Shoppers Are "Holiday Agnostic." Here's What You Can Do

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Shoppers Are "Holiday Agnostic." Here's What You Can Do

11/13/2017
Try what retailers may; the days of shoppers turning into last-minute Christmas fairies are fading. Holiday shopping behavior is now like everyday behavior, and shoppers just want to combine it into their regular activities.

The trees have been up since September and the carols were playing before Halloween. Should we be surprised the shopper hasn't changed her habits for the holidays?

Brands can try any number of promotional tactics; it won't alter the fact that in 2017 holiday shopping behavior will be like any other shopping activity. That is to say she is always ready to shop – there are fewer special trips, a lot less planning and greater value in spending where she feels good at the moment.

As WSL described in its How America Shops® report, “Goodbye Routine! Hello New Trips,” the shopper no longer adheres to old shopping patterns. She has the tools to gets what she wants when she wants it.

Three ways the Christmas shopping trip is changing

Merchants are responding by placing physical retail in the shopper’s path, from subway stops to order-and-go food kiosks. But now the erosion of routines is infiltrating holiday shopping, resulting in shopper behavioral trends that are, basically, holiday agnostic. Among the key developments:

“Whenever” is the new black (Friday): Forget Thanksgiving weekend. Shoppers want to get items crossed off their lists as soon as they can so they have time and money for what they want. We predicted this two years ago, and now it’s finally here! It is evident in the actions of Walmart, Amazon and Target, which began their holiday promotions and messaging in late October.

Seeking merry: Perhaps discount fatigue plays a role, but shoppers are spending more time and dollars where they feel contented and less stressed. This extends from in-the-moment experiences to a longer lasting sense of good. Shoppers favor brands that are transparent about their how their products are made and pricing (think Movebutter and Everlane).

Thank you for the service: While 2017 holiday sales are expected to rise about 4 percent, WSL thinks shoppers will shift how their dollars are spent from the usual “stuff” to services, subscriptions and donations to the less fortunate.  WSL predicts that services will be the new gift card.

New Christmas stocking, new traditions

We cannot un-ring this bell: Consumers expect the same from their holiday shopping destinations as their everyday shopping spots, meaning they put as much stock in a sense of collaboration as in inventory. Retailers and brands need to look beyond their shelves and into the events that influence their shoppers’ actions.

Be evergreen: The holiday season is not a pop-up shop, so why treat shoppers as if they will expire the first week of January? If a brand does not have a long-term approach to keeping shoppers engaged throughout the season, across all touchpoints, it will lose them. (Drug stores and other last-minute retail stops should take note, as Christmas this year falls on Monday.) Digital tools — think voice-enabled shopping and click & collect — can play a pivotal role in building relationships that are timeless.

Know the thought counts: Shoppers may buy what they want when they want it, but they won't say no to a helping hand. Anything a brand can offer to assist the shopper, from targeted gift ideas to on-the-fly meals to transporting an inflatable snowman, will be viewed as a personalized gesture. Just make the task easier for everyone, in a way that leaves a lasting impression.

Keep on giving: The first step toward making an emotional connection is sustained recognition. It can arrive in the form of chocolates at the register, a personal thank you or offering to help her with her bags, but it can't be phoned in. The trick is making the shopper realize the brand appreciates her, even if it’s her first time there. A good example is Walmart’s plan to host 20,000 holiday parties.

Holiday shopping may have lost some of its halcyon glow, but shoppers aren't glowering about it either. It's up to brands to inject a new meaning into the season. So ho, ho, go.