‘Tis the shopping season: Tips to engage holiday consumers
- The events of 2020 have drastically changed the mindset of the modern shopper, and it’s important that retailers understand consumers’ needs and motivations.
- With the many difficulties that this year brought, consumers are seeking a reason to celebrate more than ever. While the holiday season offers this opportunity, celebrations may look different this year due to pandemic safety concerns.
- Some consumers are investing additional time, money and resources into holiday events to make them extra special, while others are tightening budgets with a greater emphasis on savings motivated by incentives — seeking out offers and discounts.
- While the pandemic has driven a surge in online activity, physical retail locations remain an important part of the holiday shopping journey, as consumers plan to rely on buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) options.
- More than one-third of consumers plan to intentionally conduct holiday shopping at a business either owned by a person of color or that promotes diversity, amid heightened awareness around social injustices.
From the COVID-19 pandemic to the recent presidential election, the events of 2020 have drastically changed quite a bit including the ways we think about shopping and the holiday season — and rightfully so.
Throughout the year, consumers have proven agile and quick to adapt to the ever-changing landscape and are ending the year in a similar fashion. As brands look to close out Q4 in a positive way, it’s important to understand the mind and motivations of today’s consumer including what they need now that might be different than years past.
To get a better sense of how consumers are approaching their shopping and celebrations this year, and how the pandemic has impacted those plans, Valassis conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers and discovered a few insights that marketers should consider as they look to reorient holiday strategies.
The pandemic is shrinking guest lists, but the party isn’t over
Consumers enter the holiday season balancing a desire to celebrate with others and continued concerns related to COVID. With health and safety top of mind, 75% of consumers said their plans to attend a holiday gathering (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve or any other occasions during the season) will be impacted by pandemic-related concerns.
However, this doesn’t mean that consumers don’t still crave social gatherings. In fact, half of consumers still plan to attend or host a holiday get-together in person — just on a smaller scale, with 38% of consumers reporting there will be fewer guests than usual.
With the difficulties that this year brought, consumers also have an increased desire for this holiday season to bring extra joy. Thirty-nine percent of respondents (and 51% of 25- to 34-year-olds) want the holidays to be extra special this year. Indeed, 17% of consumers said they are investing additional time, money, and resources into holiday gatherings than they would otherwise.
Thoughtful promotional strategies will play a critical role in driving purchases
Although some consumers are able to invest more in their celebrations, this isn’t the case for all. The economic impacts of the pandemic have varied, and conversely, many holiday budgets will be tightened due to an increased emphasis on savings. In fact, 47% of consumers reported that they are planning to spend less and save more this holiday season.
In addition to catering to the increased desire for saving this year, retailers also must also keep pace with evolving shopper behaviors and patterns.
As eMarketer finds 71% of U.S. shoppers plan to do more than half of their holiday shopping digitally this year, this creates a critical need for marketers to understand buyer readiness in multichannel environments while also taking into account new interests in savings.
Surge of online sales doesn’t mean the death of brick and mortar
While the pandemic has moved much of the world to digital channels, physical retail locations will always remain an important part of the buyer’s journey though consumers may be engaging with both in-person and online retail differently.
Valassis found that 29% of consumers said they plan to use buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) options during their holiday shopping this year, with 14% expecting to use it for the first time. BOPIS along with curbside pickup appeal to consumers’ preference for contactless shopping, resulting from the pandemic.
This holiday season, marketers can deliver for consumers by combining the speed and ease of e-commerce with the continued appeal of going to physical stores in new ways. Consumers still crave the experiential aspect of in-store shopping filled with discovery and spur-of-the-moment buys, but have changed behavior due to the pandemic.
To that point, marketers that invest in delivering a seamless and simplified customer experience while also delivering elements of surprise and delight on that path to purchase have an opportunity to stand out.
Brands’ values will play a role in social-aware shopping
This year, pandemic challenges and heightened awareness around social injustice have influenced how some consumers are planning to shop, with many consumers making values-based decisions on where to shop and which businesses to support.
According to the survey, 38% of consumers plan to intentionally conduct holiday shopping at a business either owned by a person of color or that promotes diversity.
This shift creates a unique opportunity for marketers: simply selling a product isn’t enough. Retailers have a growing need to balance strong consumer engagement strategies with broader communication on their brand’s values including inclusivity to make a deeper connection, knowing that shoppers will be paying close attention — during the holidays and beyond.
Ultimately, regardless of the turmoil that 2020 has brought, consumers are still looking to make the most of the holiday season, perhaps even starting some new traditions. Brands have an opportunity to show up in new ways in these moments of change.
To do so requires having a deep understanding of their target consumer, and second, being willing to change up the marketing game plan to meet shifting behaviors.
This year, opportunities abound by taking new approaches to really deliver for consumers in this very different holiday season. New ways to deliver savings. New ways to inspire consumers to add something to their cart. New ways to be a part of changing celebrations.
Retail marketers that embrace the 2020 holidays for their uniqueness can help make the holidays more cheery this year, and in a long run, create a longer lasting brand connection far beyond the holidays.
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