The distinctly American phenomenon known as “Black Friday” has evolved over the years. What was once simply a good day to kick off your holiday shopping somehow morphed into a crazed consumer-event all its own, complete with all-night lines and stampedes at big box retail stores. Of course, Black Friday is not just a shopping event, it’s an indication of the strength of the economy and the mindset of the nation’s consumers. In the wake of a tumultuous election cycle, it’s more important than ever to see what Black Friday will reveal about the American psyche. To find out, researchers at Unanimous AI asked a swarm of 50 American consumers to use UNU to ponder Black Friday.
UNU is a Swarm Intelligence platform that lets people think together as a closed-loop system, using swarming algorithms to converge on optimized answers. In this case, the researchers were most curious about where consumers believed the best Black Friday deals could be had, and how 2016’s Black Friday would compare to previous years’ performance.
First, the Swarm was asked to identify the retailer who would have the best Black Friday deals. As you can see in the replay below, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer would eventually be selected.
Of course, all six options received consideration at the outset, meaning that Walmart is far from the only game in town when it comes to Black Friday deals. The graph below is a Faction Analysis visualizing how the Swarm’s decision evolved over the 15 seconds it took to reach a decision. This chart shows just how little support separated Walmart from its competitors.
So, how can we explain the Swarm’s low enthusiasm for naming Walmart best Black Friday? It’s simple. Real-time chat taking place alongside the question in UNU revealed that the hesitation stemmed from the glaring omission of one retailer: Amazon.com. In an attempt to be comprehensive, the Swarm was asked to provide possible suggestions, and the results were quite clear: Amazon won in a landslide. In fact, the question was asked three times, to include online retailers alongside brick and mortar stores, and each time, Amazon came out on top.
Remember that Walmart chart? Let’s take a look at the same chart with Amazon. As you can see, with Amazon in the mix, no one else gets even passing consideration from the Swarm. And, the decision to label Amazon the best online retailer for Black Friday takes less than seven seconds for nearly 50 people to agree on! This is, in other words, one of the most lopsided graphs we’ve ever seen at Unanimous AI.
Amazon benefits, of course, from a number of factors that make online shopping attractive to Black Friday customers. FORBES published a study showing that the number one reason customers will shop online this season is the availability of “lower prices / good deals.”
And yet, while Forbes notes that “focus on convenience has increased,” research from Unanimous AI shows that Forbes is underestimating its impact. When the Swarm was asked to find the factor from Forbes’ list that would drive people to shop online, “lower prices / good deals” were nowhere near as important to the Swarm as avoiding the hassle of shopping in person.
The difference in responses is likely tied to the difference in methodology – when voting in a poll, participants think only of themselves and their own interests, and have mechanism, much less an incentive, to work together. A lack of feedback means that the only insight revealed is the most popular choice. But, as anyone who has ever been outvoted on where to go to dinner can tell you, the most popular choice is not always the best choice for the group. Swarm Intelligence allows people to find the answer that best satisfies the entire group.
Walmart isn’t the only company gearing up for competition from a massively funded Seattle-based competitor. SONY’s wildly popular Playstation 4 has sold over 47 million units worldwide and easily outpaced Microsoft’s Xbox One since they were both released in 2013. But, thanks to the well-received announcement of the Xbox One S, Microsoft’s console has outsold Playstation’s in each of the last three months. SONY has countered with its own Playstation Pro, but the real ace up its sleeve is Playstation VR, a low-priced alternative to Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. SONY fanboys, take heart. According to the Swarm, SONY’s got a hit on its hands:
Finally, the researchers at Unanimous AI wanted to know 2016’s Black Friday would stack up to previous years and what the impact of Trump’s election would have on spending. You can drill down on the Swarm’s response by clicking the link after “UNU says.”