How Marketing Strategies Make You Buy Even More in the Sales

When the sales come around, you often want to take advantage of the price reductions. Perhaps you want to buy a new wardrobe for the coming season. Indeed, sales are significant events. However, they often make people buy compulsively. It's due to more than simply saving money.
How Marketing Strategies Make You Buy Even More in the Sales
María Vélez

Written and verified by the psychologist María Vélez.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Everyone loves a bargain. It makes you feel good to think that you’ve saved some money. Even more so if it means adding that designer item you wanted so much to your wardrobe.

However, companies play with other elements, which aren’t directly related to price, to encourage you to buy more. Psychology can explain most of them.

Discounts and their purpose

We all know that sales are periods in which establishments apply a discount on the usual price of the product. This isn’t done to help our pockets; it’s not a charitable policy. In fact, the main objective of discounts is to encourage sales. They might be motivated by three reasons:

  • To liquidate stock. The company needs to get rid of stock. They might require space for the new season clothes. They may also want to gain a market share thus they prioritize this objective over immediate benefits.
  • Cross-selling. The demand for discounts is used to favor the purchase of more expensive products. The idea is for the customer to take away, along with the discounted garment, something from the new season, either now or in the near future.
  • Up-selling. Similar to cross-selling. The discount brings customers in, but the idea is that they end up buying the product with the widest profit margin and not the narrowest. For example, instead of buying discounted shoes, they’re encouraged to buy another style that, although they’re ten dollars more, appear to be of better quality and are more comfortable.

The big sales usually occur twice a year, in January and at the end of summer. The first is to get rid of winter clothing (coats, boots, accessories.). The second is to sell off summer products (sandals, swimwear, suntan lotion, etc.) and show off next season’s offerings.

However, many stores also offer sales at other times of the year in order to attract customers and boost their sales campaigns.

Woman shopping on sale

How do they get you to buy more?

It’s probably a familiar scenario that, in the end, in the sales, you end up spending more than at any other time of the year. This happens because sales are designed to reach into the depths of your brain and make you max out your credit card. That’s unless you’re a calculating and highly responsible buyer, of course.

There are elements, beyond price, that are related to your emotions, your cognition, and even your perception.

Neuromarketing is the area of psychology that investigates the purchasing behavior of customers. It has a great deal to say on this particular subject. It claims that companies apply specific marketing strategies so that purchases are made more quickly and unconsciously, and provide greater benefits.

Marketing strategies that promote sales

Basically, the marketing strategies used to make you buy more during sales consist of certain interventions in the buying environment. In other words, stores include or modify external stimuli that capture your attention and generate needs or feelings that make it easier for you to acquire certain products.

1. Prices with odd numbers

This marketing strategy is an infallible classic of sales and discounts in general. Despite being a well-known process, consumers still fall for it. In fact, you just don’t feel the same about paying five dollars for something than 4.99.

Apparently, although you’re aware that the amount is almost the same, your mind stays with the first figure, giving you the feeling of paying less. Also, if the figure is odd, it’s perceived as significantly lower.

2. The urgency

“Last units! Final sales!”. These phrases that you usually find next to the marketing stands tend to awaken your sense of urgency. They make you believe that the discounts are only for a limited time and that, if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity right now, you’ll lose the chance.

You fall into this trap, even when it’s something that you don’t really need. It happens because your brain tries to reduce the cognitive dissonance between “I don’t need it” and “I can’t let it go”. Due to this social pressure, you end up buying quickly and without thinking. In effect, you’re carried away by emotion.

3. Bargains and anticipation

Your brain loves surprises, stimulation, and opportunities. Together, these ingredients make up the recipe for a sale. Colorful, eye-catching posters, two-for-one offers, and the possibility of surprising yourself by finding a beautiful shirt for only 15 dollars! In fact, it could be said that sales are like a carnival for your brain. In each store you go in, your brain is stimulated, keeping you in a befuddled state in which you can only think about making the best purchase.

Furthermore, you know that in January and August prices are reduced. Therefore, you expect to find real bargains. This makes an offer that might seem modest at another time appear irresistible.

4. The music

Have you ever noticed that, during the sales, the music in stores is livelier and at a higher volume?  This isn’t because store managers are happy to have more people in their stores and they want you to have fun. The real reason is to encourage you to buy more and faster.

We know that music affects us in many ways and this is one of them. At non-sale times, the music tends to be more relaxed and of lower volume. That’s to invite you to take your time in viewing all the products. However, at sale time, they don’t want you to think too much. In fact, they want you to feel restless so you buy more impulsively and, as soon as you’ve bought, you leave the premises.

Couple shopping

Tips for buying rationally in sales

These are just some of the most common strategies used in the field of marketing. In reality, at sale time, everything is programmed, from the adverts you see on the street to your trip to the store where they persuade you to buy.

If you want to buy in a rational and responsible way, here are some tips:

  • Before buying, think about how the market works, select what you need, and think carefully about your goal.
  • Try to be practical. Buy clothes that you can combine with others, thus using them more. Try donating one garment for every one you buy. Focus on whether it’s a craving or something you really want.
  • Depending on the products, it can be useful to carry your cell phone in your hand. Then, you can search and compare prices in other stores and see if the discount is real and significant. If you discover that there’s not too much difference, consider making the purchase at another time.
  • Consider sustainable fashion. In this way, the planet will also benefit and it might even make you feel better. Go to second-hand stores, where you can find original and beautiful bargains. Or, check out the sustainable section of your favorite store, where they use recycled and eco-friendly textiles.
  • To avoid spending more than you planned, take the money in cash and leave your card at home. This forces you to have a maximum budget and perhaps take more time to decide whether you really want to buy or not.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Fisher, CE, Chin, L. y Klitzman, R. (2010). Definición de neuromarketing: Prácticas y retos profesionales. Revista de psiquiatría de Harvard , 18 (4), 230-237.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.