When the seasons change, so does the behavior of consumers. The human psyche is powerful, and with seasonal changes comes changes consumer behavior. This impacts every business owner and marketer, demanding you be prepared for an influx in sales. But the key is to understand how the consumer changes with the seasons and how to tailor your marketing to cater to these somewhat predictable changes, each and every time. This post will detail 25 changes in consumer behavior during the fall and winter months and how you can utilize seasonal marketing best practices to your advantage.
During the Fall and Winter Seasons Consumers…
1. Shop More
Fall and winter host several large holidays, introduce the beginning of a new school year, and see the largest spike in retail shoppers and sales compared to the rest of the year. A recent study predicts that U.S. retail sales will increase by 5.7% during November and December 2015 — the highest since 2011 when sales increased by 6.3% during the same months. The four biggest consumer search trends starting in the fall and continuing into the winter months include: car buying, retail, travel, and finance.
2. Shift to Holiday Shopping
With a natural increase in retail shopping during fall and winter, holiday shopping increases greatly, as well. Predictions for 2015 show specifically that holiday shopping will increase by 4.1% — up from 3.5% in 2014. Shoppers begin stockpiling holiday gifts in the fall, indicating a need for marketers and business owners to be aware of consumer behavior and shopping patterns — specifically how they change with the seasons — and appeal to their zest for holiday shopping.
3. Hunt for Holiday Bargains
Bargain shoppers are a great asset for your business as they are always willing to spend their hard-earned money on your items — at a discounted price, of course. In December 2014 post-Christmas in-store sales increased by 8% on December 26th and 27th as consumers searched for markdowns as part of their overall holiday budgeting plan. Retailers need to include post-holiday sales in their marketing plan to pull in every possible consumer type.
4. Spend More Time at Home
With a change in temperatures comes a change in when consumers shop. During the colder months people want to remain cozy indoors, which usually means they prefer to stay home. Also, time changes affect consumer shopping as people prefer to do things in daylight, therefore, shopping during fall and winter increases during daylight hours, and purchases are often comfort-related. These changes indicate a need for marketers to appeal to their online shopper crowd and to instill feelings of warmth when consumers physically step foot in their stores.
5. Watch More TV
People naturally are drawn to in-home entertainment during colder months. With TV season beginning in the fall, people view more TV when the time changes, the sun sets earlier, and the weather cools. In addition, streaming is now the preferred way to view programs. Of the consumers surveyed, 56% stated they prefer streaming movies, while 53% prefer streaming TV shows on a monthly basis as compared to 45% of respondents who prefer to watch live TV shows.
6. Eat More Comfort Foods
Body-warming fall and winter cuisine such as thick stew, hot soup, and fresh baked bread makes the seasonal transition bearable for most people. Pumpkin-flavored drinks and baked goods pop up everywhere and even have a fan-base with Starbucks. Marketers can capitalize on seasonal diet changes even if they don’t specialize in food sales. Offer your customers fresh baked gingerbread cookies or warm hot chocolate when they enter your place of business to evoke feelings of comfort and coziness.
7. Begin Post Summer Dieting
Though comfort foods and food in general are consumed more during fall and winter, consumers are also looking to improve their diets to recover from summer vacation eating, drinking, and leisure. With colder weather there is more time to get in shape and tone up for the next summer of fun. There is an opportunity to market to consumers to eat more healthy foods and utilize indoor exercise equipment and gyms.
8. Plan Extended Trips
The Unites States Department of Transportation declares that long-distance travel is highest during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Most people arrange trips for a minimum of six days during Thanksgiving, increasing the number of long-distance trips by 54% during this period; the number increases by 23% during Christmas and New Year’s, compared to the rest of the year. You can market to travelers, even if you don’t own a travel agency. Appeal to consumers in one or all stages of travel — booking tickets, packing, car rentals, gas and food purchases, and entertainment.
9. Make Back to School Purchases
Most back-to-school shopping occurs in August (55% of respondents). Almost 1/3 of parents plan to wait until school starts to shop to get better deals. Purchases include clothing, school supplies, health and beauty items, tech, and mobile devices, with reports indicating that parents of children ages K-12 will spend an average of $630 dollars on these items. Start your back-to-school marketing campaigns early and continue the campaign well into the fall months.
10. Buy More Items For College
Back-to-school shopping continues into the college years. The 2015 Rubicon Project survey found that parents of college students will spend $1,100 dollars per child in back-to-school items in 2015. 56% of parents surveyed stated they will spend more than last year. Electronic and computer-related equipment will be the frontrunners this year, with spending at $346 per family.
As the weather cools, fall sports start to heat up. In 2014 alone, soccer ball sales in the U.S. totaled $598.2 million dollars, basketball equipment sales totaled $258 million dollars, and football equipment brought in $136.5 million dollars.
12. Get Wrapped Up In Football Frenzy
Loyalties to NFL and college football teams often become an obsession. Recent studies have shown that more money is spent on sporting goods and memorabilia than the actual sporting event itself — more than $8 billion dollars are spent on sports apparel during football season. Join the frenzy and try to capitalize on all of the excitement in your marketing campaign this fall and winter.
13. Spend More Time at Sports Bars
No man is an island, and that is especially true during football season when bars and restaurants see increased business. Bars and restaurants become microcosms of high-energy when it’s not conducive to attend a game in person. Market to this crowd with discounted drinks and appetizers; host fantasy football leagues and social media events; or create an event-inspired menu.
14. Invest in Holiday Party Catering
More money is being invested in holiday party catering now that the economy has improved. In 2014, 89% of human resources professionals stated they would be calling catering companies to host their holiday parties, with 1/3 of companies increasing their catering and party budget by 10%. Private parties are also utilizing more catering services, with consumers reporting they would be spending 22% more on entertaining at home.
15. Increase Organization at Home
Studies have shown that people spend, on average, six minutes a day searching for their keys and 55 minutes a day looking for lost or misplaced items. In addition, 80% of what people own never gets used. When school starts back up and fall and winter have arrived, families tend to get more organized at home. The home organizing and storage products industry raked in $8.5 billion dollars in sales in 2014. Consumer demand is steadily growing with the economy.
16. Purchase Cold Weather Items
Cold weather brings with it the need for specific purchases such as coats, winter clothing, boots, snow shovels, plows, snow tires, even travel (to escape to warmer destinations) and an increased need for marketers to plan accordingly. Online purchases of groceries, fast food, movies, and delivery services spike during harsh winter months as people don’t want to brave icy roads and snow. Businesses that flourish during this time include: snow removal services (plowing, de-icing, and hauling), hardware stores, winter clothing companies, laundry pick-up services, and travel agencies.
17. Are Offered Better Deals When Car Shopping
Car dealers usually offer the best deals toward the end of the year. While May and July are the highest automotive search months, the best discounts are normally offered at the end of the year. In 2015, Labor Day was the best day to purchase a car. Great offers and incentives were offered to potential buyers as dealers were looking to move old inventory out to make room for new models.
18. Get Better Home Prices
It’s well known that winter is a buyer’s market, and home prices are lower. Summer months are usually the preferred season for consumers to look for and buy a new house as the weather is nice and there are more options. However, savvy home buyers know that the winter season brings with it lower home buying prices and less competition.
19. Remodel Their Homes
In some parts of the country, consumers take advantage of cold weather to make necessary and desired changes inside their homes. While there are better seasons for some remodeling projects (i.e., deck building, landscaping, additions, new roof, etc.), the colder months provide ample opportunity to replace flooring, paint walls, remodel bathrooms, and get a head start on future warmer season remodeling projects. Marketers can advertise all year long for home improvement projects.
20. Prep for Holiday Parties
Looking good for holiday parties is top priority for most people, especially women. Appointments at hair and nail salons increase in the winter for holiday party preparation. Around $8.54 billion dollars was spent at nail salons in 2014 alone. A U.K. study in 2014 revealed that women spend an average of five hours and 38 minutes getting ready for holiday parties. Shopping for formal wear and accessories also increases in preparation for holiday parties, with purchases in the apparel and accessory categories increasing by 5% in 2014.
21. Increase Limo and Uber Use
Limo and Uber use greatly increases in the fall and winter months, especially around the time of holiday parties. Uber demands peak late at night and at the same time DUI/alcohol incidents peak, indicating that more people are using driving services to avoid driving drunk.
22. Invest in Weather-proof Windows
Energy-efficient window purchases increase during the fall and winter seasons as weather-stripping and energy-efficient windows can help save consumers money and bring comfort and warmth in colder months. Also, filling air gaps, replacing weather stripping, and replacing summer windows with storm windows are some of the other ways energy costs can be lessened.
23. Call in Help For Roof and Siding Repair
In some parts of the country hurricanes batter homes and cause very expensive damage that requires the expertise of roofing and siding companies. These companies can also help with hurricane damage prevention and winter preparation. Winter storms, ice, and rain take a toll on houses, and consumers are more than willing to make necessary improvements to their homes.
24. Utilize HVAC Companies to Prep for Winter
Prepping for winter can also include calling in an HVAC company that will help to provide thermal comfort and ensure acceptable indoor air quality. Prepping for winter can save consumers money, decrease energy use, and preserve the life of HVAC systems. HVAC companies are most utilized during extreme temperatures — very hot and very cold. Market early to target future consumers.
25. Wrap Up Year-End Business — B2B
As the 4th quarter winds down during the winter months, businesses will also begin to wrap up year-end business, make next year annual budget plans, and marketing decisions for 2016. Take advantage of the time and start planning early. Look at revenue from 2015, and analyze marketing campaigns from the year to decide what did and didn’t work. Begin 2016 with a smart budget and marketing plan/calendar for the year.
Anticipating and understanding consumer behavior changes from season to season will help you to plan and execute a successful seasonal marketing strategy. Plan your campaign well before the weather changes and aim to satisfy your consumers’ changing needs and desires throughout the colder fall and winter months.