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Sparking Convo: Holiday Buying Patterns of The Connected Consumer

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Year after year, just as students are bombarded with back-to-school ads in the middle of July, all consumers are badgered with holiday shopping advertisements long before they’ve even picked out their Halloween costume. But with this holiday marketing saturation, when exactly are consumers making their purchases? And what channels have become the most effective in targeting, and converting, shoppers?

The iconic Black Friday is typically the starting pistol for the holiday shopping season. Its turned into such an event that there are websites dedicated to publishing retailer’s black Friday “doorbuster” offerings so that consumers can make more informed decisions on what store they want to stake out. And it’s working. Last year, retail year-over-year dollar volume growth on Thursday-Friday was 6.3% and transaction growth was 7.3%. This performance was especially impressive in light of tough comps for Black Friday 2010, when dollar volume growth was quite strong.

Of course, based on the success of Black Friday, e-commerce retailers wanted a piece of the pie and dedicated the following Monday, post Black Friday, to offer consumers deal busters of their own. Last year, Cyber Monday sales hit a total of $1.2 billion.

With such a strong first weekend, one might assume that retailers should be able to capitalize on the traffic Black Friday drives to stores, and sustain sales through the month of December. Interestingly though, consumers are doing more research, and becoming more fickle than ever. The success of Black Friday is based on the unbelievably low prices. According to a USAToday article, “’Shoppers are looking for deals before they are looking at brands,’” said Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff. And with price comparison applications on smartphones, it has never been easier for consumers to find the best price.”

So what effect does this savvy shopper have on sales? The holiday shopper who uses multiple channels — such as online, mobile and in-store — will spend 22% more than people who shop only in stores, says NRF spokeswoman Ellen Davis. But with that comes consumer expectations…

A study by The National Retail Federation in 2010 found that “Recent technological advancements, including mobile-optimized websites, tablet apps, smartphone-scannable QR codes, Facebook and Twitter have made comparison shopping an online event, even if the shopper is standing in a store.” One of the perks that attract consumers to online shopping is the option of free shipping, which 9 out of 10 retailers effectively used at some point last year.

These consumer behavior shifts in shopping patterns for the holidays has resulted in people buying gifts later as well as erosion in brand loyalty. A simple Google search will give you a price comparison in a matter of moments. Consumers are willing to go to multiple different stores (or websites) to make purchases and get the best price.  Consumers are also monitoring prices to ensure they are getting the best prices, and are happy to wait until the last minute to make their purchases. A study conducted by Visa in 2011 found that “Fifty-one percent of consumers were expected to purchase a quarter of their gifts” during the week leading up to Christmas. Consumer shopping patterns are changing. The month long rush of holiday traffic that retailers have grown accustomed to is now far more heavily tied to the promotions that the retailers are offering and less about the overall shopping experience.

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