with their plans to kick off the Holiday shopping season early ‘ by opening for
business on Thanksgiving Day. Many of
the pundits reacted by insisting that retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Best
Buy, JCPenney and Macy’s are ‘stealing’ Thanksgiving by opening as early as 6
p.m. However, we’ve got evidence that
the idea of Thanksgiving ‘ at least as a sacred 12-hour stretch of family,
carbs and football ‘ is waning among key consumer groups.
light as just one more facet of the changing cultural landscape. Thanksgiving was historically a combination
of religious feelings (giving thanks), extended family gatherings; and major
multicourse meals. As a society, we’ve become
more secular, our family size has shrunk, and we are much more likely to be
eating our meals on the fly. All of these forces of social change diminish the
fit of the Thanksgiving holiday with the way that we live today.
Thanksgiving in general as well as their reactions to retailers’ new plans to
open their doors on the holiday, we conducted research and found some
differently about Thanksgiving, compared to years past. We found a significant decrease in the number
of people who expect to feel a sense of nurturance and connection to others
over the holiday. When people focused on how they expect to feel this Thanksgiving,
the strength of expectations for these emotions was reduced by as much as 20%
compared to past Thanksgivings We also saw
a very marked increase in people who expected that they might feel somewhat
isolated and disengaged on Thanksgiving.
emotional yearnings to feel connected to their loved ones and to enjoy family
time. It’s just that the secularization
of our lifestyles, the atomization of our household structures, and the
mobilization of our eating styles all militate against this holiday.
stores opening so much earlier on Thanksgiving, and their perception of stores
who might adopt this practice. Here the
results are strikingly polarized.
of stores opening earlier, they love it, and they definitely plan to go
shopping. These respondents were generally avid shoppers, most of whom (82
percent) say they were already committed to shopping on Black Friday, and three
quarters of these consumers say they plan to show up at stores before they
open. The prospect of stores opening on
Thanksgiving makes these people feel good. They get a sense that the stores
understand and care about their needs as harried bargain hunters, and they feel
empowered by these new store policies. Finally, they are thinking, a retail
brand understands how important it is for me to save money and finish my
holiday shopping effectively.
loathe the idea of early openings. They state that they ‘definitely will not
shop’ on Thanksgiving.
They feel as if these stores and the culture are working against them,
thwarting their desire to make the holiday special and meaningful for
themselves and their families.
opening early? Will they increase sales to those who would have already shopped
on Black Friday? Will the intensified
emotional connection among these shopping enthusiasts translate to better brand
connection throughout the holidays ‘ or will retailers simply spread the early
spending of this group over two days? Only the sales records of the season will
brand connection with the much larger audience. And that’s a big risk: These
people didn’t just have no emotion about Thanksgiving openings, they had very
strong negative emotions. Will it be enough to turn them against certain store
brands? Some stores seem to think so: Both Nordstrom and Costco, for example,
have held fast to their refusal to open on Thursday.
assumptions about core customers.
to realize that we love our families as much as we ever did, whether we are inclined
or capable of gathering the clan together in one large group. Thanks to the
scattering of American families, that reunion moment seems to be getting harder
and harder to pull off.
some of it up to Facebook and other social media, which allows us to connect to
distant relations in ways we hadn’t before. Getting together has new forms. Who
knows? Maybe we are closer to finding a virtual Thanksgiving.
psychology from Clark University, and was a member of the faculties of Harvard
Medical School Department of Psychiatry and the Harvard Laboratory of Human
Development before beginning his career as a business consultant. Dr. Forbes
founded Forbes Consulting over 20 years ago as a strategic market research
consultancy dedicated to creating business advantage through deep psychological
consumer insights. Since that time, he has built Forbes into a major resource
for scores of major corporations in the CPG, Financial Services, and Pharmaceuticals
industries, domestically and internationally.
butter came up in a rather unfiltered way: ‘Your chocolate is in my peanut
better’ vs ‘Your peanut butter is in my chocolate’, PurchasedNow unfolds
shopper behavior tracked in real time.
Existing methods limit in addressing complexity:
- Post hoc online surveys
- Home scanning panel
- Loyalty card
- In store intercept
- Shopper ethnographies
and accurate. It is a 5 stage methodology to track behavior of shopper
- Recruit shoppers who shop via Shopalong app.
- Capture shopper intent based on what their
shopping plans are
- Track actual shopping behavior
- Capture receipts for details of what they buy/do
- Post purchase survey to check for disparities
were some cool facts unearthed in this seminar:
the one they originally planned on, mainly based on convenience. 31% of brand
swappers were influenced by a shopping partner to change plans! And 31% of
consumers buy more at the store they go to first.
Sharma, Communication & Social Media Research
Expert at SKIM, an international consultancy and marketing research agency, has
a background in engineering, marketing and finance from the University of
Pennsylvania, and the Wharton School and Rotterdam School of Management. Having
worked in marketing and product development at L’Oreal, followed by a stint in
management consulting, he now passionately enjoys the world of social media,
and can be found on every platform with his alias sssourabh. He is a food
critic and a fashion writer, and documents these alongside strategy on his blog
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on @sssourabh.
shoppers, its logical to examine how retailers react and position
themselves to the very same shopper needs. The role of a retailer is to
persuade purchase. In financially troubled times like the wake of the
meltdown of 2008, persuasion is more necessary from a value perspective.
Yet, even in affluent times, persuasion is necessary to hypnotize eager
shoppers to make more than just required and meaningful purchases
(which sometimes result in shopping blunders when a credit card bill
leaves one wide-mouthed – consumer trends that I have blogged at length about). I believe that in some cases, the type of
shopper emotion seems to dictate the level of persuasion.
For the equivalent of the love emotion,
retailers conjure strategies embodying severe discounts, freebies,
gifts-with-purchase, and the likes. Blinding shoppers with the
hypothetical value they are getting, it is often quite a good deal, but
one that was neither needed, nor wanted in the first place! Retail
management courses have often taught of the layout of grocery stores,
retail stores, etc., whereby enticing items are placed at checkout, or
sale items are kept at the back of the store, as are grocery essentials, so that our unstoppable shopper eyes see much much more than necessary.
The strategy works for retailers since they sell the bulk to
momentarily love-lorn blinded shoppers. All of it.
For the almost emotionless requirement,
the consumers are likely to pull the products towards them due to the
inevitable need for the purchase. It is not necessary to elevate this
need to a want, or to cater to the emotional aspect too much. This is
where retailers can utilize the pull strategy to create singular deals.
As this is a requirement, no extra effort is needed from a retailer
perspective to engage interest, although some knowledge delivery is
necessary. Weekly discounts at stores like Home Depot or IKEA fulfill
this quadrant; consumers there are most likely buying requirement items,
pulling these towards themselves, and singular deals can elevate the
Package deals are pushed towards consumers, either by the pricing
attraction or the physical store placement, thereby enticing shoppers.
Since this arena of products is already something that shoppers crave,
retailers can push the glitzy promotional material towards them.
Besides a plethora of glossy, attractive and aspirational advertising,
package deals come in handy, as do gifts with purchase (GWP). Getting a
gift card with a purchase, or a host of related freebies, all fall into
satisfying this quadrant. The world of glorified advertising rules the
As Oscar Wilde says, you can resist anything but temptation. Indeed,
for that which is high on a desire list, is often not on sale. Although,
sometimes it may be, but is probably in limited quantities. The
scarcity makes the product more valuable, almost masking the need and
want all at once, but enticing shoppers to purchase it. This makes it
more than simply a requirement, more than an itching craving,
transforming it into a burning desire that
drains pockets, trickles time in lines, and sometimes also satisfies.
Think of holiday lines, the rush in stores on peak times, the limited
time Amazon lightening deals or morning-only Black Friday and Boxing Day
ones, and the gratification of getting the good deal on the last item. The retailer wins again!
What is your emotional driver for shopping? Seek your passion for
shopping, and check to see how the retailer is catering to you, giving
you options, but also enticing you to purchase more based on your
emotion. Think about what you are shopping for, particularly during the
holiday season. It has become a cat-mouse game these days, and some label holiday shopping as capitalism!
Controversial for sure, but the truth is that retailers are getting more coy, somewhat more desperate, since the shoppers have become less gullible, more frugal, influenced by social media to investigate the nooks of everything they buy, as I have spoken of in documenting how complex a modern shopping trip has become. Consumers have thus inevitably somewhat smarter.
A smart consumer? It is a retailer’s biggest dilemma. But not to be taken as an impossibility.
Communication & Social Media Research Expert at SKIM, an international
consultancy and marketing research agency, has a background in engineering,
marketing and finance from the University of Pennsylvania, and the Wharton
School and Rotterdam School of Management. Having worked in marketing and
product development at L’Oreal, followed by a stint in management consulting,
he now passionately enjoys the world of social media, and can be found on every
platform with his alias sssourabh. He is a food critic and a fashion writer,
and documents these alongside strategy on his blog called 3FS. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Follow him on @sssourabh.