The Christmas consumer mindset and what it tells us about marketing the season

Solomon Awosupin / December 2019

Every marketer aims to capitalise on the festive season but with so much marketing noise taking place at the time, how do you ensure that your consumers find you when they need you most? Tapping into their mindsets is a great place to start.

For South Africans, the Christmas season starts early.1 And it’s growing: Christmas searches increased 20% from 2017 to 2018, and that figure is expected to double in 2019.2

Today’s consumers are willing to invest their time in researching little things.

Today’s consumers are willing to invest their time in researching little things like umbrellas and shower curtains. But in each micro-moment, when they’re ready to know, go, do, and buy, they want to act now, and get now. So the experience better be fast and it better be frictionless, especially on mobile.

There are three key changes in consumer behaviour in South Africa during the holiday season that marketers should be aware of: In the first phase, the impending summer holidays and gifting opportunities are top of mind, then a time for celebration and indulgence with family gatherings gains favour, and this is finally followed by an opportunity for new beginnings, as people start looking to the new year.

What happens in the four weeks of Christmas?

The top Search interest categories for the Christmas season, week-by-week, give a fascinating insight into the festive consumer journey.

During the first week of December, South African consumers are still caught up in the aftermath of Black Friday, and preparing for their holidays. This is a time when searches for home appliances, personal grooming and skin care products, travel deals, plane tickets and travel items, books, jewellery, clothing, and footwear, as well as tobacco and alcohol are prevalent.

By the second and third weeks of December, South Africans are focusing on desserts, restaurants, and alcoholic beverages, while maintaining their interest in big-ticket household items (possibly to spend their bonuses?).

When Christmas week hits, “near me” searches start booming, with lots of interest around zoos and aquariums, regional parks and gardens.

And then, when Christmas week hits, “near me” searches start booming, with lots of interest around zoos and aquariums, regional parks and gardens, theme parks, beaches and islands, sightseeing, tourist attractions, and (yes, again) restaurants.

Opportunities

The opportunity to offer attractive bundles of products is huge in December. For instance, in 2018, searches for nail care, and tanning and sun care products both doubled in the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day.3

If you run a beauty spa, a manicure and spray tan combo may be an interesting response to this insight. Supermarkets could bundle a pretty nail varnish with some baby sun care products, for busy parents. And a nearby butchery could offer customers a voucher from the beauty spa or supermarket as an incentive for customers to buy meat for delivery.

Understand your customers’ journey and meet them where they’re at, while challenging the norm.

Go beyond sending emails and cards to customers, delight your customers by providing content that maximises their engagement, to lead them back to your business as they celebrate. As marketers, we’re taught that our plans must always put customers at the centre, and by leaning into the insights, you can tailor your products to what customers want, particularly over a busy period like the festive season, when loyalty is cheap. This is when it becomes particularly important for your plans to align with what customers need and want, so you can deliver on time.

The takeaway is to understand your customers’ journey and meet them where they’re at, while challenging the norm.

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Solomon Awosupin

Solomon Awosupin

Industry Analyst at Google Sub-Saharan Africa Google