What can an AI tell you about Black Friday deals? Not much, it turns out, but when we posed a few contrarian thoughts about the upcoming shopping bacchanalia, AI image generator Dall-E 2 returned some interesting images that got us thinking about what this Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping season will be like for consumers.
I think it's a safe assumption that this won't be a typical Black Friday and pre-Christmas shopping season. We face extraordinary upheaval around the world, and a deepening cost of living crisis that in many countries is threatening to turn into a full-blown recession. Yet, recent studies point to consumers being both more financially cautious and, yet, more deeply invested in Black Friday than in recent years.
There have been signals.
During Amazon's Prime Day 2 (its new attempt to own the shopping season by preempting Black Friday), US consumers spent, according to Numerator, on average $46.68, which is down roughly $15 from Amazon's mid-year Prime Day. It's also clear that Amazon may have jumped the shopping gun, with the majority of purchases revolving around household and personal items and not gifts. Only 19% of shoppers reported buying gift items.
The larger question, though, is how consumers' economic concerns will manifest themselves when the real deal, the actual Black Friday, arrives on November 25.
A joint study between TechRadar's parent company Future and The Lens found that 41% of consumers are making "significant changes to spending habits" in the face of raising inflation concerns. Another 40% plan to make at least some, slight changes. Only 14% seem comfortable conducting financial business as usual.
That same study found that 76% are Primed (get it?) and ready to participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal shopping.
This makes sense not only because we want to get our shopping over and done with so we can enjoy the holiday and festive season, but because these deals may be more important than ever.
That was sort of the conundrum we presented to, in a fashion, Dall-E 2.
One of a growing number of artificial intelligence-based image and art generators, Dall-E 2 asks you for a detailed text description of the image you want and will generate a few options based on that set of ideas. Plus, Dall-E 2 can iterate, letting you adjust the size of the image, roughly edit some portions of it (like erasing an element), and then generate updated images.
For this story, I input "A person shopping for Black Friday Deals but with an empty wallet and under bad weather. There are family members who want gifts. It should be a 1920 x 1080."
To Dall-E's credit, it quickly generated a few options that were perhaps, too on-the-nose, but I do think it got the sentiment right.
The idea we're discussing here is an impending shopping season, decreased discretionary funds, an uncertain economic future, and families that, not unreasonably, want gifts.
The image above is the result after we removed illegible text from the image (it may have said 'Black Friday,' but we can't be certain) and asked Dall-E to add more segments, extending the image to our desired HD format (it did not understand the 1920 x 1080p direction).
I've also presented a few of DALL-E's other ideas on the query.
Overall, it gets the sentiment right, though, this AI image generator can't answer the central question: Will Black Friday Shoppers shop at the same level and spend as much overall? It also leaves open the notion of whether retailers and tech companies will rise to meet the challenge of offering more extraordinary sales this Black Friday Deals season.
I think it's safe to assume that inflation will have an impact on how consumers shop and what they expect from tech brands. During Prime Day 2, 29% of consumers bought something they've been waiting for, but at a lower price. Yet, an almost equal number (26%) passed on a great deal because they decided it wasn't a necessity.
We can infer that there's some tension between impulse buys based on incredible deals, and people spending money they may not have. During this cost of living and inflation crisis, retailers will likely have to offer excellent prices on must-have products and gifts.
The question is: will they?
You, by the way, can get a head start on Black Friday deals, which really begin way before November 25, by visiting our Black Friday deals page.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.