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Rakuten Marketing Blog

7 Holiday Shopper Trends & Behaviors to Kick Off the 2017 Holiday Season

Posted on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 @ 16:09 PM by Daniel James

Get your holiday marketing strategies off the ground with 7 of the latest holiday marketing trends!

7 Holiday Shopper Trends & Behaviors to Kick Off the 2017 Holiday Season

There's a wide range of trends, topics, and insights you'll need to know in order to make the most of the biggest shopping season of the year. But with so much to learn and cut throughk it can be hard to prioritize what to learn first. While there is no "start here" map for holiday marketing strategies, this blog post is designed to introduce you to key marketing trends during the holiday season you'll need to know to help drive holiday success.

Table of Contents

1. Self-Gifting is Wildly Popular
2. Be Research-Ready
3. Know When Customer's are Researching...And When They're Buying
4. Shoppers Are Loving Lists
5. No Pressure = No Rush
6. Offer Flash Sales to Create Urgency
7. Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store

1. Self-Gifting is Wildly Popular

Single’s Day (November 11) is centered around a key idea: buy a present for yourself. The literal “treat yourself” holiday has expanded beyond the scope of people not in relationships to young shoppers. But Single’s Day is only the tip of the iceberg for self-gifting, which has become ingrained in the holiday shopping experience for consumers. Campaign Live noted that Millennials have been leading the way for self-gifting consumer behavior, and were likely to buy something for themselves while purchasing gifts for others on their lists. Recently, Gen Z shoppers are getting on board as well. A study from the National Retail Federation found that 93% of Gen Z shoppers were likely to buy themselves a present while they’re shopping. The study also noted that these aren’t only impulse purchases – self-gifters are purchasing products they might have had their eye on all year, capitalizing on the holiday sales to get the product they’ve wanted at the price that works for them.

There are a couple ways you can help holiday shoppers get something for themselves while they're shopping for loved ones. Structuring deals in a way that incentivizes the shopper is a great first step. For example, being able to offer an additional discount or a free gift if the shopper meets a certain threshold may help the holiday shopper get something for themselves to gain those additional benefits. Free shipping is another way to help compel shoppers to make purchases, and if you can't offer free shipping with no minimum, having a minimum that the shopper can meet will help. Sometimes that will get them to buy a little something for themselves too. 

You can also work with your publishers to create lists of products that could be marketed as "something for you, the holiday shopper" as part of your holiday marketing efforts. The goal is communication - both to your publishers and to your customers. Publishers should be keeping this trend in mind and using the opportunity to create content or use specific marketing copy that talks about "getting something for yourself, too!" and the like. Keep in mind that a majority of self-gifters are Gen Z and (to some extent) Millennial shoppers, which means that their budgets might be limited. Use this opportunity to talk about "gifts for you, no matter what your budget" as a way to motivate them. Advertisers may want to leverage the multiple product feeds extension. This extension enables advertisers to customize product groups for specific audiences, such as self-gifters, while giving publisher partners the opportunity to create content around the products specifically targeted to self-gifters. To learn more about multiple product feeds, you can read about it here.

2. Be Research-Ready

Prior to purchasing, almost 90% of holiday shoppers will research any product or purchase that costs over $100. This is a low threshold to clear when it comes to holiday shopping costs, but even if a product costs less than $100, most consumers are still likely to do their due diligence. For products more than $50, 85% of consumers will do research on the product before purchasing, and for anything less than $50, over half of consumers (66%) will still do their research!

When consumers are researching, they’re not out just to learn everything they can about the product, they’re also looking for potential alternatives that offer more or cost less. A holiday shopping survey from Accenture Consulting found that 72% of shoppers were likely to return to a store or brand they hadn't shopped with in over a year if they got a promotional coupon or discount to entice them to return. Furthermore, customers aren’t just relying on product descriptions – they’re reading reviews from experts and other users to find out what other people have experienced, and if this product is right for them.

Brands looking to align their affiliate marketing strategies to meet this shopping trend can do a couple things. First, they can leverage their partnerships with content publishers and influencers to review some of the more popular products they’ll be offering this holiday season. That way customers can read reviews and get the information needed to decide, with that information coming from affiliate partners. If brands really want to go all out with this, they can offer free sample products to some of their top performing content publishers to review and discuss in their own content. Depending on the product, or what you’re trying to promote, it may be beneficial to work with a range of bloggers for both popularity and niche to reach a wider audience.

3. Know When Customers Are Researching…and When They’re Buying

The ability to research and compare products and brands through smartphones, desktops, and everything in between has empowered consumers to be savvier in their shopping behaviors than ever before. Of course, all these resources means that consumers are researching brands, products, and deals earlier than even five or ten years ago. Statistically, one in every four shoppers will begin their holiday research during October, according to the NRF. The goal of these consumers is to know what products they want, who they want to buy them from, and – most importantly – where they can find the best deals.

Consumers are researching early because they’re shopping early too. Holidays like Single’s Day are starting to gain serious traction in the US because shoppers can find good deals they’re willing to take, as well as capitalize on some early self-gifting (a common Single’s Day theme, as the name implies). However, Single’s Day is only part of it. The week leading up to Black Friday has seen an increase in sales from customers looking to take advantage of early holiday deals. For some consumers, getting a good deal they’re happy with and avoiding the Black Friday/Cyber Monday rush can compel them enough to purchase prior to these big sales days. Because of this, November was the biggest time for beginning research (33% of shoppers) and beginning shopping (36%) during the holiday shopping season.

By the first two weeks of December, the majority of people are done with their research. Only 11% of shoppers were starting to research gift ideas during this period, while 27% of people were starting their holiday shopping. For the most part, it can be assumed that shoppers already know what they’re looking for and are now looking for deals later in the holiday season that they may not have found during Black Friday. Shoppers, for the most part, are comfortable with starting their holiday shopping later if needed because they’re more confident they’ll get their deliveries by Christmas, and they believe they can find better deals without fighting the rush.

4. Shoppers Are Loving List Features

Santa Claus isn’t the only one who’s making a list and checking it twice these days – holiday shoppers are taking advantage of digital lists to help manage what they want and what they have left to buy for others during the holiday season. The NRF found that 63% would like to leverage wish lists or registries from retailers, and 24% said they would “definitely like to” use these features.

It’s easy to see why shoppers would want a list feature. They can use these lists to share with family members to show what they’d like that holiday season, and family members and friends can pick and choose what to get each other off their respective lists. It also makes searching for products much easier, since they have a direct link to what the product is and can use that to find deals on the product in other places. Possibly best of all, it keeps everyone and everything organized. In the calamity of holiday shopping, being organized can be a big stress reliever, and it’s easy to see why these lists offer that.

While this type of application might reside with the retailers, there is a tool that brands can leverage and utilize with their affiliate publishers to help get the list-creation process started for shoppers. Using the multiple product feeds extension can help customers build lists of their own. Advertisers can curate specific lists of products that publishers can use in their content. Brands can create different lists for different types of people that a customer would be shopping for, helping them identify not just the products their loved ones will like, but other products they may not have thought of or known about. Publishers can also leverage the lists they get from advertisers with Curate to create a truly pesonal experience for visitors. 

5. No Pressure = No Rush for Holiday Shoppers

One of the biggest questions from this trend of waiting until later in the holiday season to make purchases is “why?” More specifically, why do holiday shoppers feel reassured that they can shop later in the holiday season?

The answer, according to a survey from the NRF, is a lack of pressure.

Of the holiday shoppers that were surveyed, 76% either agreed or strongly agreed that they weren’t shopping early because more retailers guaranteed on-time delivery. 71% agreed or strongly agreed that they didn’t feel the pressure to take advantage of deals on the first pass because they felt confident the promotions would last all season.

In other words, there was no pressure or urgency to shop early, so why go through the hassle of fighting crowds and hoping for the best in online availability? Why not just wait it out until the initial wave and, after things settled down, go in and get what you need? Most shoppers are confident that their delivery dates will be met, shipping will be fast, and the deals will still be there for the most part. This puts additional pressure on marketers to create urgency and motivation for purchasing. This can be accomplished through flash-sale type deals, which we'll discuss in the next category. To address this specific trend, however, you'll want to look back on previous holiday shopping periods and think about how engaged your customers were. You might notice areas where customers seem more patient, in which case you may want to try creating urgency.

6. Offer Flash Sales to Create Urgency

So, how do you create urgency? By making your customers aware that the deals need to be acted on quickly.

Flash sales and limited-time offers are both great ways to create urgency in an era where customers are more confident they’ll be able to find high-quality deals throughout the holiday shopping season. Using flash sales and timed offers can create an impulse that customers might miss out on the deal if they don’t act right away, and a sense of urgency to take advantage before the deal is gone. The NRF noted that 50% of shoppers were compelled to make a purchase because of a limited-time offer, the second highest reason after free shipping. Accenture's research supported the importance of free shipping, noting that 62% customers said the biggest frustration of shopping online was the cost of shipping. Offering free shipping in some fashion can not only reduce that pain point, it can create the urgency and importance needed to help boost sales. 

Timing is everything for advertisers when it comes to flash sales. They have to consider not only how long the deal should last for, but also need to make sure they give their publishers enough of a heads up to properly promote the deal out to customers. The entire goal of a flash sale is to get customers to act quickly and make a decision before they miss out, but customers can only act on the deals if they know about them when they happen. In order to maximize the awareness of your flash sales and limited-time offers, work closely with your publishers to communicate when these deals will take place, how long they’ll last, what’s available during this time, and any other crucial talking points they’ll need to know about. Just because flash sales should surprise your customers doesn’t mean they should surprise your publishing partners too!

7. Best of Both: Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store

What’s better than shopping from the convenience of your home, ordering a product, and then going right into a store to pick it up an hour or so later? For many customers, the answer is ‘not much’ because buying online and picking up in-store is becoming an increasingly popular option for shoppers.

There’s no guesswork as to why in-store pickup is becoming popular. This method of shopping is highly convenient, satisfying, and improving. According to eMarketer’s report on holiday shopping, last year 59% of customers said that in-store pickup met their expectations, and 28% said it exceeded them. The wait time was one of the biggest benefits, which eMarketer noted was improving from 12 minutes to 7.

Note that this is a popular solution, but not always the most viable during the holiday season. Shoppers recognize that they’re shopping for family and friends who could be all over the country (or world) and might need to utilize the option to ship a package to someone’s home to ensure they get it, rather than pick the product up and then package it themselves for shipping. During the holidays, only 55% of shoppers chose to buy online and pick up in-store, as opposed to a whopping 82% that chose to ship the product directly to the recipient instead.

These are only some of the many ways you can start getting prepared for the holiday shopping rush. We'll be releasing more content on specific trends, strategies, and best practices in the coming weeks and months that will build on and expand the points we've discussed today. One of the best things you can do right now is to start considering these trends in your own holiday marketing strategies, and have conversations with both your internal teams and your affiliate partners on how you can best leverage some of these trends and put them into practice. 

Tags: Affiliate Marketing, trends in digital marketing, holiday strategy

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