Primed for Prime Day? Here’s why you might spend more in October than on Black Friday

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Amazon’s “Prime Day” is coming back on October 11th and 12th, and researchers from Lehigh University say you may end up spending even more money during this special event than you do on Black Friday this year.

Their study finds that consumers are more likely to spend big and buy more items when companies tie their sales to a special day, like Pi Day (March 14) or Star Wars Day (May 4). Results reveal shoppers are more motivated to take advantage of big savings and use coupons for themed shopping days than they are during more traditional holidays and shopping days like Labor Day or back-to-school sales.

“We found that special day-themed sales promotions lead consumers to be more likely to use the discounts to make a purchase compared to the more standard promotions,” says Daniel Zane, assistant professor of marketing at Lehigh University, in a media release. “We also discovered that the positive consumer response to special day-themed promotions is essentially driven by consumers’ rewarding marketers for their creativity in providing a way to celebrate the special day.”

Businesses are shifting their sales to novel holidays

While many people likely associate big discounts with major shopping holidays, like Black Friday, study author say more and more companies are coming up with their own “special days.” A great example is Pi Day, where people celebrate the mathematical constant and never-ending number of Pi on March 14th, with deals on things like pizza and other pie-related items.

Some firms are also gearing their big discounts towards fun “holidays” like National Ice Cream Day, National Dog Day, or their founder’s birthday.

In their experiment, researchers randomly showed a group of participants one of two versions of a sales promotion. One version contained special day-themed discounts while the other advertised more traditional sales. Results reveal that consumers were significantly more likely to make a purchase from a company celebrating a “National Picnic Day Sale” compared to a business promoting a standard one-day sale.

In another test, study authors partnered with a firm that sent out a 25-percent discount via email in celebration of the day a company adopted its mascot dog. Results reveal that shoppers were twice as likely to click on the link in comparison to other people who received a sales email with no mention of the mascot.

If the sale fits, we buy!

The study also found that when consumers see a real “fit” between a company’s sale and the themed promotion, shoppers reward that creativity by buying more. However, if a promotion doesn’t seem to fit the occasion, they react very differently.

The perceived inappropriateness “ultimately hurts purchase intentions enough to cancel out any positive effect of originality,” researchers explain.

Zane adds that more traditional sales can also generate negative feelings towards certain businesses because shoppers assume they’re only lowering prices to motivate people to spend money or so the company can unload old merchandise.

“Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this research was what we found to be the psychological driver of consumers’ positive response to special day-themed promotions,” the researcher says. “They actually think about how the marketer who created the special day-themed promotion was creative in providing a way to celebrate the special day. In essence, consumers then reward marketers for their creativity by being more likely to use a special day discount to make a purchase from that company.”

“The findings suggest that linking a discount to a company-generated special day can positively impact real customer behavior,” Zane continues. “It is possible that consumers who receive special day-themed discounts may feel they are unique or in an exclusive subset of consumers receiving the promotion.”

The findings are published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

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