5 Consumer Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore This Holiday Season

Let’s be honest, for many retail marketers this holiday season is shaping up to be scarier than living without your iPhone for a week.

Last year, 62 percent of consumers said their holiday plans were affected by the economy. And we are certainly still on shaky ground. This is a year fraught with challenges that will affect consumer confidence, such as weak jobs forecasts and the ongoing debt crisis fallout abroad.

Despite the gloom and doom, retailers should remain optimistic about this holiday season. Research shows that the economy’s imprint on consumer buying won’t go deep enough to impact holiday shopping. In fact, for the past two years, holiday retail growth has been back to pre-recession levels, with 2011 sales peaking to $465 billion, up 4.13 percent from 2010.

So what does a retail marketer need to do to ring the registers this holiday season? Pay attention to emerging consumer trends and identify opportunities to move the revenue needle.

I recently authored a comprehensive white paper that reveals pervasive trends in consumer holiday shopping. The research included reviewing the spending habits of more than 8,500 consumers during the 2011 holiday season and was cross-referenced with data from over 500 digital holiday campaigns that ran during the fourth quarter of last year.

This series will focus on the top five consumer-spending trends that marketers can capitalize on to increase revenue this holiday season.

Trend No. 1: Consumers Are Shopping Smarter

Yes, retail marketers, there will be holiday buying this year. In fact, 10.2 percent of consumers with a budget in mind are planning to spend more this year compared to last (up from 6.5 percent in July 2011), according to BIGinsight, a consumer-centric research provider. In today’s economy, consumers are more aggressively comparison shopping and conditioned to expect compelling offers, evidenced by the proliferation of deals websites like Gilt.com and the popularity of holiday “doorbusters.”

Trend No. 2: The Holidays Are Getting Earlier Each Year

Although late November and December are considered the most critical time to advertise to holiday shoppers, 40 percent of consumer shopping activity begins before Halloween. There is a growing disconnect between when advertisers spend a majority of their dollars and when consumers shop. Starting advertising campaigns earlier in the season reaches the early-bird shopper and often means more competitive rates and less ad clutter.

Trend No. 3: It Will Be a Very Mobile Holiday

Smartphones and tablets have become our on-the-go tools to enhance the holiday shopping experience – from product research to searching store locations and directions. But it’s important to note that tablet and smartphone behaviors are very different. Consumers mainly use smartphones as a utility device to aid in shopping, but choose to use tablets to make an actual purchase.

Trend No. 4: Thanksgiving Is Rising in the Ranks as a Key Shopping Day

More retailers are incentivizing shoppers to stop talking turkey and start shopping pre- or post-meal on Thanksgiving Day. And it’s working. Approximately 28 million people put down the pumpkin pie to start their holiday shopping last Thanksgiving, boosting day-of sales to $28 million from $16 million in 2008.

Trend No. 5: Holiday Commerce Is Increasingly E-Commerce

Retailers are reaping the benefits of consumers’ love of the selection, values, and convenience of online shopping, especially during the holidays. On average, people plan to do 36 percent of their holiday shopping online, the highest it’s been in five years. Research into 500 digital holiday ad campaigns shows a sales lift of up to 650 percent when retailers run their ads during key shopping days.

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