Much of marketing and advertising is a balancing act. People often say they hate marketing and advertising when it interrupts them, but they are happy when an ad shows them something they want. The same is true with early holiday shopping. Retailers are selling seasonal items earlier and stores opening earlier for Black Friday, (often on Thanksgiving Day), much to the displeasure of many (vocal) consumers.

But since some people are buying gifts this early, as was discussed in another recent article, there clearly is a market worth reaching before the official start of the holiday season. This article will look at some recent research on Christmas Creep that can help retailers create holiday marketing plans that are effective and pleasing to their target customers.

Recently, RichRelevance's released their third-annual Holiday Shopping Survey. The report examines consumer attitudes and preferences around holiday marketing and merchandising. According to their data, more than 1 in 4 Americans (27 percent) had already started their holiday shopping by Labor Day. Looking at the results of the survey provides some insights about what retailers should do, and when, to get the best reaction from consumers.

A good starting point is to look at the data which shows that though unpopular Christmas Creep (i.e. advertising Christmas deals before Black Friday), is probably here to stay. The survey showed that the majority of consumers had negative feelings associated with Christmas Creep, but these attitudes were softening year after year.

For example, 6 out of 10 Americans (63 percent) are annoyed or very annoyed when holiday items appear in the store before Halloween. That may sound bad, but this is down from 71 percent in 2014.

Similarly, more than half of Americans surveyed (55 percent) are annoyed or very annoyed when stores open on Thanksgiving Day. This may seem like a clear rejection of being open on Thanksgiving, but again, this number is down from 65 percent in 2014.

So while the majority of Americans are still against early holiday marketing or being open on Thanksgiving, the attitudes are softening. Given these trends, it's likely that within five years, the majority of Americans will be accepting (or at least used to) early holiday marketing and Thanksgiving store hours.

For people who like being off on Thanksgiving, the study did have data to show that consumers take note when business owners buck the trend of opening early. A few high-end retailers, such are REI and Nordstrom, stayed closed on Thanksgiving despite of the trend. The survey results showed that many consumers were pleased by these decisions and it may help these retailers in the long run.

According to the RichRelevance survey, 7 in 10 Americans (73 percent) said these retailers' decisions to stay closed on Thanksgiving made them like the retailers more. And more than half (53 percent) said they would be more likely to shop with retailers who remain closed on Thanksgiving Day.

Rather than consider it a black or white situation, retailers need to think which paradigm they want to use for their holiday marketing. For example, a store can choose to stay open on Thanksgiving Day, but they will need to have great specials to help people overcome their aversion to Thanksgiving shopping. On the other hand, a business can choose to stay closed, and then make sure to let their customers know they're staying closed to build good will.

It's important to realize that retailers can't depend on Black Friday or Cyber Monday as the only times people will be shopping. According to the survey results, only one in 10 (11 percent) Americans feel Black Friday has grown in importance. Worse still, four in 10 (42 percent) stated Black Friday is less important than it was 5 years ago. Nearly six out of 10 Americans (58 percent) stated that special deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday do not impact their shopping behavior.

Retailers should consider the age of their target demographic when deciding how much Christmas Creep to engage use. Younger demographics are more forgiving of Christmas Creep. RichRelevance reported that early holiday merchandise only bothers half of these shoppers (51 percent vs. 63 percent of overall respondents).

This survey shows that Christmas Creep and early holiday marketing are complicated issues for modern retailers. People are shopping earlier and earlier, but many don't want to see early holiday marketing or stores being open on Thanksgiving. In order to get this balancing act right, business owners need to weigh the pros and cons of Christmas Creep.

For more news about online marketing, read this article on Facebook video marketing and ads.

Published on: Oct 3, 2016
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