by Chris Hubble, CEO at Bastion db5
To conduct market research or not to conduct market research; that is the question that many companies will be asking themselves this holiday season. While it’s a general rule in the industry to abstain from market research during the holidays, is that really the best decision? Holiday season insights have a reputation for being inaccurate when it comes to representing the rest of the year. However, conducting research during a significant sales spike in your company could provide its own set of hidden advantages. Holiday sales are projected to hit $135.35 billion dollars, growing 13.2 percent from last year.
With these figures in mind, it could be worth your time and some of your companies’ marketing budget to learn what makes these shoppers tick.
Let’s look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of conducting market research on your holiday sales.
Pro—48 percent of shoppers said that they are open to purchasing from new retailers during the holiday season. That is a large number of potential new customers with their minds open and their wallets at the ready. Market research can help determine what attracted these new shoppers to your product or service. Once you know more about their motivation and the decision making process behind their choice to purchase from your company, you might be able to turn some of these one-time holiday shoppers into return customers.
Con—The holidays are busy! Everyone is caught up in the hustle and bustle of planning their gatherings and seeing friends and family. It can be a challenge to reach the right audience, since holiday shoppers are often less representative of your typical clientele. In the fortunate occasion you do reach the right audience, shoppers are often too busy and less receptive to giving you their undivided attention. Distracted, busy shoppers can sometimes provide less reliable answers and therefore serve as less reliable sources of data. The only exception to this might be if your specific product or service revolves around these holiday festivities, making it incredibly relevant to them in the moment and leading them to be more willing to engage.
Pro—What you see during the holiday season could be indicative of the types of consumer behavior that also take place during other major life events. If your customers’ shopping is atypical during the holidays, it might be reasonable to assume that other life events could cause a similar, atypical pattern. Tipping points such as back to school, birthdays, weddings/honeymoons, vacations, and other holiday shopping (Valentine’s Day or Fourth of July) could result in similar actions. The insights gained from market research conducted during the holiday season may help inform decisions and subsequently marketing choices made during these other periods of atypical spending.
Con—The holiday season is long. What used to be about 30 days from Black Friday to Christmas Eve is now almost three months of potential holiday sales. Marketers no longer wait until after Halloween to release their holiday discounts. Holiday ads and digital advertisements can be seen everywhere as early as the beginning of October. It can be challenging to determine what is and isn’t holiday shopping during such a drawn-out period of time. Also, if the market research is conducted close to the holidays, you may miss out on some of the metrics from those early bird shoppers, giving only a partial snapshot of what is happening.
Pro—Customers are asking for your attention during the holiday season. In a recent survey, 75 percent of consumers responded that they wished retailers better understood their preferences, and used that insight to send personalized offers for the holiday season. Knowing customers want more personalized offers might be a sign that times are changing. In the past it was accepted as fact that the holidays were a suboptimal time to conduct market research, but with the current marketing climate and increased consumer expectations heading into the new decade, the holiday season might be a useful time to gather consumer metrics and data. With consumers wanting a more personalized shopping experience, they might be more willing to engage with a brand and discuss their wants and needs for the holiday season and beyond.
While there are pros and cons to conducting market research during the holiday season, it has become clear that the pros can outweigh the cons. It’s true that it is a long period of time and you may not capture all potential holiday sales data, but the information you can obtain will still be useful. As consumer expectations continue to elevate, it’s probable that your customers will be more than happy to help you provide them with a more personalized shopping experience. These insights could also assist in turning some of these holiday customers into regular patrons and give you more of a chance to reach them during other tipping point purchasing cycles. Although this data might not be typical of your usual shopper, there’s still value here that can help you grow both your revenue and customer base.
Chris Hubble serves as CEO of market research and consumer insights agency Bastion db5. Before founding db5 in 2009, Chris served as Chief Executive Officer at Hall & Partners USA. Chris has 30+ years of experience in consumer insights with particular expertise in new product development, brand strategy, brand communications, and customer experience. He’s worked with over 50% of Fortune 500 clients. Bastion db5 has done work pertaining to these specific consumer tipping points for Yahoo!, Verizon Media, and BuzzFeed.