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112512-1 Put on your armor and steel yourself for battle—‘tis the season for retail shopping.  Black Friday became Grey Thursday this year as retailers such as Target, ToysRUs, Walmart, and Best Buy opened on Thanksgiving Thursday for Black Friday sales. With up to a quarter of their annual sales occurring between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and increased competition from online retailers, brick and mortar stores are pulling out all the stops to attract buyers and their holiday spending dollars. Last year, the average shopper spent $398.62 on Black Friday. In 2011, consumers spent $52 billion during the holiday season. That is $709 per shopper. Retailers compete for pieces of that pie; earlier hours are but way to get shoppers in the door.

This year’s creep into Thanksgiving was too much for some to stomach. Some Walmart employees organized boycotts. Over a dozen online petitions circulated, urging retailers to protect the sanctity of Thanksgiving and keep Black Friday on Friday. Despite this, many stores opened Thursday at 8 or 9 p.m. and thousands of eager consumers stood in line on Thanksgiving, determined not to miss the deals.

112512-2 What makes us so frenzied about deals and shopping? What emotional strings do retailers pull that rouses us from our tryptophan-induced comas and lures us away from family gatherings in pursuit of a deal?  What factors influence shopping decisions?  How did the cultural phenomenon of Black Friday begin? Learn the origins of the consumer holiday Black Friday, explore the psychology of shopping, and begin to understand why you buy.

The Origins of Black Friday

What Black Friday advertisements caught your attention this year? Did you shop Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales? If so, what types of things were you looking for? Have you ever wondered how the day after Thanksgiving (or, this year, the hours after Thanksgiving) became a day of discount shopping? Discover the origins of Black Friday and how it got its name by reading A Brief History of Black Fridayat Time.com. Why was this event so important to U.S. retailers that they asked President Roosevelt to move Thanksgiving during the Great Depression? Are there any parallels to the current economic times?

Who is Control of Your Shopping Decisions?

112512-4 As holiday sales beckon you to spend, who really is in charge of your spending decisions? You might think you are. Dan Ariely would disagree. Ariely, Duke University professor of psychology and behavior economics, studies how social, cognitive, and emotional factors influence economic decisions. In his TED Talk Ariel considers the factors that influence our decisions. Listen to his talk, beginning at 2:22. How might this apply to purchasing decisions? How might retailers use what Ariely discusses to get you to buy?

Pause for a moment to consider: How do you make your shopping decisions? Where and to whom do you turn to for advice about purchases?

11172012-5 Marketing involves four facets, often called The 4 Ps: product (what is being sold); price (how much to charge to cover goods. This also considers demand and sales pricing.); place (how a product moves from creation to storefront); and promotion. In the past, promotion included simple television or radio spots, and print advertisements. However, recent promotions have become increasingly sophisticated, with subtle appeals to customer’s emotions. Watch chapter 2, Emotional Branding, of the PBS Frontline show The Persuaders, to expose the rise of branding and how it influences your spending decisions. If time is limited, watch to 7:06.

Promotion also considers target audiences. Consumers are divvied into categories based on their demographics: age, life stage, gender, income…Companies use this information to target their products to the consumer they think is most likely to purchase their product. For a small taste of how this is done, play Market Match and match the cell phone to the store where it its advertisement appears.

112512-3 The internet is also changing how goods are marketed and how we choose to buy. The wealth of information available and online stores means we are not limited to local retailers. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, and online shopping, think Amazon, influence our buying decisions. As more and more of us spend time online, our preferences are tracked individually and that information is purchased and used by online retailers. Online ads are generated based on the sites you visit and your online profiles. Explore the six rules of social shopping in this Venpop infographic. Which of these are used by retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Which have you experienced? Which are you most likely to fall for and why? The tag line at the very bottom of the graphic summarizes the social commerce take-away. What might be some other, less positive take-aways? Next, turn to the infographic, 2012 Holiday Shopping Forecast hosted by Social Commerce Today and discover how social media will influence consumers this holiday shopping season.

The magazine Psychology Today delves into the why behind our rational and irrational thoughts and actions. Its site shares several articles that help explain the why behind our buying habits. Begin by reading about how our preferences alter as we age, and how marketing strategies reflect this. Discover why we have a hard time passing up Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and why it is so loud at Abercrombie and Fitch. Ever wonder why stores are set up as they are? Read The Urge to Splurge to learn how the set-up in the store helps encourage you to spend. Finally, learn how to resist the spell of the sale.134075373

As you head to the brick and mortar or online stores this holiday season, be aware of how you are being targeted by retailers. It may help you resist their persuasive methods of separating you from your money. A shopping list and a budget will also help you stay the course and avoid buyer’s remorse.