Each year, the holiday shopping season grows longer, expanding not just before the holidays but in the weeks that follow. Marketers are now realizing that as the season lengthens, it also grows more unpredictable. The holidays provide the most important shopping season of the year, representing 40 percent of the year's revenue at the highest end. Last year, there was a slight pull back in sales, most likely due to the economic climate. However, the holiday season remains a high priority for many brands, and with the expanding shopping season, it's not that far off of a notion that someday soon we might even be seeing Christmas in July.
At the RichRelevance Spotlight presentation at the iMedia InFocus Summit in Chicago, Ill., CMO Diane Kegley and Sean Pfister, senior market analyst, shared insights on the ever-expanding holiday shopping season. This year is expected to be the longest season yet, so if you're not already gearing up, you're probably falling behind.
According to Kegley, a recent survey showed that 66 percent of respondents plan to shop online, 11 percent said not online, and 23 percent were undecided, indicating that omni-channel will largely drive shopping behavior throughout this year's holiday season. Specific regions in the U.S. reveal a lot about consumer behavior. For example, the highest numbers for mobile shopping last year occurred in the Southwest. Kegley also cited the importance of the rise of the "super consumer," a consumer empowered by technology, able to buy from multiple stores at once on a device.
Women are arguably the most essential consumers when it comes to the holiday season, and Kegley stressed that connecting with women on an emotional level is critical. They are over-stretched, over-stressed, and they are turning to online shopping in droves each year. Women largely make up the supreme buying power of the "super consumer," she said.
A recent survey revealed that these "super consumers" prioritize their needs this way:
- Internet connectivity
The more that holiday shopping shifts online, the harder it is to predict. The best shopping day of the year is now changing year-to-year, and there are new behaviors and channels to take into consideration. In the last few years, there has been tremendous growth in shopping on Thanksgiving Day, as well as shopping on the days after Christmas. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are beginning to fall away, signaling that more consumers simply want to shop when it is convenient for them, regardless of big sales.
Pfister explained that where we used to brand is now where we buy, and where we used to buy is now the place for showcasing products and branding. The 24/7 availability of online sites means consumers are less attached to physical stores. This is where the omni-channel experience comes in. As the landscape continues to transform, the only way to keep pace is to have a presence on many channels. Which ones? Pfister and Kegley claim that turning to data can "fix your fragmented approach" and help marketers determine which devices to target.
Here are the key takeaways to keep in mind this season:
- Stay evergreen, not tied to one holiday.
- Understand the behaviors of the "super consumer."
- Bear in mind the shifting shopping seasons.
- Lean into omni-channel for support.
- Appeal to your consumers' emotions.
Today, there is fierce brand competition for shopper loyalty and dollars. Smart shoppers are using mobile and social to search, research, and compare products both online and in-store. These trends are particularly pronounced during holiday periods, but it's never too early to prepare.