The Impulsive Online Shopper

I have a habit of stalking the goods I buy online. Yes, I suppose one can argue that I have a lot of time on my hands, but to be honest, I just want to make sure I don’t experience any cognitive dissonance (and here I thought I’d never use Marketing text book terms in real life situations).

onlineshoppingOver the past two years my online purchases have spiked for reasons such as convenience and the occasional online sale… SALE: a word that can drive any woman crazy with delight. And I was the typical impulse buyer: I see it, I like it, I want it. Now. Slowly but surely, after each of my sale purchases online, I’d wonder if I really did save or if I fell into a trap.

It doesn’t take a Marketing major to know that the advertising jargon you find online and in print media are suggestive rather than conclusive: “You can get up to…” “Price may vary…” And with sales, their ‘sale price’ doesn’t always remain the same neither does the famous “Only last 10 left” actually hold true. I’ll show you how…

About 3 months back, I purchased a dress on sale from a popular online retailer. It was priced, on that fateful Wednesday, at R189 (originally R379). By the next day, a day after I placed the order, the ‘sale price’ stood at R229. I thought there was some kind of a mistake. So I cleared my cache and reopened the site. It was in fact R229. I was ecstatic at my saving but at the same time slightly sceptical at this sneaky sale. If I waited another day, would it drop to below R189? I wondered.

Two weeks later I decided to check if this dress was sold out yet (don’t retailers usually have sales to get rid of stock?). It wasn’t. There it lay, in all sizes, for the original price of R379. I stared in silence. I was lucky, very. But how many other times did I purchase something on ‘sale’ when it wasn’t even a proper one? What if I was the person that purchased it at R229, thinking I saved so much? Such a shame being played for a fool.

A few days before a sale with a low-cost airline was advertised, I had been checking rates between Cape Town and Durban. I was a little surprised that the prices were about R150 cheaper than usual. Then I quoted for those exact dates as soon as the sale commenced (of which the airline indicated that they are now reduced rates). And dang. The sale price was exactly the same as the ticket price a few days earlier. The sale price, which was highlighted as being cheaper, posed with the famous “Only 10 seats left” banner per flight. I booked it anyway. Then I re-quoted for those same dates later that day, and yes you’ve guessed it, the same price and “Only 10 seats left” showed below EVERY available flight. Did my booking not count or was that slogan permanently plastered on the site? (We know your sneaky (dirty) secret now).

Traders shouldn’t assume all shoppers are just going to accept what they’re being fed. For this reason impulse purchases at online sales are sometimes not worth the risk. Before you can feel on top of the world when you think you’ve scored yourself a great deal, wait a day or two, perhaps a week. Do a little research on product rates across various sites and keep an eye on prices at sales. You may just get the item at its cheapest when you least expect it… even if it isn’t one of the “last 10 left”. ;)

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6 thoughts on “The Impulsive Online Shopper”

  1. Thank you for the tips. Keep an eye on item you want for few weeks before buying is a good thing. The number of items left can be fake (as you saw) or real but it is better error on the safe side – assumed fake unless you need to get by certain date as airline tickets.

  2. Funny post. I’m reminded of “sales” that take place where I live. I know they’re usually designed to move stock but sometimes I think that the “sale” price is what they should have sold it for in the first place – therefore I don’t consider it a bargain.

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