomplishment when shoppers successfully beat others in the quest for the best bargains. The feeling of “winning” on Black Friday, even if it’s for a small item, is a powerful emotional trigger for many.
The emotional triggers and the urgency associated with Black Friday often lead to impulse buying. Shoppers are more likely to make unplanned purchases due to FOMO or the excitement of getting a good deal. Due to limited-time offers, flash sales, and prominently displayed deals, this all encourages impulsive decisions – something we’ve all done at some point!
Many Black Friday enthusiasts adopt a more strategic approach and meticulously plan their shopping, creating lists of desired items and identifying where to find the best deals. This helps them make the most of their time and maximise their savings. It’s, of course, very easy and tempting to get carried away in the excitement of the event, so it can be a real test of consumer’s restraint and budget. This of course provides a great opportunity for retailers who know that some people just can’t resist a good deal – even if it’s for something they don’t necessarily need right now.
Retailers invest heavily in advertising and persuasion techniques to tap into the psychology of Black Friday shoppers each year. Online retail and ecommerce have become major players for Black Friday shopping. Understanding the online Black Friday shopper’s mindset can significantly boost sales and create a successful shopping event.
Online retailers can effectively use countdown timers, limited-time offers, and prominently displayed clocks to create a sense of urgency. This taps into the fear of missing out (FOMO), encouraging customers to act quickly before deals expire. Limited-stock notifications and messages like “hurry, deals end soon” can be very compelling.
Utilising customer data, online retailers can provide personalised product recommendations, creating a sense of exclusivity. Tailored suggestions make shoppers feel that the deals are specially curated for them, enhancing their emotional connection to the event.
Just as physical stores may have long queues, online retailers can create virtual waiting rooms or countdown pages before the event starts. This anticipation-building technique allows shoppers to feel they are part of an exclusive club, waiting for access to the best deals.
Incorporating interactive elements, such as gamified shopping experiences or live video streams showcasing products, can engage shoppers and heighten the sense of excitement. Gamification in retail is big business, with the market expected to reach $38.42 million in value by 2026. This interactivity taps into the joy and gratification associated with finding great deals.
Online retailers can encourage shoppers to share their purchases and shopping experiences on social media. Providing incentives for social sharing, like additional discounts or gifts, can harness the psychological concept of social proof, influencing potential buyers who see others joining in.
Given the increasing use of smartphones for online shopping, ensuring mobile compatibility and a seamless shopping experience is crucial. Retailers should make it easy for customers to access deals and complete purchases from their mobile devices, catering to the needs of today’s mobile-savvy shoppers. Almost 79% of Gen Z plan to spend in the Black Friday sales, so mobile access needs to provide the optimal customer experience.
Retailers can send targeted and personalised email campaigns in the lead-up to Black Friday, reminding customers about their wish-listed items and enticing them with exclusive offers.
By understanding the psychology behind Black Friday shopping and effectively applying these strategies, businesses can maximise their sales, drive website traffic, and create a memorable shopping experience.
As it continues to establish itself as a significant shopping event in the UK, understanding the psychology for Black Friday deals amongst consumers becomes increasingly vital for businesses. From the joy of securing bargains to the stress and competition that may come with it, Black Friday offers a unique window into consumer culture.
Retailers, both online and offline, know that they can benefit from knowing their customers inside and out. They can satisfy customers by offering great deals on the things they want whilst bringing in revenue that makes the effort all worth it.
You can discover further insights by visiting our blog. To discover how our digital marketing agency can help your ecommerce brand thrive during Black Friday, and throughout the rest of the year, contact our team today.