Gotcha! See you are reading this now! What I did was just trigger your ‘urgency instinct’. Urgency instinct is what makes us take action immediately. Urgency instinct suppresses our analytical ability and boosts the loss aversion nature in us. Also triggered, is a second bias called scarcity bias or, more simply the fear-of-missing-out (FOMO). The combination of these two: urgency effect and FOMO is a deadly double whammy that knocks-out many shoppers.
Large-scale advertising push for selective shopping offers like those that come up before festivals boost our urgency instinct. The companies run those carpet-bombing-style ad campaigns with a real purpose, know that it is a proven technique of boosting sales.
Urgency instinct triggers anxiety and suspends thinking processes. While this is ok and essential in fight-or-flight situations to enable survival, in most other cases (which is almost all the time), one needs to try what de Bono calls a “thinking hat” before taking any decision.
Scarcity triggers our hoarding instinct along with FOMO and makes us place a higher value of an item that we may not do so, in most circumstances. It is well known online marketplaces have been bumping up prices of items like clothing and showing a larger discount than what it actually is. And, they have been caught red-handed many times. As Hans Rosling says, when something screams “urgent”, it rarely is.
Some hooks like “Last item left” flash tantalizingly to boost that fear and make us add it to the shopping cart, real or, virtual through a click. Tags like “Last item left” act on our scarcity bias or, FOMO. Do you really know that there only “two items left”?! This is especially pertinent as you routinely find the same item again after a few hours with similar tag “only four items left”. This scarcity bias makes people compelled to take action just to avoid feeling bad about not taking action in time. Words/phrases that are commonly used to trigger the scarcity bias are those like “hurry”, “never before”, “closing”, “act now” etc. Research has shown that invariably, most of FOMO purchases have left some tinge of disappointment in the buyers, a pyrrhic victory.
Now, why is it relevant for you to know about these biases? Well, coming-up are days of the Great Indian Shopping Festival and Big Billion Days. And, if your finger can’t stop itself from clicking “buy” button, stop yourself and the app. Go have a cup of coffee (disclaimer: I have a coffee bias!) come back after an hour. Do buy, if you still feel and have the need. It is possible that in this one hour, the stock might be sold out, after all Indigo etc., don’t sell most of their tickets at Rs 99, but now you are in the “know”, no worries if you missed it this time dude, there’s always that next discount sale, big billion or otherwise.
The author writes commentaries on contemporary financial, business, taxation and political issues.