The holidays have a way of bringing people together in more ways than one – and every holiday season I’m reminded of just how universal the power of human emotion is. Regardless of lifestyle, background, and world view, people everywhere are truly emotional beings, moved by fundamental feelings of joy and sadness, hope and fear, love and loss. And anyone who has observed frantic shoppers careening through store aisles or the unbearable anticipation of children on Christmas morning can see that, at this time of year, emotions are at their peak.
Advertisers know holiday shopper emotions better than anyone; they have perfected the art of tugging at heart strings or prompting tears to spur a purchase. But as consumers wear their hearts on their sleeve, retailers broadly must be in tune with – and responsive to – customer sentiments. For example, when passionate shoppers turn to social channels, retailers mustn’t dismiss their cheering or venting. In fact, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) data shows that consumers often experience their most positive brand interactions on social media – and remember them more favorably than engagements on websites, over email, through phone conversations, and even in person:
Here in Boston, we are at a precious moment in the year: The early onset of cool, dark evenings sets the stage for the imminent holiday season — but doesn’t eclipse the warmth of the autumn sun quite yet. As the seasons change, we have a few rare days of mild weather that I can’t pass up, so, like my fellow city-dwellers, I make a little extra time to walk and window-shop.
Except — I hardly ever return with empty hands. Especially when I spot a sale at my favorite clothing retailer, it doesn’t take long before my intended walk turns into a shopping spree. Fortunately, our data shows that I’m not the only one who falls for the spontaneous clothing purchase. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data reveals that women in particular buy apparel on impulse:
In fact, our data shows that 43% of women don’t research clothing at all prior to making a purchase, compared with only 36% of men. And those women who do research apparel predominantly count the in-store browsing experience as their product research, while men often use both online and offline tools.
Thanksgiving weekend has traditionally been highly lucrative for retailers, but this year saw another drop in spending specifically on Black Friday. In the meantime, online shopping continues to soar, and the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving weekend provided consumers with deep-discount sales. In short, the weekend itself is becoming less valuable to the average consumer. But how does consumer sentiment match up with this shift in behavior? How do perceptions of the 2014 holiday season differ from those of years past and consumers’ initial expectations?
As part of our recent research efforts, we leveraged Forrester’s Technographics® 360 multimethodology research approach to gain a better understanding of consumers’ shopping habits (using our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community) and to track online conversation and sentiment relative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday leading up to the holidays and afterwards (using NetBase aggregated social listening data).
Here in the US, all signs point to winter: Daylight savings has just begun; specialty holiday drinks have been added to cafe menus; and several cities have already witnessed the first snowfall. And with the arrival of the chilly season comes preparation for the mad rush of holiday shoppers.
Although the holiday retail season is shorter this year, given fewer days than average between Thanksgiving and Christmas, consumer expectations of retailers during this holiday season are greater than ever. When it comes to online retail specifically, consumers seek out – and have come to expect – great deals and free shipping throughout their holiday gift hunt. In fact, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that shipping cost is the most important factor in a consumer’s decision to purchase from a retail website (such as Amazon.com or Gap.com):