Six tricks retailers use to make us spend on Black Friday

Can we briefly tempt you away from your online bargain hunting?  Black Friday seems the ideal time to remind ourselves of Psychologist Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion, and how these are often used in sales and marketing as influencing techniques.  You’ll be familiar with many we’re sure, and if you’ve been waiting excitedly to grab that new gadget and have seen the price plummet for Black Friday then don’t delay – add it to your basket.  But for the rest of us it’s worth being aware of how retailers might use the Principles of Persuasion as they jostle for our attention and our cash this weekend.


People feel obliged to respond to a positive action with one in return. This explains why we might be more convinced to spend over a certain amount in the Black Friday sales, in exchange for increasing discounts or a ‘gift voucher’ for future purchases.  And if you take advantage of that, then you may also be more likely to ‘review’ your purchase if the retailer sends you a request!

 “Receive a free gift when you spend over £50 this Black Friday!”

Commitment and Consistency

We all like to be seen as being consistent with the things we’ve previously said or done – nobody likes to be thought of as unreliable.  This could be what compels us to respond to personalised marketing emails from retailers we’ve shopped with before, or it might be why we reconsider a purchase when we receive a reminder that “you’ve left something in your shopping basket”.

 “Thanks for being a valued customer, check out the Black Friday deals we’ve picked for you!”

Social Proof or Consensus

Especially when uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own.  So, Black Friday marketing campaigns might highlight reviews to demonstrate ‘proof’ that other people approve of products e.g. “recommended by 95% of customers”.  Brands also often take to social media when a celebrity is seen with their products and Black Friday deals might promote the items ‘popular with celebs’.  Although, interestingly, 86% of female shoppers say they put the most trust in product recommendations from people they know over celebrities.

“The new headphones popular with bloggers – get them now with 20% off in our Black Friday Sale!”


We like to follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts and defer to their expertise to inform our decision making.  This is why toothpaste adverts are often delivered by dentists!  Black Friday could be a chance to promote items endorsed by relevant ‘experts’ e.g. sports personalities promoting athletic wear or equipment.

“The new appliance rated a Best Buy – trust the experts and buy yours with £20 off on Black Friday!”


People may be more inclined to say ‘yes’ to those they like. Our sense of liking is based on many things including the degree of similarity, those who compliment and cooperate with us and physical attractiveness – hence the use of attractive models to promote everything from beverages to beauty products! So, be prepared to be showered with compliments from retailers telling you how great their discounted Black Friday party wear will look on you. And don’t be too swayed by the visual appeal of your favourite website which has been attractively re-vamped for Black Friday.  The ease of navigation and enjoyment of browsing online sites is highly influential all year round.

“We know you have good taste and, just like you, we appreciate great quality at great prices – check out the Black Friday offers available across our entire range!”


It’s human nature to want more of the things that are in some way limited.  Look how quickly limited-edition collections sell out!  This fear of missing out is why holiday websites will often tell us how many rooms are remaining when we browse for our two weeks in the sun.  On Black Friday, retailers will remind us of the ‘limited’ availability of items or the ‘one day’ window of opportunity to grab a bargain (until Cyber Monday!).

“Limited availability at this discounted price and only on Black Friday!”

 So, there we have some of the techniques that may be used to influence our buying decisions today.  Which doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make purchases – it’s perhaps more a case of ‘don’t believe the hype’.  Especially, as we’ve seen in the media, goods are often not significantly cheaper on Black Friday! We’d love to hear about any particularly blatant ‘persuasion’ techniques you’ve spotted or where the hidden psychology may have won you over and convinced you to purchase – send us your examples.  Now, back to our online baskets!!