Business owners, retailers and marketers are all used to the traditional calendar of events that motivate consumers. It's accepted that parents shops for school items in the late summer, toys and gifts during December, and retailers usually schedule sales accordingly. But just as the internet has changed much about how, where and when people shop for goods, it has also changed when they look for specials.
A recent study of internet search queries reveals that more consumers are searching for deals on the internet throughout the year. According to Hitwise, a division of Connexity, online searches for deals increased 40 percent between 2014 and 2015.
The study found that one in every 300 online searches is focused on finding a coupon, sale, discount or deal. This may just be 0.3 percent of all searches, but when you consider Google performs 3 billion searches a day, it translates into a lot of people that are searching for deals.
The study is based on data from the Hitwise U.S. panel of 10 million online consumers, including 3.5 million mobile devices. A practical use for this data can be seen in what the researchers found out about people looking for sales on shoes or school items.
"Deal-oriented searches include those using keywords: sale, coupon, deal, rebate, bargain, discount or clearance," said John Fetto, senior analyst research and marketing at Connexity, according to media reports. "Interestingly, when it comes to searches for 'sales' specifically, footwear, including shoes and boots, are the most commonly sought-after products throughout the year."
The report also revealed that school shopping starts earlier than many retailers realize. Citing, Connexity's Bizrate Insights, the report found that back to school shopping is starting as early as April. Their recent survey found more than 10 percent of back to school shoppers will begin picking up items by June, and by August more than half will already be shopping.
Retailers who want to take advantage of this should run ads for school supplies, just without specifically mentioning, back-to-school. People know what they need and are looking for a good deal, they don't particularly need an event to justify the sale (20% off is a good bargain whatever the reason).
This research certainly shows the benefits of running specials throughout the year, but there is a need for balance. If customers become too dependent on sales, they may start to pass over items at regular price, knowing that the item will be on sale in a week or two.
This effect has also been seen by retailers in the shoe industry. According to data cited by Footwear News, "the past holiday season alone--which was rife was heavy promotions and saw many footwear and apparel companies garner dismal profits--is evidence of the negative impact that excessive discounting can have on companies."
A good way to maintain balance between sales and regular prices is to make sales specific to certain products or categories of products. By using more nuanced, instead of sitewide sales, customers can't assume the type of item they want to buy will be on sale soon. As an added bonus, rotating specials in this way gives consumers a reason to check the site or newsletter often.
The entire report from Hitwise has some interesting information, and can be downloaded for free from their website. For example, the report found that TV and Tire searches are highest in December and that Furniture and Mattress searches reach their peak in August/September.
Check it out for yourself for more research you can use to plan better campaigns throughout the year. And some more recent research on consumer behavior, read this article on what makes a brand authentic to consumers.