Stories | November 21, 2018

Smart homes, entertainment and food – things people buy on Black Friday

Two human drives, convenience and free time, also drive sales on Black Friday.

The end of November is in sight and that means the holiday season is upon us. It’s a great time to catch up with family, there’s lots of food and you get presents! Also: Christmas songs. They’re amazing and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

But to get to the presents, you first have to dig through the sales. And there will be plenty of them. People don’t seem to mind very much, however, as the holiday season, which runs from November to the end of December, opens up a lot of wallets (digital or real life) every year. Sometimes it might open them a bit too wide...

So what are people buying and why?

Did you know?

  1. Black Friday was US-only for a long time and spread to other parts of the world because multinationals wanted to replicate its success
  2. Smart home devices, entertainment and food are the top sellers
  3. “Saving” money during sales means you’re spending money
  4. Buyer’s remorse is real, and it hurts
  5. Black Friday sales might slow down as sales become more common throughout the year instead of happening at specific times
  6. Companies are making Black Friday sales last longer and longer

1. The spread of success
Before its global success, Black Friday was a US-only sales event. The term refers to the day that retail shops would move out of the “red” back into the “black”, meaning they went from running at a loss to gaining a profit. Other countries didn’t really catch on to the hype until well into the 21st century.

In the UK, the first real campaign came from supermarket chain Asda, a subsidiary of US retail giant Wal-Mart, in 2013.

Other big company names that contributed to the expansion of Black Friday were Amazon, Apple, and several local big names, like FNAC in France.

The aim was to replicate Black Friday’s success in other markets and while the internet most certainly helped, it was not the reason this very convenient sales tool took off.

2. People snap up smart home devices, entertainment and food appliances
The UK’s Centre of Retail Research reported a 2017 spend of £3.1 billion by Brits on Black Friday weekend (which includes another big sales event, Cyber Monday). So where did all that money go?

In the USA, the top 5 best-selling products on Amazon in 2017, according to this Forbes article, were three smart home devices and a high-tech pressure cooker. Number five, interestingly, was a DNA test to check your heritage.

The three smart home devices were focused on remote voice control to set alarms, stream movies and TV shows or to add a bit of automation to the home. Without a sale, many of the flashiest items are often too expensive.

One of the 2017 best-sellers in the US on Amazon was a TV streaming stick that allows you to voice-control your TV and streaming services.

But that isn’t the only entertainment device that people buy. Among other best-sellers are TVs themselves, but also gaming consoles like the PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

As our entertainment sources move more and more to screens, it makes sense that people’s money follows.

3. You’re still spending money
Even though sales could “save” you several hundred pounds (depending on how much you buy), you could still be spending several hundred as well.

So maybe instead of asking “how much can I save?”, ask yourself “how much do I have to spend?”

And no, we won’t tell you not to buy anything, but put that money into a savings account instead. If you need (or even want) to buy something, might as well do it on a sale, right?

Just make sure you know what you’re buying and why so you don’t buy things you don’t actually need.

This is when a wish list could come in handy.

4. Buyer’s remorse is real, and it hurts
People tend to buy a lot of things during big sales events like Black Friday that they will either regret or never use. US shopping comparisons website Finder has estimated that 52% of people have bought something on a sale they later regretted.

Finder says Americans spend as much as $1,000 each year on sale items they’ll later regret buying. This includes all sales throughout the year, not just Black Friday.

Companies may thank you for your patronage, but your bank accounts might be feeling a bit hurt.

So why do people still buy so much every year? There are a variety of reasons, many of which we have already written about. Have a browse through our articles on spending to learn more.

Two reasons we will highlight here are very sales-related. The first is the fact that we can get bedazzled by the sheer size of a discount.

If an item normally costs £300 and then drops to £90 (which is a 70% discount), you could be tempted to buy it simply because it’s such a bargain.

This even works if you had never thought about buying that particular item before. And it works even better if you were already considering buying it.

A second reason has to do with the competitive side of human nature. We often want what others have and during sales, we often also want what others are eyeing. If lots of people are crowding around a particular item, it must be good, right?

And what if all those people choose to buy it and it’s suddenly out of stock? You’ll have to be quick or you’ll miss out. And that makes it easy to spend money on things you don’t actually want.

5. Black Friday sales may have peaked
Despite the seemingly growing popularity of Black Friday, its sales may actually start to slow down.

In our always-on and connected world, there are also always sales. If you want to buy something and it’s not on sale, try adding it to a few wish lists and there’s a good chance it will go on sale somewhere in the next month or two.

A frugal shopper who can afford to wait before clicking “buy” will always have a couple of wish lists on the go to monitor prices. It’s the same idea as setting up price alerts for plane tickets.

There are so many sales now that major sales events might soon become irrelevant – why wait for Black Friday if you can get the same deal any time of the year?

6. Sticking to their guns
That’s not to say that online giants like Amazon won’t do their best to increase sales every year. In Hitwise’s UK figures for 2017, they were responsible for more than 25% of all online Black Friday purchases.

In 2018, the company even extended its Black Friday sale – already a week long – to two weeks by adding “Early Black Friday Sales”.

This consists mainly of flash sales, meaning that when the timer expires or stock is depleted, the sale is gone. And in the week leading up to 23 November, Black Friday itself, new sales are typically added daily.

This is a neat little trick to get you to keep visiting the website each day. And while you’re there, you may pick up another thing or two…

It’s a tactic that works well and plays into both our fear of missing out and our fear of losing things (if I don’t buy the item before the timer runs out, I lose the ability to buy it).

eZonomics team
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