The New Normal for Key Holiday Shopper Groups

By Christina Homer Evra, VP, Digilant Planning & Insights

After 18-months of uncertainty, the 2021 holiday shopping season should provide brands, marketers, and retailers with their first clear look at just how the pandemic has permanently shifted consumer behavior.

Holiday retail sales are predicted to rise 2.7% overall during the final months of 2021, according to eMarketer, with e-commerce holiday sales alone nearing $1 trillion for the first time.

But many consumers who flock to e-commerce sites and brick & mortar stores in the coming months won’t have the same attitudes and affinities as they did in 2019, forcing marketers to change their understanding of how key demographic groups research purchases and engage with brands.

Independent omnichannel marketing company Digilant recently used its internal Data Intelligence Platform to examine the demographics, behaviors, and affinities of more than 100,000 consumers.

Overall, the report found that despite a return by some to brick & mortar stores, e-commerce will continue to shine, mobile shopping will beat out desktop, and in-app purchases on social media platforms will increase by double-digits.

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The report also takes a deep dive look into four key shopper groups, all of whom will need to be engaged in different ways along their 2021 path-to-holiday purchase:

1. Last-Minute Shoppers

This group, which spans age, gender, and socio-economic demographics, is 28% more likely to use a price comparison service and 49% more likely to have used a company’s live-chat service on a website when shopping. This group relies on word-of-mouth recommendations from both friends and family, as well as bloggers and influencers. Last-minute shoppers also respond well to TV ads, especially those placed within on-demand and streaming content, and often use their mobile devices or tablets to research potential gifts while watching their favorite TV programming.

2. Social Media Shoppers

This group is 42% more likely to be the first to try new things and often look to cool, youthful brands and the posts of influencers and celebrities that endorse them to help guide their buying decisions. Social media shoppers are 174% more likely to buy from a brand that has a celebrity or well-known endorsements.

3. Charitable Givers

Charitable Givers are not only more likely to give to charities this year, but they are also 3.5 times more likely to engage with brands they perceive as supporting good causes. This group tends to be naturally inquisitive, and its members are 48% more likely to go directly to a brand’s website to research products and 58% more likely to become a brand advocate if they feel a brand is making a positive impact on communities and the environment.

4. Bargain Hunters

Bargain Hunters are 31% more likely to use a product comparison website to discover brands and products, and also 31% more likely to buy from a brand offering free delivery. This audience is eager to conduct its own research to find the best deal, scouring customer reviews, open forums like Reddit and Yelp and product review blogs. Responding to customer reviews on social media or enabling a live chat feature on your website are good places to start when targeting bargain hunters.

The Takeaways for the 2021 Holiday Season

There are steps that brands and ad agencies of all sizes should be taking to engage consumers in what should be the first holiday season of the post-pandemic “New Normal”.

Those steps include developing and leveraging unique data sets to reach key shopper groups, with a strong focus on app ownership data, credit card data, content-based and contextual data, geo-fencing data, as well as CRM data to extend your reach to look-a-like audiences.

Given the importance of digital channels for both product research and purchase, brands and their agency partners also need to re-commit and extend paid search and performance marketing programs with Google Shopping and Amazon Sponsored Products ads.

Brands should take advantage of the new ad creative formats on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok to test and measure shoppable posts, full-screen takeover ads, dynamic carousel ads, click-to-messenger ads, and unskippable video ads. Adopting a social-first approach to content marketing by combining social, influencer, and user-generated content can also provide scale through social-to-display ad units.

Finally, Connected TV (CTV) and Over-The-Top (OTT) TV, digital radio, and podcast ads are coming of age quickly, enabling marketers to target shoppers in lean-back environments. Utilizing automated content recognition (ACR) to close the loop by retargeting CTV and digital audio audiences via display and video ads across desktop, mobile, and tablet devices provides the way to engage target audiences with opportunities for near real-time measurement.

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Beyond the Holidays

No one is quite sure if 2021’s “New Normal” holiday shopping season will become the template for the years that follow, but marketers and their agencies, along with ad-tech partners, should be already adapting to the increased use of social media as a shopping platform by consumer groups, as well as exploring opportunities for targeting presented by CTV and podcasts, as both are trends likely to accelerate in the coming decade.

Those steps, combined with internally developed data sets for key shopper groups, and a commitment to maximizing paid search and performance marketing strategies, will leave brands well-positioned for not just the next few months, but for the twists and opportunities that will surely come in 2022 and beyond.


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