Daily Deal Fatigue, Holiday Edition: Are You Done Shopping?

Posted by · December 22, 2011 3:29 pm

Christmas is just a couple of days away. That means we’re in the last stretch of holiday shopping—the few remaining days when retailers give one final frenzied push before collapsing on a pile of our hard-earned money.

I don’t know about you, but I’m on deal overload. The Cheap Sherpa is all about saving money by finding deals online, but when December rolls around the volume of deals simply overwhelming. My inbox is overflowing with “Free Shipping!” and “Last chance to save 50%!” offers, and I find that I’m starting to tune them out.

As it happens, shutting down from input overload is a fairly common thing, especially when it comes to shopping options. A 2000 study by social psychologists examined the demotivation caused by too much choice. Photo by carriestroudResearchers set up a table in an upscale food market and offered one group of shoppers a choice of 24 gourmet jams, while another group had a selection of six jams or chocolates from which to choose. Customers tasted two jams on average and received a $1 coupon.

In our standard “more is better” way of thinking, we’d presume that the group with the largest selection would be more apt to make a purchase. Indeed, a larger group of customers were drawn to the 24-jam spread (60% compared to 40% for the smaller group). However, 30% of people who sampled from the small assortment actually made a purchase, while only 3% of shoppers from the 24-jam jamboree bought the goods.

Maybe we can have too much of a good thing.

As someone with a background in retail, I understand that the Christmas shopping season is when stores make their money back for the year. Shoppers are primed to buy and every store wants to get the sale. However, the fire hose method of marketing grows wearisome in December, and retailers overplay their hand.

But it seems it’s not just the holidays, either. While daily deal and flash coupon sites like Groupon remain popular, deal fatigue has put a dent in their traffic over the past few months.

The great thing about daily deal sites is you can keep tabs on a steady flow of well-priced items, filtering out the vast majority that aren’t interesting to you. But come Christmastime, the deals are fast and furious: I scroll through my main sources and run into many expired or sold out deals because I’m a couple hours late. That’s frustrating and makes me not want to play the game.

So how do I handle it? My natural inclination is to just shut it all down and wait until January, but alas I still have Christmas gifts to buy. Here’s how I’ve managed my deal inputs this holiday season.

Delete the Emails

I completely gave up on direct emails from retailers this season. I unsubscribed from a few lists (I’m looking at you, Sears and Tiger Direct) and others are triaged straight to the recycle bin without ever being opened.

Some email marketing allows you to unsubscribe for a short period of time, so even if you don’t want to completely unsubscribe, go ahead and click through to see what your options are.

Just Search, No Browse

I usually enjoy browsing through deals, but as I mentioned above, the volume is overwhelming right now and half the things I want to buy are sold out by the time I click.

My solution has been to search rather than browse; specifically, I’ve been searching SlickDeals and Amazon then running a double check in Google Products using the specific keywords I’ve gleaned from my initial search. It’s amazing how a just a little effort in creating an advanced search (using quotation marks, adding a minus in front of terms you don’t want) can yield a quick, valuable results page.

Give a Charitable Gift

A few years ago, my immediate family decided to forsake traditional gifts in favor of giving each other a contribution to a charity. And while that sounds nice and pious, it has some very practical benefits as well. You can order your gift online (everything from a chicken to a well) at price points for just about every budget. You don’t have to leave your house to shop, and you avoid the hassle of awkward family gift exchange time. On top of that, you’ve helped someone in need, which feels pretty good.

There are many reliable organizations that offer donation gifts. Our family uses World Vision, an organization that ensures 85% of total donations go direct to assistance.

What about you? Do you have some strategies for maintaining sanity while still managing your bottom line during the holidays? Share it with us in the comments below.