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Fear of Missing Out and the Black Friday Madness

Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping day of the year, is just days away. This year, Friday, November 24th, will be the unofficial start of the Christmas season. Throngs of people will make their way to malls all across the country hoping to get some of the best deals on holiday gifts.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say people will act like crazed fans at a football game or soccer match. The news will show us scenes of people fighting over items, shoving each other out of the way to get to the hottest toys and trampling one another the moment stores open.

So much for the season of giving and the spirit of joy!

What causes normal people will do some very abnormal things in hopes of getting the best deal? Why would someone stand in line for hours waiting for a store to open when they could visit that same store any day of the week? And why to people forego sleep, getting up hours earlier than they have to on their day off? Fear of missing out.

Fear of missing out taps into scarcity, the psychological principle of influence that tells us people value things more when they’re rare or appear to be less available. Scarcity can be triggered by time constraints and competition for a limited number of items.

Black Friday naturally taps into time constraints because it only happens one day each year. Forego this shopping day and you might miss the best deals of the season! But then again, you might not have missed out because sales only seem to better as Christmas approaches and retailers look to unload the last of their holiday merchandise.

Nonetheless, over the years the lure of Black Friday has increased dramatically and retailers have taken advantage of the popularity of Black Friday by opening stores earlier and earlier each year. Some stores will open at midnight because Thanksgiving will be over and it will officially be Friday. If you don’t get there at midnight you might just miss out on some time sensitive deals!

When we hear the word “competition” we often think of athletic endeavors but competition isn’t limited to the sports arena. No, when it comes to shopping competition is alive and well, and retailers play on it in a big way.

Here’s how the competition part of scarcity works – no longer is it good enough to just get to a store because if you are not there when the store opens they might run out of the thing you wanted most. Limited availability is different than limited time so while you might have all day Friday to shop, certain items marked “While Supplies Last” or “Limited Availability” might be gone by the time you arrive at 5 AM or 6 AM. Can’t let that happen now, can you?

It’s amazes me that people respond as they do because little Johnny probably doesn’t remember that great toy you got him three years ago. You know, the one you stood in line at the mall at 4 AM to get? And sweet Sally probably can’t tell you which American Girl doll you got her when she was eight years old but it’s a good thing you stood in line for several hours to pay for it.

Here’s another eye opener. People will say, “But I saved $200!” Saving money is great but many of those same people wouldn’t drive across town to save $200 on a car because a $200 savings on a $20,000 car by comparison isn’t worth the extra time and effort.

So, they spend four hours negotiating a car deal, could go across town and maybe spend another four hours to save $200, but they don’t. Sure, it’s an eight-hour investment but many of those same people will spend more than 12 hours at the mall just to save $200.

I’m not telling you not to shop. I know for some people, Black Friday shopping has become as much a holiday tradition as Thanksgiving, getting a Christmas tree or sending holiday cards. But I challenge you to consider if it’s really worth all the hassle – the lost sleep, extra time at the mall, fighting traffic, searching for a parking space, the disappointment when someone bought the last item you wanted, etc. Take a moment to ask yourself, “Would I normally respond this way? Do I want to respond this way?” Then decide what you want to do.

If you know you’re going to give into the madness then I’ll help you save some time by sharing with you the Black Friday web site. Go to this site to get a sneak peek at some of the deals that will be out there. Before all the holiday madness starts I want to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving and a safe time no matter what you decide to do.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

What the FOMO are You Doing?

Last month I was in Arizona where I had the good fortune to combine business and pleasure. Pleasure was seeing family and attending an excellent Scotch tasting event at Total Wine. Business was a keynote presentation, sales calls with a good friend and coworker Dan and a trip to Flagstaff. One afternoon Dan and I stopped by Total Wine and during check out the person in front of us began telling us about a bourbon the store had just gotten in, Weller 12 year. He proceeded to tell us it was from the same distributor as Pappy Van Winkle, a rare and expensive bourbon. He let us know the store didn’t have many bottles and they’d probably sell out within the hour. Fear of missing out (FOMO) was enough for Dan to grab a bottle…even though he’s not much of a bourbon guy.

Dan’s decision to buy was heavily influenced by the principle of scarcity. This psychological concept alerts us to the reality that we value things more when we believe they’re rare or diminishing. FOMO is another way to describe scarcity. Most people hate missing out on what might be golden opportunities. If you think back on life most of what you regret probably centers around what you didn’t do (missed out on) rather than what you actually did.

Even though Dan isn’t much of a bourbon drinker, knowing Pappy Van Winkle has an excellent reputation and finding out this particular bottle would probably fly off the shelves was enough for him to make an unusual decision. Had that customer not mentioned how seldom the store got that specific bourbon and how fast it would sell I’m positive Dan wouldn’t have bought a bottle.

FOMO is constantly at work when it comes to sales.

  • Coupons that are about to expire get used more than those that still have time to use them. We may procrastinate but don’t want to miss out on that potentially great deal so we take action before opportunity passes!
  • The last day of a big sale gets us into the store even if we don’t have something in particular we’re looking for. You tell yourself you just want to see what deals are going on but once you’re in the store you’re far more likely to buy than if you don’t go at all.
  • Black Friday will be here before you know it and people will stand in line all night just so they don’t miss out on some of the best deals of the year.

Responding to FOMO isn’t all bad. After all, saving hundreds, or possibly thousands of dollars on something you’ve wanted for quite some time (new computer, flat screen television, a car) feels good and can be a prudent decision. Where you need to be careful is when you’re only responding to the deal but not necessarily a need. For example, many people are buying 4K televisions right now even though they don’t need them. Why? Because the prices have dropped recently and the deals seem too good to pass up. But remember, there will be another FOMO deal once the one you’re considering has passed.

Sure, not getting in on Apple or Amazon stock when they were first issued left a lot of people with regret. Perhaps that first love that got away gnaws at you because you think, “What if?” But keep in mind, as we enter the holiday shopping season the deals that will tempt you will be there during the after-Christmas sales, President’s Day sales and all the other traditional selling holidays. Make sure you’re responding not only to FOMO but what you really need and you’ll be a little happier in the long run.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? It will teach you how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.