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Online Shopping for a Better Life

Changing Behaviour

Black Friday, Singles Day and Cyber Monday – the big end of the year sales are here! We asked an economic professor how seasonal sales affect the economy, our environment and online shopping behaviour as a whole. 

Tis’ the season to be jolly, the seasonal sales are here! Black Friday, Singles’ Day and Cyber Monday have grown to be global phenomena that are hard to miss. One could argue that the end of the year sales campaigns are bigger and more popular than ever before. Economic professor Mika Pantzar agrees. 

– In a way we are taking a step back in time. Before everything was seasonal. If you wanted to have chocolate, you could only buy it at Christmas or Easter, or if you wanted to buy summer clothes you had to do it in the summer. In a way those were simpler times, Pantzar says. – Looks like we are now going back to seasonal buying and e-commerce only amplifies the fluctuation by making it easier than ever. 

The Rise of E-commerce Brings Back Seasonal Sales

Black Friday has traditionally started the Christmas shopping season in the United States on Thanksgiving weekend, when families gather together to binge on food and, increasingly, shopping. Today, companies all around the world take part in the sales frenzy.

– Every company must be involved. The market economy works that way, Pantzar explains. – Big sales events create a mass movement that invites to imitate others. If someone does something, others must do the same. Of course it means that novelty suffers. Everybody has to do the same tricks to get profit and to be seen. 

These big sales events might work even better online. Pantzar thinks that the ease of shopping is the main reason why e-commerce has grown to be so popular: the customer gets a chance to shop without distractions and long lines. 

– When the discussion about e-commerce started in the late 1990s, it was thought that the transition from the traditional commerce to e-commerce would be fast. The expectations were overly optimistic, and the change was actually much slower. But nowadays online shopping is easy and fast, and it makes many things much simpler for the customer. User interfaces have improved a lot, Pantzar says. 

Not a Waste But an Investment

Big sales campaigns are also criticized for promoting overconsumption and being bad for the environment. Pantzar admits that buying new things can be seen as a bad thing from an environmental point of view. However, he doesn’t want to blame consumers.

– There are two things that drive the consumer forward: one is ease and the other is price. If you can get an item both cheaply and easily, of course you will want to buy it, Pantzar explains. – The future of the planet shouldn’t lie on consumers’ shoulders. These kinds of decisions we need should be made by governments and international agreements. 

Pantzar claims that the need to consume is actually a need to make one’s life better. When we buy food, we feed ourselves and our families. When we buy cleaning supplies, we make our homes cleaner and increase the standard of living. Consuming should be seen as a way to invest in yourself.

– I would like to see the consumption debate more investment-driven. Consuming and buying is not just wasting, but investing in a better and more comfortable life. Therefore, I would not criticize any of these campaigns. If people make their lives better this way, it often means that it is better for the economy as well, Pantzar says.

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