scarcity

My Attempt at Giving Up Online Shopping

This winter, I thought I’d try to give up online shopping for 40 days. I don’t think I spend too much money online, most of what I get is stuff I need- and I’m actually part of the 8 out of 10 Americans that participates in ecommerce (source). I even started writing this post about the experience 2 weeks in. I had to change the title of the post, though, because…well, I didn’t make it through the whole 40 days. Instead of writing about my successful endeavor, I get to write about how and why this experiment was a glorious failure.

Convenience

Perhaps the biggest hurdle going into this experiment was the knowledge that everything I needed/wanted wasn’t exactly right at my fingertips for 40 days. Instead, I’d have to be a little more thoughtful about upcoming purchases (especially since we live in a place where geographically you might have to drive a bit for certain things). This isn’t impossible, just inconvenient at times.



Mindful Internet Browsing

The thing that was surprisingly hard was how much more of a conscious effort I had to make whenever I was online. It was actually a bit jarring to realize how complacent I’ve become in my internet browsing. For instance, I’d go on Facebook and an ad for a dress or something baby related would appear in my newsfeed, so I’d usually just click on it and see what there was to see, whether or not I was planning on making a purchase. During this experiment, “window shopping” also wasn’t allowed (meaning I couldn’t just go to Amazon and put stuff in my cart to save for later)- which made things a little trickier.

Scarcity Mindset

Another thing I had to battle was a scarcity mindset. When I got emails with subject lines like “You’ll never see deals like these again,” a very small part of me almost went into panic mode. It was like hitting a tripwire in my brain and suddenly I was like, “Wait, I should probably check and see, just to be sure.” The rational part of my brain knows that next month, I’ll still be getting emails from the same companies with the same message. The irrational part of my brain desperately wanted to see what these deals were, just in case. It doesn’t sound like it should be that hard, but I was fighting against some brain wiring.



Exclusivity

The other thing that was hard to work around was making purchases on registries. Around the one-month mark for this experiment, my cousin shared her Amazon Baby Registry with the family for her upcoming baby shower. Then, we got the registry information for my brother and future SIL’s registry for their wedding this fall.  Sure, worst case I could’ve waited until the last minute to buy something, or just gone rogue and purchased some things off-registry, but as someone who just went through the whole birth thing, I understand that registry stuff can be based on needs so I try to be sensitive to that. Point is, there are a lot of things that you can only find online (some stores will even have certain products listed as “online only,” for instance).

Overall, this was a pretty interesting learning experience, even if I ultimately failed.

  1. I’m not as impervious to marketing messages as I thought. And it turns out, 71% of people believe they’ll find a better deal online than in stores (source), and it might have something to do with really good marketing.
  2. I’ve gotten used to the convenience of online shopping. It’s so easy to “just order it online” when I’m getting low on something…and it’ll just come right to wherever I am, no driving or having to deal with crowds (ok, that part isn’t as much of a concern).
  3. It might actually be really hard for me to give up online shopping. Not in a way that I think I’m overspending or anything like that, but in the case of online registries, it’s a part of the lifestyle I’m used to having. I remember the days when you would have to go into a store (like Filene’s) and find someone’s registry. It’s a lot of effort compared to what you can just do from your couch these days.

I do recommend this experiment to anyone who might want to get control of their budget or anyone who wants to understand what kinds of online marketing they are most susceptible too. It’s one thing to buy things because you like them but knowing why could help you find awareness, discipline, and intention in other parts of your life, too. In the meantime, if you have a business, think about what kind of business you could be doing online (our course might help). 

Now please excuse me while I run three errands at once from my web browser.



What’s in a Ceiling?

Having boundaries, personally and professionally, is a healthy form of self-preservation that keeps us from getting burnt out. Boundaries are not meant to limit potential, but place value on our own well-being. In a different vein, I think a type of unhealthy boundary (one that constrains you in a negative way) is a limiting belief. This type of belief stunts growth in certain areas because of an ongoing story that says “I can’t,” “I’m/it’s not good enough,” “This is the way it’s always been,” and so on. Here are some of the more common limiting beliefs, and some tips on getting over them:

Not Good Enough/Not Ready. The most common limiting belief is that something isn’t good enough or ready to show the world. One example for me was the first blog post I wrote for Breaking Even. It took me a very long time to write, and I agonized over every word. When I was done, I wanted to throw the whole thing away because it was terrible and unprofound (according to my inner critic). Then, Nicole shared a video from Ira Glass (below) about how everyone starts at different points in creativity, but keeping yourself/your work hidden until absolutely perfect, you probably aren’t going to get anywhere.

When an opportunity for a job or something else comes along (like a chance for breakdancing lessons or running a marathon), it’s kind of a bummer to pass up on that opportunity because we aren’t ready yet. The key is “yet.” All of these things take preparation. You probably won’t get it on the first try, but if you’re persistent and keep showing up…anything is possible.



Not Enough ____. Another common limiting belief is scarcity. It could be telling yourself “I don’t have enough time/money” (in other words, resources) for a certain activity. In a business context, this belief manifests itself in “there’s not enough customers for me AND my competition.” Having this scarcity mentality often results in viewing the world in a narrow, short-term lens. This article from Simple Dollar suggests it breeds “sadness and jealousy.” On the flip side, an abundance mindset approaches the world from a “There’s enough here for all of us” perspective. You don’t live in constant fear that things are going to run out, but continue working hard and trust that more will come when it comes.

It’s always been this way. This belief keeps us stagnant more than any other belief. It’s death to innovation and newer, better ways of accomplishing the same work. It can be anywhere from accepting the way certain people interact with you to submitting to a larger system, simply because “that’s just the way it is.” Turning this type of belief around can be scarier than the others, maybe because rejection is a very real possibility, and who wants that feeling? My advice, if you’re standing up to the “It’s always been this way”-ers, is to have some supporting evidence for your argument, be prepared to meet some resistance, and don’t give up just yet. There might be room for a compromise, or it might take others awhile to warm up to the idea of doing something differently. I’ve been lucky in getting a sample of this work environment AND one that encourages new ideas.



Think about which one of these is creating your ceiling, then you can think about changing it. (Unless you have a very nice ceiling that you like, of course.) 

If you’re feeling generally “stuck” in an area of your life, you might want to consider looking at some potential limiting beliefs (you might not even realize you have them- I certainly didn’t). For examples of limiting beliefs related specifically to businesses, check out this article from Entrepreneur. Limiting beliefs create a kind of clogged drain situation- you can’t necessarily see what’s in the way, but you know that the system could be performing a bit better. Once it’s cleared out, there’s really no telling what successes might come to you/your business (with patience, persistence, and some elbow grease).

Limiting beliefs can fit in any of the above categories, like “I’m too young for people to take me seriously.” or “XYZ company has always had a zero telecommute policy.” It may be hard to get at yours but think about something you wanted to do but didn’t… and the excuse you gave yourself may be a good start.

Ceilings help in houses but not in people. Here’s hoping this post made you think about yours and how you can charge though it to get more height than you ever thought possible.



Marketing Leaps With Leap Day

The internet may be freaking out about the Oscars last night (yay Leo!), but it’s also freaking out about the fact that today is Leap Day. For instance, Google changed it’s homepage to this rather adorable animation of leaping bunnies:

LeapDayGoogle

Why does February 29th cause such a commotion in the online world? Part of it is probably loosely related to the scarcity principle. To oversimplify, something feeling more attractive because it is rare and doesn’t occur often (in this case, once every four years). It’s not like other holidays that mark tradition or the anniversary of a significant event, it’s simply a day that doesn’t happen very often. As a result, many organizations use it as an opportunity for customer engagement. You might have noticed Facebook trying to encourage you to post a status update about Leap Day (below) or that a trending topic on Twitter is #LeapDay. I can’t put my finger on why it causes such a buzz besides being the double rainbow of the calendar year.

FBLeapDay

Some businesses are taking the “You have a whole EXTRA day to do things!” approach to Leap Day (which works if you don’t try to get existential about it). This article from a marketing firm in Pittsburgh used this approach to create a list of 29 Ways to Use Leap Day to Improve Small Business Marketing, including things like order business cards, update content on your website, clean out your inbox, and so on. Others are simply using it as an opportunity for customer engagement on social media- there have been many a “We’re curious- how are you planning on spending your extra day?” posts. The “Extra Day” posts seem to be more popular among businesses that offer services rather than products.



Other businesses are using Leap Day as a day to offer discounts or special contests. Some are creating 29% off discounts, like this sponsored ad from my Instagram, or this tweet from Old Navy. The “29% off” approach works better for businesses based in products. This 29% flash sale creates also plays on the idea of scarcity, since there’s a limited window to make a purchase and sometimes it’s “While supplies last.”

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LeapDayON

My favorite ad that I’ve seen today came from Skydive New England (because…”leap”). I did not enter this year, because I’m still lukewarm about the idea. Perhaps I’ll be ready by next February 29th…

Skydive

Some restaurants, like the Hard Rock Cafe, offer free birthday meals to Leap Year babies (like my aunt, who has yet to hit adolescence). Many restaurants offer special Leap Day deals in general, if you’re inclined to go out and celebrate. In the meantime, I’ll be mourning the death of Leonardo DiCaprio memes.

RIP, Leo-Oscar Memes.

RIP, Leo-Oscar Memes.

So if you are presented with a unique opportunity, like you have too much cheese pizza on hand, you have a special visitor coming in for ‘one night only’ or simply you got an extra day in February, take advantage and have some fun.

And if you want to offer something semi regularly but not quite yearly, consider using a leap year or an Olympic year or other event at a set once-every-full-year interval and commit to it like these businesses have done… and your marketing may help you leap ahead.