Holiday Shoppers are Ready to Spend

According to a survey by consulting firm Deloitte, Twenty percent of holiday shoppers plan to buy jewelry this year, up from eighteen percent last year, and the highest number since 2007. Additionally, twenty-five percent of people have jewelry on their wish lists this year, the most since 2006. These figures may signal that the economic recovery has finally reached middle-class households, who since 2008 have typically opted for necessities and more emotional gift choices, and who may now finally have a little wiggle room in their budgets.

While shoppers will retain a generally frugal approach when it comes to the majority of their day-to-day purchases, a practice that’s been learned by necessity in the recession and since retained by choice, shoppers are now practicing “selective frugality,” a behavior that suggests they are willing to spring for indulgent items on some occasions while still stretching their dollar in others. 

Heineken’s Marketing is on a Roll

Heineken was recently announced as the winner of 2015’s creative marketer of the year award. Mobile has been the key to the brand’s success in its recent campaigns. They have gained most of their learnings from their mobile experience. Heineken’s holiday campaign “Spark My Party” asked fans to tweet the hashtag #SparkMyParty to its Twitter handle this past weekend to win free prizes. The brand was looking for a way to make the holiday season more fun and unexpected. In the #SparkMyParty campaign’s first 24 hours, the hashtag was tweeted roughly 300 times. 

Heineken wanted to stay relevant during a time when people are reconnecting with family and friends. Knowing that the holiday season is an important time for people, they still managed to stay top of mind. They wanted to embrace the holiday season and make it even more fun and surprising for people during their celebrations. Heineken knows that staying relevant is important for brands, which is why they chose to think in real-time and embrace the holiday season. 

Brands Stepping Up For Your Love

A number of brands are stepping up their social game this Valentine’s in efforts to capitalize on consumers’ commitment to their phones and social media. With specially created content, they’re hoping to lure shoppers in through their hearts.

For the more sentimental, Pizza Hut and OkCupid have teamed up for their #CommitToGreatness campaign, asking folks to share your proposal idea for a chance to win free pizza for life.

For those that opt in, Dunkin’ Donuts is offering to turn tweets into a video you can send to your valentine.

Could these sentimental campaigns create true brand love and commitment? Will they result in additional purchases or a sustained brand relationship? What do you think?

Or, for those that take to humor…
Nothing says Will you be my Valentine? like toilet paper. Charmin has joined in the holiday of hearts by offering folks the chance to “tweet on a sheet”. With #CharminLoveNotes, Charmin will make you a “charming” love note with your tweet for your someone special.

The good news is, at the very least, these brands can track and measure their campaigns and gain valuable data and information on the role social and mobile played in the overall customer journey, helping guide future campaigns.

Valentine’s Day Gets a Facelift

Millennials, described as “confident, connected and open to change” by PewResearch, are living up to their characteristics according to TPN’s Seasonal Pulse New Year 2014 study.

Among all generations, millennials are the most likely group to “change it up” this Valentine’s Day. Thirty percent of millennials are planning to celebrate the romantic holiday differently than last year (see graph below), providing a huge opportunity for marketers to influence their plans – especially if millennials are trying to impress a new special someone.

Further, 21 percent of millennials plan to stay home and cook a special meal this Valentine’s Day. As notorious foodies who are always online, millennials will be hunting down new meal inspirations across social media and the web. Grocery retailers and online brands should be targeting this generation as they plan for their night in.

While 29 percent of millennials do plan on going out for a meal, those staying in, including myself, won’t have to make a last-minute reservation or spend an arm and a leg on food. Maybe it’s me, but I think millennials may be on to something.

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Source: TPN Seasonal Pulse, New Year 2014

For more information regarding TPN and our Seasonal Pulse findings, please visit www.tpnretail.com.

Retail and the Weather: An Ice Story

This Fall season has been one to remember. Here in Dallas, like in many parts of the country, we experienced a severe ice storm last week that pretty much put the brakes on everything. Though we’re a big city, we’re not equipped to deal with not only the initial snow/sleet fall but the subsequent refreezing as temperatures stayed in the freezing range for the next week. And as luck would have it, this ice storm occurred during an already shortened Christmas shopping season. All this got me thinking, what are retailers and brands to do when Mother Nature throws a wrench into the busiest shopping season of the year? Here are my top five recommendations to retailers and brands for not getting blindsided by unexpected weather.

Be Prepared (Online)

Weather happens, from snow and ice to unforgiving heat waves and everything in between. In Dallas, it seems like we get one good pummeling snow/ice storm about every three years or so (just my personal estimation). Before this most recent storm, the last one happened the week Dallas was hosting the Super Bowl and that was a doosy. All that to say, weather is bound to happen sometime/somewhere, so retailers and brands should be prepared with how their products can remain strong when it does hit. Like any other day, your website is up, running, easily accessible via mobile and checkout is easy (where applicable). A no-brainer here, but confirm with your providers that weather will not or should not interrupt your web service. Aside from the basics of web site functionality, the easiest thing, in my opinion, is to be prepared with web content, which is especially helpful for all those potential customers stuck at home surfing the web. For example, a home improvement store chain could create self-help videos that instruct the proper method for shoveling snow or for removing fallen tree limbs. A fashion brand could create a pinterest board with the best snow apparel that its target audience could use to feel inspired during a time that normally leaves us all looking like overstuffed marshmallow men. A food brand could post comfort food recipes using ingredients found in the pantry mixed with their products. A major retailer could have a social media weather plan in place to allow it to quickly adapt with a consistent hashtag across messaging and be on the forefront of the conversation. All in all, it’s a way to preemptively think about how your store or brand can still be productive online in spite of the weather.

Be Prepared (In Store)

Luckily, with events like snow storms, we usually can see them coming thanks to all of the newfangled meteorological technology at society’s disposal. As such, retailers can be proactive in the ways they react to such news in store. For larger retailers, this may be easier said than done because it takes a lot of energy and time to shift the sails of such a large “ship.” That’s when I say you should empower your boots on the ground to help make the calls for their area. Have a protocol in place for not only taking care of your employees in the area impacted but a plan for how they can keep the lead office informed and adapt the store to the needs of shoppers. Maybe for a grocery chain, it could be switching out a front display containing Christmas day meal solutions to one that’s driven with bread and batteries or push coolers up front for milk.  Or it’s creating an impromptu storm bundle offer that combines necessities like food with fun activities like books and magazines, which not only help shopper Mom feed her family but could keep them entertained, even if they lose power. Perhaps a clothing retailer puts its cold weather clothes, coats and accessories in their strategic selling spots and empowers employees to push these items at checkout as pre-storm basket builders. But again, don’t forget the basics, like having rock salt on hand to put at your store entrance should it ice over and proper mats for wiping off icy boots so as to avoid slip-and-falls.

Be Insightful

Being able to target your shoppers is key at any stage in this retail game, but it can be even more important when you add weather to the mix. This not only means being prepared with content but having the capabilities to push it to the right shoppers and when with geotargeting. I know I’ve been getting anywhere from one to three emails a day from certain retailers keeping me updated on the latest sales in store during this busy shopping season. By adding an additional level of geotargeting to these emails, retailers, large and small, could help to keep their shoppers engaged and informed. Whether it’s pushing an email to promote a pre-storm bundle along with their store hours or sending a text message to shoppers to let them know “We’re Open!”, getting this granular with your shoppers lets them know your store or brand is coping with the weather as well. I saw small businesses doing this really well during our Dallas ice storm, from email to social, by clearly communicating with their shoppers so as to advise as well as to gauge demand. Bigger brands and retailers can do this too, with the help of geotargeting.

Be Aware

This season is not only the busiest for many brands and retailers but for their shipping partners as well, which is why is so important for brands and retailers to be aware of how shipments may be impacted due to the weather. With the possibility of shoppers being stuck at home and doing more shopping online than they had originally planned, the number of shipments required escalates quite rapidly even while shipping centers are dealing with the same undriveable  roads and shortage of staff that everyone else is dealing with. Shipments can ultimately be delayed and perhaps, even lost, in the additional traffic. Shoppers may be lenient to a certain degree, but they still want to receive what they’ve paid for and before Christmas, if it was well within the time period for Christmas shipping. So be aware of regional delays that could ultimately impact your shoppers’ experience and be on top of how this should be managed. While it’s never ideal for a package to be late or never arrive, empower your customer service team to use this “opportunity” to give your shoppers the best experience possible and build loyalty. Have a plan in place for dealing with packages delayed by weather and if time is of the essence for the customer (ex. it’s a gift ordered for a charity that has a deadline for submission), have a protocol in place for either reshipping or refunding their purchase so the shopper can choose the best option for their situation. As a brand or retailer, you can only control so much when it comes to the shipping process, but having the right attitude and approach when shipping mishaps happen due to widespread weather will turn a negative into a positive.

Be Human

It’s the weather and it’s beyond all of our control. We are all human. When a severe weather situation occurs, a brand or retailer should be showing their shoppers they are human, too. For this to be successful, it all needs to be done genuinely and with absolute authenticity, or else it comes across as opportunist. The success in this again lies with the boots on the ground, your store employees, to know what kind of outreach is appropriate, needed and can be addressed. During this last storm, I saw news stories about employees from a home improvement chain making rounds in neighborhoods helping people take care of fallen trees. A chain movie theater that offers dining and movies, knowing that the neighborhood behind one of its theaters did not have power, offered warm soup, coffee and free movies to those local residents who could walk to the theater. Just simple acts of kindness go a long way. Empower your employees and brand ambassadors to be human during these times, in store, online and out in the community and I have no doubt your shoppers will remember the kindness.

So let’s discuss. What retailers and brands have managed weather snafus really well? Who rose to the occasion?

Photo: Associated Press

Black November: What Are Shoppers Really Feeling & Doing?

Media are invited to register for the retail industry’s first-ever TPN Live Shopper Pulse™, an online dashboard created by dynamic retail marketing agency TPN to monitor real-time consumer sentiment and behaviors during the new Black Friday shopping frontier, which now begins Thanksgiving night.

“TPN designed this retail anthropology study to gain unprecedented access into shoppers’ minds and modes when they are ‘in-the-moment’,” said Sharon Love, TPN’s chief executive officer. “We want to understand what is in the shoppers’ psyches while they are engaged in the sport of holiday shopping, and what spending or social behaviors they exhibit during THE major shopping event of 2013.”

The TPN Live Shopper Pulse aims to measure the pulse of approximately 2,000 “out-and-about” shoppers in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Miami, capturing the heartbeat of this vital shopping period. Located outside big box stores such as Walmart, Macy’s, Target and Best Buy, pollsters will ask shoppers questions, which will immediately upload to the online dashboard, in five key areas:

PPlanning or spending?  Are shoppers planning to spend more or less this holiday season? Are they prepared with a list of items and the people they’ll buy for?        

UUsing technology or turned-off?  Have shoppers downloaded mobile apps, powered up their device and checked it twice? Once in-store, did their mobile device help or hurt their shopping plans today?

LLooking or buyingAre shoppers braving the crowds simply to browse, or are they on a mission to buy? What are the most popular retail destinations around the country?

SSentiment in the moment?  Are shoppers excited, stressed, or feeling guilty for spending too much? Does this feeling change depending on when they are out? Are they shopping with friends or family as part of a tradition to combine holiday cheer – or is it considered a holiday chore?  

EExpectations being met?  Did Black Friday deals live up to shoppers’ expectations this year?  And did retailers stock what shoppers wanted at the prices they were hoping for?

HOW TPN LIVE SHOPPER PULSE WORKS

TPN’s technology partner, GroundCntrl, is the real-time mobile and data analytics platform that powers TPN’s Live Shopper Pulse Dashboard.

Field teams will be positioned outside stores beginning Thanksgiving night at 6 p.m., through Black Friday. They will use a mobile app to survey shoppers around the country as they leave the stores.  This structured data is gathered in real-time, and aggregated into easy-to-understand charts that will be accessible via an online dashboard.

HOW TO REGISTER FOR TPN LIVE SHOPPER PULSE

TPN is offering special access to the Live Shopper Pulse dashboard so reporters and editors can visit regularly and view how shoppers’ attitudes and behaviors evolve during these two critical shopping days.

To register, send an email request to pr@tpnretail.com. Users will then receive an email with simple instructions on how to log in and access the live dashboards.

LIVE ANALYSIS AVAILABLE VIA @TPNRETAIL & WWW.LOVEOFRETAIL.COM

The real-time data will be complemented by analysis from TPN experts who will provide “in-the-moment” insights live on Twitter (@TPNRetail) and scheduled analysis every two hours via the TPN Love of Retail Blog (www.loveofretail.com).

To schedule interviews with TPN experts for holiday shopping predictions or to analyze Live Shopper Pulse data throughout Thanksgiving evening and Black Friday, please contact Laura Muma at 773.960.3960, pr@tpnretail.com or laura@lmprinc.com.

‘Tis Not The Season for Procrastinators

Thanksgivikah, huh? Why not Hannugiving? Guess it doesn’t have the same ring does it? Not since Bradgelina has the combined entity of two separate entities had such an impact. Really, though, what is the impact?

You’d think that something that hasn’t happened in almost 100 years and won’t happen again for at least 50 years would be big news during the busiest retail period of the year. Realistically, though, the Thanksgivikah movement caught on late, after all kinds of reports came out about sales this year (some up, some down, no one really sure). What we can say, for certain, is that one core demographic will be effected by the result of Thanksgivikah, that effect being a shopping season that starts earlier because of Hannukah while at the same time providing fewer actual shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That demographic is procrastinators.

Not typically known as a great target audience for marketers, procrastinators abound will have to take the bull by the retail horns and get shopping sooner. Marketers know it, driving Black Friday sales out earlier. Best Buy launched some sales for elite members as early as Monday of Thanksgiving week. They also ran holiday ads the week after Halloween. For the first time, large national retailers like Macy’s will be open on Thanksgiving day, a sure sign of the need to drive revenue early as well as often.

The 2013 holiday retail season is not made for the procrastinator. Its made for the savvy the shopper, the digital guru who uses technology to aid in finding deals and that hard to find gift. Its made for the Amazon Prime member who can order Monday night and have it in time for Hannukah.

So if you are one of the procrastinators, I know what you should be thankful for this year…  The fact that this won’t happen again for a long time.

Easter Bunny = Budget Bunny for 2013

According to the NRF, American’s will spend $17.3B on Easter, but you can bet that shoppers will be mindful of their budgets, maximizing their spend to create memorable family experiences. From their survey, it appears that shoppers are spending no more than last year. What you can expect to see: more gifting (and, not just chocolate and candy) and more mobile/online shopping.

 

Holiday Stars

Oh, the joy of the season: pushing and shoving, the same five songs on repeat, lines that wind around the mall, and the lumpy pile of colorful wool that once was the sweater display. 
Last year, I stood in one such overheated, never-ending line at JCrew, and just when I was about to drop my stash of cashmere and bail, a cheerful store clerk offered me a treat from a tray of warm cookies. My mood melted like those gooey chocolate chips. I wanted to reach out and give the clerk a hug. Why was I being rewarded for shopping when this “retail warrior” was on her feet keeping that store organized and customers happy all day?
I started thinking that whatever is being paid to the retail employee working on Black Friday, Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, it’s absolutely not enough! And – especially now that stores are virtually never closed from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day – they are mostly sacrificing the family gatherings to which their earnings were meant to bring joy.
In searching for reports of companies working to ensure employee happiness as much as customer satisfaction, I found very little inspirational evidence there were many looking out for their retail army out on the front lines. In one small example, Apple has begun “perking” its employees with “App Discovery,” allowing store employees free access to popular paid Apps. Smart thinking, because while that perk looks like it is meant for employees, the underlying benefit is really the ability for them to demo and recommend Apps to customers.
Oftentimes when designing promotion platforms and even retailer-specific shopper marketing programming, we are so worried about the “shopper experience” that the employee — the one really making that experience come to life – is an afterthought. So this holiday season I challenge my colleagues here at TPN to think about how to make sure Associate Engagement and Satisfaction is top of mind and a key element of all of our retail ideas.
And I am going to remind myself and encourage you readers to remember that Everything Matters, even a simple smile and “Happy Holidays!” And if the store associate really delivers exemplary service, consider a quick note or a whisper to their manager on the way out.