As you sit at your computer reading this, tens of thousands of people are shopping online. Indeed, today it is expected that at its peak online shopping will reach a whopping £4,000 per second. Shoppers are likely to be parting with an amazing £350m online today. But why? Why are they saving it all up for today? And what is attracting people to spend tons of cash online, instead of visiting those bright and cheery High Street stores?
It’s true that the web is a convenient place to shop – no parking queues, no wandering around in the wind and rain – so that helps. But equally, one in three people who use the Internet simply refuse to shop online because they don’t trust the payment systems available. It’s also true that often there is a wider selection of items to buy online than you might find in a traditional store. And the prices are often cheaper online too. So, in spite of the worries about fraud or identity theft, there are some powerful reasons why people prefer online shopping.
But why today? Well, a couple of practical things combine. Most people get paid at the end of the month; that always results in increased footfall in bricks and mortar stores in the weekend after people get their pay (the weekend just gone). Plus, today is the first day back at work for many people after the “shopping weekend” we’ve just had. It means that those people who only access broadband Internet in their office or workplace are likely to shop for those items online today that they couldn’t find in the shops yesterday. There is another pressure for shopping online today as well – delivery times. With only two and a half delivery weeks left, people are keen to ensure that their online purchases get delivered in time for Christmas.
Having said all this, there is something far more important driving the online shopping binge today. That’s social pressure. The notion that today will be a “Cyber Monday” is, of course, only a guess. It’s a guess that all the major retailers are happy to sign up to because it means they can send out press releases all about their special Cyber Monday deals. The result is mass media coverage of an “event” that might or might not be real. Because “everyone is talking about it”, we then feel today is the day; we get sucked in to the chit-chat about it and even if we had no plans to shop online today, there’s an increased chance.
The retailers will then be able to produce statistics to show that their predictions were right after all. “Goodness me,” they’ll say, “everyone did shop on that Cyber Monday.” But it may well be we only did our online shopping today because there was so much media coverage saying today is the day to go buying online. In other words, we did the socially acceptable thing.
This is an important concept. We see it in the current debate about climate change. If you don’t do the socially acceptable thing and recycle, simply accepting that the climate has changed because of human beings, then you are frowned upon as though you have lost your senses. We all fall into line, because to do otherwise is to get yourself criticised or even hounded by the media as though you are some kind of weirdo. The truth is, though, human beings simply love to think they are in control of everything and are at the centre of all things. It took the human race centuries to finally come to terms with the fact that the Earth was not the centre of the Universe after all. It may well take as long for humanity to realise that climate is much bigger than us and that our contribution to that change is negligible at best. Gosh, I’ve said something socially unacceptable; what will you think of me?
And that’s the point – we all strive to be socially acceptable and stick to the party line. It means if you run an online business all you need to do is generate enough “word of mouth” about the need for your products and services and it will become socially unacceptable for your potential marketplace not to buy. Don’t neglect the power of social acceptability for your products and services. It is a powerful tool.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+