Black Friday is here again, with the promise of huge deals and discounts.

Originally an American import, the day has become synonymous in the UK with the start of the Christmas shopping season. It’s also become notorious for shoppers literally fighting in the aisles to grab bargains.

But a note of caution has crept into the minds of the savvier shoppers. A new report from Which? has shown that around 60% of last year’s Black Friday deals have actually been cheaper or the same price at other points during the year.

It tracked the prices of 35 products in technology, home and personal care that were among the best sellers last Black Friday.

The majority were offered at a lower price at other points over the year, meaning the pressure to snap up a deal on this one day can encourage people to spend more than they need.

So if you are shopping in the Black Friday sales how can you be sure a bargain is really a bargain?

Understand marketing

The science of selling is serious stuff and an extraordinary amount of research goes into enticing customers to buy. Being aware of that can help you stand back and look objectively at a deal.

For example, this year the AI-powered marketing agency Persado is warning companies that ‘50% off everything’ will no longer cut it, advising companies to get personal and use emotions to encourage sales.

“For situations like Black Friday, consumers are primed to scan for deals, but emotional language might give your brand a breakthrough moment in the inbox,” it advises.

Retailers are urged to use urgency around Black Friday, with language like ‘Hurry! Up to 25% off’. They are advised to use a sense of achievement, e.g. ‘Nice! You’ve scored 20% off for Black Friday.’

Gratitude is another of the ‘top five emotions’ email marketers should work with, Persado suggests, for example ‘Because you deserve it – big discounts’ as well as anxiety by alerting recipients to deals they won’t want to miss.

Finally, exclusivity is a key driver: language that implies receiving the message is a privilege, such as: ‘Your official invitation: Up to XXX off Black Friday savings.’

The message for shoppers is clear: take a moment to step back and then reassess what you feel about a bargain. You might be less interested in it than you think.

Planning ahead

A survey carried out by GoCompare.com showed that 10% of shoppers admit buying things in sales they didn’t want and 6% say they got carried away and spent too much.

Just 15% said they would plan ahead by comparing prices before the sales kick off.

But with a bit of forward planning, you can buy online or in-store knowing that you’re buying a genuine bargain.

Members of the HotUKDeals deal-sharing community have compiled their best advice for securing a bargain even before the actual day.

Before you shop:

  • Sign up and save – emails and newsletters from your favourite retailers often provide early access to offers. Some members suggest taking out a 30-day Amazon Prime trial to access the early discounts, just remember to cancel it before the end of the free trial;
     
  • Check your online payment details and delivery address is stored for your favourite retailers to speed up the check-out process. After all, items could be sold while you’re updating or if it’s a popular deal the website could crash;
     
  • Put items you want into your basket in advance so that on the day you just need to check your discounts and check out.

On the day:

  • Go online so you can compare prices properly. If you do decide to shop in-store then take a charged mobile phone to compare deals;
     
  • Use more than one device. If you’re really after a particularly in-demand deal then try accessing the retailer’s website with more than device, like a phone, a laptop and a tablet if you have them. That way if there’s a virtual queue then you’re ready to shop;
     
  • Shop at the right time. Some retailers are launching their offers even before Black Friday – in fact this year Amazon has already begun. If you know of a really good deal and you want it, it might be worth setting an alarm and trying early in the morning;
     
  • Beware of cheap, low-quality items. It’s well-known that some retailers try to push unwanted stock around Black Friday so it really is worth spending an extra few moments checking reviews and prices;
     
  • Prioritise items that are low in stock. If there’s a bargain you really want but you know it’s low in stock then buy that first. You can check stock levels the night before using a service like Stock Informer.

 

The genuinely great deals

No, we’re not writing off Black Friday completely. There are some amazing deals out there for canny shoppers who are ready to wade through the marketing that’s piggybacking off the day rather than providing a genuine deal.

And shoppers are ready for those deals. A survey carried out by TopCashback showed that 41% of UK shoppers are waiting for the Black Friday sales to buy a big ticket item they want or need.

In fact, 45% of them have been waiting for this day since September and 16% have been holding back on their purchases since April or even earlier.

So while we’re cautious about the Black Friday hype, there are some really great bargains available.

Get your hands on early Black Friday tech deals at BT Shop