Study: Holiday Selling Themes Falling Short

Discussion
Aug 29, 2011

As holiday planning approaches, a new Motista study suggests retailers should look beyond the traditional themes of family and giving and instead be working on establishing better connections with consumers.

Motista didn’t highlight any other newfangled holiday approaches, but implied that traditional holiday schemes that drive awareness only increase consumers’ familiarity with retailers. The goal should be to engage emotionally, something Motista found retailers aren’t doing a great job at.

According to its ongoing study, the average overall “awareness” and “familiarity” of the ten retailers it tracks (Aeropostale, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Gap, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn and Walmart) were high, at 90 and 71 percent, respectively. But only 18 percent of consumers indicated they had an “emotional connection” to their retailers and only 24 percent of consumers indicated they would make their next relevant purchase with the retailers they frequent today.

Spelling out the advantages having connected consumers, Motista noted that the study found:

  • Consumers who feel emotional connections to their retailers are four-times more likely to shop those retailers first when relevant needs arise, as compared to consumers who are simply familiar and satisfied with their retailers.
  • Connected consumers shop their retailers’ websites via mobile devices ten-times more often than consumers who are simply satisfied. They also follow their retailers on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, four-times more often.
  • Connected consumers are 50 percent more likely to advocate for the brand and recommend the retailer to others.

“The long-term takeaway for retailers is the importance of establishing more relevant connections with their customers,” said Alan Zorfas, co-founder and CMO of Motista, in a statement. “What’s really motivating them beyond expected themes? We see connection driving higher levels of purchasing and advocacy across a multitude of industries, and the brands that act on this data are able to execute successful marketing campaigns that motivate their target audiences more effectively.”

The study comes as some articles in recent years have heralded the return of fuzzy holiday themes. In October 2009, an Associated Press report noted that holiday marketing had shifted in the earlier part of the decade to “whimsical and splashy,” including an upside-down Christmas tree fad in 2007, cartoon-themed characters, and stockings adorned with mermaids and elephants. But with recession-weary consumers seeking comfort amid the downturn, traditional approaches – gingerbread houses, Santa, angels, tartan plaid, etc – had returned for the holiday 2009 season.

“When the world feels upside down, you don’t want your tree to be,” said Kit Yarrow, professor of consumer psychology at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, at the time. “Nostalgia is a way for people to feel safe.”

Has traditional holiday-themed marketing become increasingly irrelevant in connecting with consumers? What fresh ways should retailers be looking to engage holiday shoppers?

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3 Comments on "Study: Holiday Selling Themes Falling Short"


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David Schulz
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David Schulz
6 years 11 months ago

Tradition is a tricky thing. Stick with it and you may miss attracting some new customers; abandon it and risk losing loyal customers. It would seem that innovation could be tried with newer forms of communication while familiar themes are reserved for traditional communications. The key to it all is how you position your store for your customers. If you are edgy or cutting edge, stick with it. If you are a safe haven and trusted store, don’t change now

Roy White
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Roy White
6 years 11 months ago

The article makes a strong case for retailers to take action in moving consumers from awareness and familiarity to engagement. The benefits are compelling: increased likelihood of shopping that store, extremely open to all media for connectivity, and word-of-mouth. And engaged customers are likely to generate a large portion of a retail store’s sales. As a result, it is vitally important for retailers to develop themes and initiate programs that go beyond the “warm & fuzzy” to lock these customers in. Retailers need to move into the 21st century and abandon themes that may have served them well in the past but can no longer achieve decisive results.

Tim Henderson
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Tim Henderson
6 years 11 months ago
Family and giving (traditional and fuzzy) are always good themes when marketing to holiday shoppers, especially when creating ads targeting a broad number of consumers with varying lifestyle needs and behaviors. But, I also agree with Motista in that retailers should broaden holiday marketing to include more emotional themes that resonate with specific, targeted demographics, lifestyles and life stages. For marketers, it’s a matter of selecting the key targets (e.g., Moms, grandparents, college students, retired consumers, far-away loved ones, etc.) and then creating ads that resonate (emotionally engage) those consumers. Naturally, the themes for such ads will vary from one target to another. The study’s findings regarding gender differences point to this approach. What may prove a higher hurdle for some brands is understanding that the company is unlikely to achieve long-term success if they try to emotionally engage consumers only when the calendar flips to November. This is a year-round effort wherein the brand seeks to gain a better understanding of their consumers’ lifestyle needs and behaviors, both inside the shopping experience and outside… Read more »
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