For most retailers holiday planning is well underway and has been for some time. But what’s on the minds’ of consumers this holiday shopping season and what can retailers expect? Today, Epsilon announced findings from recent consumer holiday shopping research, which was conducted in June and surveyed more than 3,000 consumers.

The research, which covers brick and mortar retail as well as online shopping, provides insights around the planned purchase patterns of consumers as it pertains to retailers, advertisers and marketers.

The fourth quarter of the year remains a critical period for retailers to drive sales, with 38% of respondents reporting a gift budget of $501 or greater for the upcoming holiday season.  But shopper behavior is evolving and many consumers conduct their research and holiday shopping early and across channels.  When it comes to marketing strategy and promotional efforts, marketers need to think holistically, to extend and maximize their holiday efforts throughout the year.

Don’t limit your holiday cheer to once a year

18% of consumers already started their holiday shopping as of June 2015. Of these, 36% did their shopping within the first quarter of the year.

Retailers can no longer think about marketing to customers solely as part of campaigns like back-to-school or holiday. With consumers reporting that their holiday shopping is taking place throughout the year, marketing to them with relevance all year round will create positive customer experiences. It’s these experiences that will drive long-lasting customer relationships that extend well beyond the holiday season splurge.

Make your promotion the gift that keeps on giving 

Women are much more deal-oriented with 79% planning to use coupons received by mail, while 66% of men conduct the key deal-oriented practice of price comparisons online

The 2015 holiday season will have 29 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to 33 days in 2013 and 28 days in 2014. Fewer shopping days leads to aggressive marketing campaigns that must reach consumers early and often as less time is available to receive, ship and bill for goods and services.

Consumers are receptive to promotions and advertising across channels. As a result, make sure your holiday marketing efforts are measurable across channels and positively impact your brand experience. For example, consider testing direct-mail postcards with coupons or promotional codes to get customers to your website or retail store.

Decorate your marketing programs with enhanced data

More than 90% of the time holiday gifts are purchased for immediate family members such as sons/daughters and spouses/partner.

Marketing appropriately to gift givers requires you to know more about your customers than simply an email address or their past purchase behavior. To effectively reach your  customers during the holiday shopping season, you need to understand their demographics, budget, lifestyles and cross-channel purchase patterns. You can’t always rely on just your own transaction history to predict purchases during this time. Use the insights you have but add on to each customer profile with enhanced data.

Put omnichannel on your wish list

58% of consumers look at products online and then purchase it in store

Retailers still focus too much on the purchase channel as the objective of their campaigns, for example, “I want to drive people to the store or online,” or “This online display ad is intended to drive folks online.” But consumer behavior no longer works that way and the path to purchase is increasingly complex.  Retailers need to create an experience with the individual customer that allows the customer to make the determination of where the best place for them to buy is. Don’t run your holiday campaigns with the objective to simply drive consumers online or in store or you may be missing opportunities in both channels.

Shopper behavior is evolving and many consumers conduct their research and holiday shopping early and across channels. Ultimately, as consumers’ holiday shopping patterns become more fragmented and dispersed, it’s the retailers that are able to provide relevant customer experiences and offers at the right time that will win out. Retailers should work with a partner who understands where the consumer is in the purchase cycle based on actual purchase data. This will ensure you do not overspend in trying to reach wallets that have already been tapped and are now closed to holiday purchases.

For additional findings from the study click here.

Topics: consumer behavior, Article, data, holiday shopping, research, omnichannel, Topic, US, Data

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