How this year’s holiday shopping is different
Mobile brings changes not just to the shopping experience but also advertising
December 10, 2015
The way people shop for the holidays has changed, and the way media buyers and planners reach those shoppers needs to change, too. That’s one of the conclusions from Chicago-based agency Kelly Scott Madison’s holiday shopping insights report, which examines the annual retail blowout that goes from early November to late December. More people than ever are using their mobile devices to not just shop but more and more to compare prices while they’re in-store. Media people need to consider these changing habits as they target people during the holidays. Elizabeth Kalmbach, vice president and group media director at Kelly Scott Madison, talks to Media Life about keeping holiday advertisements going all season long, why ad spending will be up from last year, and when the scale will tip from in-store to online shopping.
What’s the most important thing media buyers and planners need to know for this holiday season?
Consumers have become increasingly savvy and expect great deals and convenience over the entire course of the holiday season, not just on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Maintaining ad pressure over the entire season is more essential than ever to reach all shopper segments, as mobile caters increasingly to “anytime, anywhere” shoppers. It also means large brick-and-mortar stores need to consider in-store perks like free Wi-Fi and branded mobile apps to both encourage customers to stay longer and make it easier for them to find merchandise.
Do you think holiday ad spending will be up or down this year? Why?
All signs point to increased ad spending compared to a year ago. As the start of the retail season gets earlier and earlier every year, more advertisers are forced to jump on the bandwagon or risk potential share losses.
You note that online is on the rise, but brick and mortar will still remain the primary choice for shoppers. Do you envision a time when that changes? How far are we from that day?
Online shopping will continue to gain ground, but brick and mortar will remain the predominant channel for the foreseeable future. Over the last two years, we’ve seen the two platforms merging into a comfortable and complementary marriage, confirming that an “either/or” proposition isn’t in the cards anytime in the future.
Many shoppers still enjoy the experience of brick and mortar holiday shopping while, at the same time, the emergence of easy-to-use online channels has made “anytime” purchasing convenient.
Many retailers have instituted offer parity this year, maintaining the same deals across their online and brick and mortar platforms emphasizing that consumers are looking for convenience regardless of shopping channel. Consumer expectations for deals no matter the channel will remain the norm in the near future.
What’s the biggest misconception among buyers and planners about holiday shopping?
I think it’s less about misconceptions, and more about understanding that every year is a learning experience.
Mobile is gaining ground, but our influencer findings clearly show that a mix of online and offline messaging remains important when conducting holiday campaigns. Staying on top of these trends is key to forming an increasingly effective strategy each year.
Why do email coupons resonate most among online shoppers?
Because in most cases the email coupons are sent as a result of a consumer opt-in, implying that the offer is sent from a brand they trust or have done business with. Since the consumer has requested this communication, they are far more likely to open and take advantage of email offers.
There is also a convenience factor involved with email couponing. Consumers are a click away from “point of purchase,” making online impulse purchases quick and easy.
But it’s also just as important to note that store circulars came in as the second-most influential source for online shoppers (out of a potential 10 ad sources). And when looking at in-store shoppers, store circulars were the top influencer, with email coupons coming in second. This all underscores the importance of continuing to employ a strong mix of both online and offline messaging throughout the holidays.
Have shoppers become trained to look for Cyber Monday deals at this point? Does the day actually live up to the hype?
Absolutely. But even though our data shows more people planned to shop on that day this year versus last, shoppers have also become more discerning as Cyber Monday has grown in importance.
You note shoppers are forecast to spend a bit less this year. Why is that?
The study did note that respondents overall believe they would spend less on gifts for others this year versus last.
It’s possible they could spend slightly more on themselves this year, which would put their overall spend up marginally year over year. Still, most studies show that consumers are feeling somewhat better about the economy, but are wary about the future.
This is contributing to sluggish growth overall, and because of this we don’t expect huge increases in any spending category. Lower gas prices and modest wage growth may raise some spirits, but in the end we feel caution will dictate this holiday season.
Will we see more mobile sales this year? Do you think mobile will ever become a major retail driver, or is it more used for comparative pricing?
There will definitely be more mobile sales this year versus a year ago. As retail websites become increasingly easy to use on mobile devices and safety concerns fade with adoption and platform comfort, this space will continue to grow exponentially. Certainly, mobile’s place in the purchase funnel has already become a crucial element, from initial browsing on a store’s website for products and deals to comparison shopping on other sites. We expect purchasing to grow as a natural byproduct of these habits as convenience and safety barriers are removed.
While it is unknown whether mobile will ever become the primary retail driver in sales terms, we have neared the tipping point where the sales ecosystem couldn’t survive without it as a convenient research resource. We have seen more and more retailers refining the logistics to maximize convenience through mobile channels, and we expect retailers to increase these opportunities through processes like seamless online purchase paired with pick up or return in-store.
Can a retailer get by without offering free shipping these days?
Yes, but we believe most brands will be required to offer free shipping during the holidays in order to meet customer demand.
As consumers become more deal-savvy and retailers continue to offer parity between in-store and online channel deals, shipping will become a deal breaker. Competition and loss of share will dictate removing the final barrier from online purchasing.
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