The Christmas sales are in full swing – it feels like everywhere you look there are encouragements to spend, spend, spend.
But by being more aware of those subtle “nudges” – sometimes used by retailers to make us spend more than we perhaps would have done – it might be easier to stick to a budget.
Price comparison website PriceSpy is urging shoppers to beware of dud “deals”, and is highlighting retailers’ tactics with the help of consumer psychologist Cathrine Jansson-Boyd.
Here, she reveals some of the tactics to watch out for…
1. The most prominent products on websites aren’t always the best
“Many consumers assume websites put their most popular items first. And as we are concerned about missing out on what is popular, it means we often purchase one of the items presented to us first.
“However, often the first items are simply those that companies need to get rid of urgently,” Jansson-Boyd says.
2. The super slick ‘buy now’ button
Many store website checkouts are incredibly efficient, often using pre-filled information to make the process even quicker.
Jansson-Boyd says: “You can order everything within seconds if you save all your information on their sites.
“The quicker a person makes the purchase, the better for the site – as it means the consumer has no time to rethink the purchases and change their mind.”
3. The review hype
“People are social by their very nature, and they assume there is safety in numbers.
“Hence, when reviews, likes and recommendations are used, it signals to the consumer that an item is tried and tested. It makes it seem safe to purchase,” she says.
4. The ‘loss leader’ discounts
Retailers sometimes build momentum by offering big discounts on some items – and once they’ve got your attention, you might be tempted to start filling your shopping basket.
“Huge discounts are often used to entice consumers to go into stores or onto websites,” Jansson-Boyd explains.
“They are key in creating what is sometimes referred to as a shopping momentum. Basically, this occurs when a purchase provides you with a psychological impulse to purchase another.
“It essentially puts consumers in the right frame of mind for shopping, and they almost automatically look at other items they can buy.”
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5. ‘Free’ deliveries encouraging you to spend more
Often websites offer free delivery for spending over a set amount. This may sometimes work in shoppers’ favour – but if you’re spending significantly more just to get free delivery, consider whether it’s really worth it.
Jansson-Boyd says: “Consumers are often happy to meet the (free delivery) spending requirements as they will feel as if they have not wasted their money on something nontangible.”
She adds: “From a seller’s point of view, it is worth noting many consumers change their mind if a shipping fee is added at the end.”
6. FOMO (fear of missing out)
“People are affected more by losses than they are by gains,” says Jansson-Boyd. “Therefore, people try to avoid the pain of missing out on something, and dwell on the defeat if they do.
“Because people are afraid of missing out on something they think is a good offer, it can lead them to make hasty decisions they may later regret.”
FOMO may appear when shoppers see wording such as “limited stock available” or “limited time offer”.
How to avoid overspending…
Shoppers can use their own tactics to guard against the urge to splurge. Jansson-Boyd suggests researching what an item normally costs – that way you’ll know whether it’s really a bargain.
She says: “Compare these items across sites and use price history and comparison tools to get a handle on how prices have fluctuated over time. The feel-good factor of getting a great deal will last far longer than the dopamine hit of responding to ‘buy now’ prompts.”
And consider how you’re feeling when shopping – for example, whether you’re feeling stressed or looking for an emotional pick-me-up.
There may also be some physical tactics that you can use. When browsing online, Jansson-Boyd suggests not sitting too comfortably – as “you’re more likely to view the items online in a less favourable fashion”.
She adds: “If in-store, avoid touching items and using a basket – you are more likely to purchase items you touch, as it generates psychological ownership.”