We’ve devoted tons of page space in encouraging you to avoid Black Friday shopping and giving you tips on how to successfully do that. But we’ve only talked in passing about Cyber Monday. That officially makes us out-of-date, because in recent years the sales numbers for Cyber Monday have outpaced those of Black Friday. If we are being honest with you, and if you’ve been reading our blog for any amount of time you know that we are, this terrifies us in many ways. Despite our optimism that society is truly beginning to realize the need to move beyond a model of addictive consumerism and that the rising tide of anti-Black Friday sentiment is evidence of that, the size and scope of Cyber Monday brings with it many risks. There are behaviors and marketing traps to online shopping that are more dangerous than shopping at actual brick-and-mortar stores. Before you might get out the credit cards and go crazy with the online deals this Cyber Monday, keep in mind these following dangers.
You Can Buy More Than You Can Carry
When you shop in stores, there’s an automatic limit to how much you can buy. Unless you have rented a Uhaul for the day (and yes, we know that there are people who have done this) you can only buy what you can fit into your vehicle, and you can only buy at one time as much as you can carry to your vehicle (or have delivered). It may seem silly, but these physical limits actually do help you reduce what you may buy. At a minimum, they restrict your “haul” to what fits in your car. In a best case scenario, they cause you to pause between purchases as you take things back and forth to your car and give you time to potentially avoid an impulse purchase. Online, items don’t have a real physical size and space manifestation and shopping is faster. You’re much more likely to buy significantly more than you need (or even want). Online shopping is actually set up to encourage you to do just that.
Impulse Buying is Easier
This is the big risk. In a store, impulse shopping is still a huge profit center for the store itself. How many times have you picked up something that was in a bin next to the checkout line while you waited to pay and bought it on impulse? Stores are intentionally designed that way. But if you think that’s bad, it’s nothing compared to how quickly you can go down the impulse buy rabbit hole when you’re shopping online. It’s as easy as one single click. Everything is “easier” online, and not in a good way. It’s easier to insult and hurt somebody behind a wall of anonymity. It’s easier to get pulled into unhealthy consumer behavior with just one easy click. Be wary of all of the one-click traps!
The Information Sharing Super Train is Chugging Along
Do brick and mortar stores find ways to collect information on you and market to you? Absolutely. However, in most cases you’re aware that it’s happening and you’re even participating in it. Loyalty cards are a great example of this. However, the amount of information that’s being tracked about you and your purchasing habits online is massive and frankly nothing short of somewhat nefarious. In many instances, you have no idea that the information is being tracked and you have no true control about turning it off. It goes well beyond whether you’ve submitted your email to a website or not. Every time you shop online, you tell marketers how to most effectively convince you to buy more, but again, just keep buying. And you’re not only giving up information that helps marketers target you, you’re giving up information that helps marketers target entire groups of people and demographics. Unless you are an internet wizard, you won’t be able to stop this from happening when you shop online. So be aware that you’re actually setting yourself up for more difficulty in separating from the consumer media machine when you shop in great quantity on the internet.
Online Money Isn’t Real Money
Our final warning to you is that there’s always something that makes a purchase feel more real when you have to actually touch your money, checkbook or credit card while you’re making the purchase. Even if you’re not physically handing over cash, there’s that moment where you have to think about the physical reality of the money that you’re spending. Online, that isn’t as true. There’s a reason that online experiences are referred to as “virtual reality.” Because they don’t entirely feel like reality. If you’re trying to curb your shopping habit, or more specifically your spending habit, then online shopping is a minefield for you. We actually suggest in-store shopping with physical cash to try to get this pattern in line. Online, you truly risk losing sight of how much money you’re spending.
Cyber Monday is here to stay, and seemingly to grow. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t all be wiser and smarter about it. Mindful shopping is better shopping, whether “virtually” or in real life.
Did we miss a way in which Cyber Monday shopping can be a trap? If so, tell us about it on the social media channels below.
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Photo Credit: Kevin Marks via Flickr