Black Friday: Boom or Doom January 04, 2021

Black Friday: Boom or Doom

Despite the economic downturn, Australians participated in and spent more on Black Friday sales than ever before. According to e-commerce business Shopify, the average transaction amount for Australians purchasing online through their merchants increased by 16% from last year, with an increase in overall participation of Australians by 80%. 

As the shopping event continues to grow each year in Australia, we wanted to see what views consumers had when it came to Black Friday sales and the like. We recently conducted qualitative research to determine if they’d participated in this year's Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, was it something they’d been searching for or was it an impulse buy and if they had any ethical concerns with these types of sales.

Only what we truly needed

Many consumers said they did participate in the sales but had been preparing, only purchasing items they’ve had their eye on and truly needed. Now that the sales are well known, consumers are anticipating the sales each year, holding off on big purchases until they are heavily discounted.

This is the first year I have participated in Black Friday sales. Our TV blew up two days before they started so we decided to wait until Friday. I was surprised how much of a discount we got off the TV.

When it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I definitely save to spend during those days. Although I am familiar with overconsumption and sustainability issues I find that discounts are too good to pass up. The purchases I make however are not impulse decisions as I save and am confident that hefty discounts will apply in the future (during Black Friday and Cyber Monday).

Temptation too sweet

Others admitted the discounts were too good, saying even if they needed something in particular they ended up impulse buying once they started shopping. A small number said they are simply addicted to the sales and can’t let a big shopping event go by without making a purchase.

I have become addicted to online shopping ever since I first received my desktop computer, I have been lured and enticed by the Black Friday/Cyber Monday online shopping events and couldn't help myself to purchase products online taking advantage of the offers without a thought to 'ethical concerns'...especially where payment was via paypal and free delivery was offered.

I bought a few small items that were on sale, I had waited for them specifically to be on sale but also purchased a few cheap items, just because they were cheap. Any type of sale is good for consumers in the respect of being able to buy items that you want or need for a lower price, but at the same time it definitely encourages impulse buying, that is unavoidable.

The Covid effect

Coming off the back of a horror bushfire season and economic downturn from the coronavirus, many argued Black Friday sales aren’t in the best interest of Australian citizens as most products on sale are from overseas suppliers. Contrarily, some see these online sales as the safest way to shop this year whilst also noting the small amount of joy these sales can bring is a positive outcome, in what has been a tough year for most.

I was very happy and I bought everything I planned in advance knowing these events are coming. These sales should continue to make people happy, because Covid spoiled it all unfortunately.

...It is all American hype and we don't need another reason to shop, unless there is something you are looking for for Christmas and you find it cheaper than you have seen. We need to support local suppliers and manufacturers.

An obvious marketing ploy

Conversely, some see the Black Friday event as a clear marketing ploy to pressure consumers to spend unnecessarily, whilst also voicing concerns about the validity of these discounts. 

I think these events are just another way of retailers getting us to spend money we probably don't need to spend. I think you really need to be careful with these sales. If there is something you want or need then make sure you know what price it was selling for before the sale and, if it comes up for less than that during the promotion, then go for it. I feel that we are pressured to buy things we don't really need during these events. We should be mindful that there is a cost to the environment of consumerism and that we should only buy what we really need.

...If you don't need anything, why buy it; regardless of perceived "savings". Retailers ALWAYS make a profit (or they go out of business).

Ethical concerns

Some have raised ethical concerns about what these types of online shopping events mean for the environment, over consumerism and consumers who will go into debt participating. 

I wonder however how much I really saved as online sellers seem to always have discounted prices throughout the year. I do believe that many online sellers make claims of huge discounts that are not normally as good as they sound… They make the buyer believe they are getting fantastic discounts and have the ability to show many other items on the same page as the items you are considering.

They are good and they are bad, good because you can get a bargain on something you need but bad as it just encourages people to spend on stuff they might not really need and push them further into credit card debt or with this new buy now pay later debt.

So what does this mean?

These results are a reflection of the rising popularity and awareness of the Black Friday shopping event in Australia. Marketers need to be conscious of the changing purchasing behaviour of consumers, with most now anticipating heavily discounted items during this time - meaning there are great opportunities for brands to be involved and thrive by participating in the event. 

At the same time, brands need to be aware of the growing ethical concerns among consumers with some noting over consumerism and environmental impact as negative by-products of these events. Marketers will need to ensure these sales align with their company’s values and make a decision whether they are okay with possibly losing customers as a result of participating in these sales. Hitting the right balance will be crucial for brands in the retail sector in years to come.


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