Tax season is in the air, and that means social media spending is on the rise. Some people decide to use their refunds by paying an ugly bill, saving for something important, or purchasing an item they truly want. Then, there are people who get click-happy and blow their refund on something they thought they wanted in the moment.
Give those people a little slack—compulsive purchases are not always one’s own doing; sometimes, there are outside influences. Online shopping and social media has only added new marketing tactics to the pot. Conscious online shopping means becoming aware of those influences before making an online purchase.
Social media’s impact on online shopping
Progressively, “living online” has become the norm, and companies are focused heavily on improving online sales through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. According to the Centre for Retail Research, consumers contributed well over $349 billion to online sales in 2015. This equaled a 14.4% increase from 2014—making social media a hotbed for sales motivation.
With increasingly limitless access to the internet through cell phones and portable laptops, it’s no surprise that online shopping and social media spending has also increased, and has become a driving force for sales nationwide. Perhaps that is why giant retailers such as Macy’s and JCPenney are closing many of their physical stores and upping their online sales game through their relationships with customers on social media.
By being on social media, companies build close relationships with millions of consumers who thrive on human interaction through these platforms. Customer loyalty is built because consumers see these companies in a friendly way—via posts offering discounts and capitalizing on current trends. Consumers feel confident in their purchases with companies that they trust, and want to keep shopping with them. That isn’t all bad until you end up buying something you don’t really need.
Even those with degrees in marketing, who have a firm understanding about these strategies, can be swayed towards checking out with a full cart when what they really need is to pay the electric bill. It happens to all of us, but it doesn’t have to happen as often. Awareness of the five social media tactics companies use to market their products could help curb compulsive online shopping.
The five tactics
Flash sales and FOMO
Flash sales are easy to understand from a simple point of view: [Company] wants to get rid of seasonal inventory while also giving the consumer an amazing deal. In most cases, items featured during flash sales are extremely limited in quantity, but in some cases a flash sale is instigated simply to mislead the consumer into believing there is limited quantity available. Almost every consumer that buys during a flash sale is giving into the psychological concept of FOMO which stands for the Fear Of Missing Out.
Psychology professionals define FOMO as “the fears, worries, and anxieties people may have in relation to being in touch with events, experiences, and conversations happening across extended social circles.”
Once consumers understand that FOMO might be blinding their online and social media spending decisions, they may feel less inclined to buy things they really don’t need. In a social media driven world, falling victim to feelings of FOMO can impact how much someone is buying during a flash sale. This is because the sale is there for a very limited time and the items seem to disappear in a blitz. When someone sees a flash sale being promoted on Twitter by their favorite company, they feel pressured by the ticking clock at the top of the website.
Step back from the computer and remind yourself that flash sales happen frequently. The clocking ticking down is a misconception—to make you think you are missing out—but there will be other sales just like it.
If you’ve clicked on a makeup tutorial, there’s usually an advertisement trying to sell you another mascara or a line of lipsticks. Generally, the average person ignores the advertisement by pulling up another screen until it’s over. Research conducted by Goo Technologies confirms that 82% of online advertisements go ignored. Of course, skilled advertisers are more creative than to just promote through obvious means.
Now, brands are promoting their products through the influence of web stars such as makeup gurus, lifestyle channels, cooking channels, and gaming channels. The statistics portal, Statista, reports that aside from Facebook, YouTube is the most-used social media platform on the internet. As a result, companies have found a way to promote social media spending through YouTube without the risk of being ignored by consumers. YouTubers are sent “PR Packages” from companies that are briefly featured or tested on their channel. Essentially, It’s a mixture of subliminal messaging and celebrity endorsement, and the products mentioned by YouTubers with millions of followers sell out online in minutes.
This is genius marketing-wise, but it can be a money spending trap for people who are highly influenced by their favorite YouTube stars.
Giveaways and contests
Your favorite brand is doing an absolutely free giveaway? Sounds perfect. But, for many giveaways, there is only one winner, and you are one of the thousands, maybe even millions, of people entering. If you’ve ever won a giveaway, congratulations! You are a part of the small minority. But, for most people, they don’t win.
Typically, to sign up for a giveaway you either have to follow the company’s social media accounts or sign up for their emailing/mailing list, which would eventually send you daily promotions and deals. You are more likely to buy a product they are promoting by email after the giveaway than actually winning the giveaway.
If you really want to save your money, don’t get as far as even looking at what the giveaway is about, or you’ll be roped in. There is the obvious notion of “you can always unsubscribe from the emails later,” but that doesn’t always happen, and once you’ve signed up for the email list, you’ve already potentially handed over your wallet.
Aesthetically pleasing images
It’s hard to admit that you purchased a company’s product because it was presented in an aesthetically pleasing form, but this is an aspect of marketing through social media. The way a person views a company’s website, Twitter page, or Instagram photos can have a huge impact on that person’s attitudes towards the company. It could be a deciding factor in whether or not they will buy.
In a consumer study reported by Usability.gov, managed by a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, researchers found that emotion towards a certain product do, in fact, influence whether or not someone buys that product. Emotions towards a brand can have a direct effect on the perception of the brand’s products.
When something is aesthetically pleasing to the eye through image editing or positioned photography, consumers may associate positive emotions with the product and the company as a whole. According to Scientific Research Publishing, brand images alone have become a driving force in sales. They create a lasting perception of what the customer believes to be true about the company. But, that does not mean that the consumer will always truly want the product. It simply depends on how it is packaged and presented through social media.
Before making a purchase, think about whether or not you actually like the item, or if you just like how it was presented.
Marketing and advertising contribute to the complex concept of consumer emotions. Businesses count on the likelihood that people feel guilty or sad if they don’t give into the pressures of social media promotions. Taking a few moments to think about what you truly want or need, however, results in conscious spending habits that leave consumers happier in the long run. Being aware of these selling tactics can help with that, and allow you to feel good about where your tax refund goes this year.