The biggest problem I have with the concept of a "sale" is that it is a sale tactic
that often gets elevated to the status of a strategy by businesses that have no sales strategy.
It's also been so overused that I think most people are wary of things that are flagged with the word "sale" unless they were already in the market
for the product in question.
So from a psychological perspective, the more critical factor would be the inciting incidents and thoughts that brought the prospect "to market" in the first place. And I don't think a sale is all that effective in bringing that about any more. People have become too aware of marketing tactics.
The other problem is that sales are usually 'repeat-limited effectives' which, in most cases, exhibit diminished returns with each subsequent use.
The first sale (or two) may spur an increase in revenue. But after that it either doesn't (bad!) - or it becomes a given
(really bad!) that will stop people from shopping until they see it. Look at all the people that wait for the seasonal 'sales days' before they'll start shopping for something.
In the end a sale may even have the effect of turning a 'year round' business into a seasonal one, with the 'season' determined by when the "big annual sale" takes place.
The automotive market learned that lesson the hard way. Look how many potential Toyota customers will sit and wait nine or more months for the annual Toyotathon
to take place before they even think about getting a car. There's Kabuki Theater at it's finest!
An even worse thing happened to Circuit City. They stocked up on large screen TVs, and then watched them sit in stock while potential customers played wait & see for the BIG SALE that didn't materialize until it was too late for Circuit City. CC overestimated customer interest and demand - and (more critically) the customers overestimated CC's ability to reduce it's prices
In the end it turned into a game of who would blink first. A game which continued even into the final days of CC's store liquidation sales.
In the end, "sales" are a tactic at best. And like all tactics, they're intrinsically manipulative - even if benignly so. They all depend on some level of surprise or customer innocence to be really effective. And that level of customer naivete is getting harder and harder to find. Like the old western movie outlaw said: An ambush ain't no ambush if you know where the posse's waiting fer ya, Marshal. All ya gotta do is ride around em...
If businesses genuinely want to stop having to play head games and perform Kabiki dances
* for their customers, all they have to do is stop playing those games
in the first place.
Just my 2¢ (provided it's on sale!)
- Loved the Kabuki metaphor.
Was that yours?