The thing about advertising is that it works. When you see an ad that hits your pleasure center in the right way, you click the link to ‘learn more,’ and before you know it, you have convinced yourself you need something you had, until that moment, never heard of

The thing about advertising is that it works. When you see an ad that hits your pleasure center in the right way, you click the link to ‘learn more,’ and before you know it, you have convinced yourself you need something you had, until that moment, never heard of

With e-commerce booming throughout the pandemic, Black Friday is looking more like a two-month-long Cyber Monday. Retailers pivoting to digital have stretched the dates of holiday sales now that they don’t have to worry about literal stampedes of shoppers the day after Thanksgiving. But not only is pandemic holiday shopping looking increasingly online, it’s also looking surprisingly healthy: Deloitte projects that retail sales might actually rise this holiday. One reason for that bump may be the ease with which even Luddites can shop the digital sales popping up all over online marketplaces, brand websites, and even social media. Writer Roxane Gay recently wrote for ZORA about her own adventures shopping nonstop by way of Instagram ads, chasing the “momentary rush of pleasure” that comes from opening freshly delivered boxes — a short-lived sedative against the anxiety of a roiling pandemic with no end in sight. She’s hardly alone in looking for relief in a checkout cart: Normally rational consumers feeling the weight of a national crisis (say, a recession or public health catastrophe) can sometimes take a seemingly irrational turn in the form of “shoptimism,” a sort of retail therapy in which shoppers hope to get an emotional boost from buying little luxuries. But this moment of respite that comes from successfully scouring apps for Black Friday deals may not last very long. “The numbness wears off,” Gay writes, “and you are left feeling everything.”

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