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Black Friday Discounts and Unruly Shoppers: Yes, There is a Connection

Black Friday Discounts and Unruly Shoppers: Yes, There is a Connection

Black Friday, the American shopping extravaganza that follows Thanksgiving, has become synonymous with deep discounts and extreme shopping behavior. On that day, individual shoppers seem to stalk and attack the best buys like lions taking down a gazelle. And new research from the Journal of Marketing Research suggests that this is not a coincidence.

Franklin Shaddy, Assistant Professor of Marketing and Behavioral Decision Making at University of California – Los Angeles, and National University of Singapore Professor of Marketing Leonard Lee’s fascination with this juxtaposition fueled the research behind their article, “Price Promotions Cause Impatience.”


Sales and discount pricing is a core strategy for moving merchandise. And the financial results are hard to argue against giving the years of success enjoyed by retailers of all sizes and types. Shaddy and Lee find that sales promotions have a secondary side effect of impatience. That resulting impatience occurs even when people are exposed to the discount, but don’t take advantage.

The research team measured impatience after experiment participants reviewed difference kinds of promotions and discounts. For example, participants were shown advertisements for a new product that was deeply discounted or the standard price. Afterwards, they were asked to complete a video survey,

So, in a series of seven experiments, Shaddy and Lee presented participants with various sales promotions and then measured impatience. In one study, participants reviewed an advertisement for new Apple products, which were either deeply discounted or regularly priced. They were then given the option to complete a video survey. The catch is that the video never loaded and participants were left waiting. Those who had seen the ad with discounts gave up waiting nearly 20 seconds faster than the group who saw the standard priced product.

The prognosis is not all problematic though. In their article, Shaddy and Lee point to numerous positive strategies that companies can employ to take advantage of this relationship (briefly summarized):

  • Restaurants that want to turn tables faster may include coupons with their checks at the end of meals or make promotions visible earlier in the meal.
  • Airlines may test playing advertisements of discounts prior to beginning the boarding process as it increases passenger impatience to be seated.
  • As impatience is linked to spontaneous purchase decisions, having price promotions located in checkout lines or online by one-click purchase buttons may increase unplanned consumption.
  • Products requiring extensive assembly may be unattractive to a more impatient consumer, so marketers should time sharing such information before or after consumers are exposed to price promotions.
  • Venues where impatience can lead to unattractive behavior should be particularly aware of this affect. Bars or sports arenas may not want to expose patrons to discount messaging in order to avoid encouraging already heightened levels of impatience or aggressive behaviors.