Marketers need to know their customers during this Christmas season

Holiday shopping is upon us. This time of year is essential for brands of all kinds, and many hang their hats on their Q4 sales for the entire year.

It seems holiday shopping starts earlier every year and 2022 is no exception. According to the National Retail Federation, 61% of consumers start holiday shopping by early November. Although shoppers may have less motivation to spend, thanks to inflation and potential recession, there are still effective ways to reach customers this holiday season. Much like consumers looking for the best bang for their buck, marketers, too, are looking to maximize their ad spend. So how do marketers make sure they’re top of mind this holiday season?

Using Epsilon data, we explored the shopping preferences in households with children about how, where and what customers are shopping for. Our demographic data is comprised of 200 million+ consumers and looks at more than 7,000 attributes, and examines not only online shopping behaviors but offline ones as well.

While many trends (such as online shopping) remain constant regardless of locale, some shopping behaviors differ between urban, rural and suburban families. These various insights can help shape holiday strategies for brands and marketers.  

Purchasing power

Nearly 9 in 10 consumers (89%) expect inflation to impact their own holiday shopping. Between inflation and a possible recession, shoppers will likely be savvier with their money this holiday shopping season. Many shoppers stretch their spending throughout the year, with 42% of consumers holiday shopping year-round. This allows consumers to be pickier with what they buy, wait for a great deal or use a coupon/loyalty points.

To match these consumer segments, marketers need to understand what channels their customers are using and how to reach them. Communicating the right messages to the consumers most likely to convert increases the likelihood your marketing will be successful. Reaching consumers on their preferred channel is ideal, too, but reaching them on different channels can lead to better outcomes.

According to Amanda Mangler, Senior Director of Strategic Consulting at Epsilon, “We have found that the more channels a customer engaged with, the 'stickier' they become to that brand. Our focus as marketers, therefore, is to identify the right channels (plural) to optimize engagement and drive the highest level of incremental sales.”  

Online all the time

No surprise here: Consumers are still (mostly) shopping online. According to Epsilon data, more than 80% of people across demographics have made online purchases. In-person shopping has returned, but online remains the leading way consumers browse for products. As shoppers use a mix of in-store and online shopping, marketers need to reconcile online and offline transactions.

Why? The path to purchase for many consumers is increasingly fragmented and falling off the journey can create significant ad waste. This is why having a programmatic digital strategy is increasingly important.  

Different folks, different strokes

When it comes to what they browse, visit and purchase, there are some key differences between the Urban, Rural and Suburban categories. Using these insights, Epsilon can help you maximize your marketing efforts this holiday season.

Urban shoppers crave convenience and luxury

Urban shoppers love the finer things. According to Epsilon data, urban shoppers are more likely to buy luxury goods, are the highest users of online food delivery and are more likely to use streaming TV services.

In general, this demographic is more likely to buy name brand products, including CPG, retail and restaurant brands. When it comes to food, urban consumers are ordering online and purchasing more takeout and delivery. Starbucks and Dunkin’ remain at the top of their food-related purchases, while apps like Postmates remain hugely popular.

They are also more likely than the average U.S. consumer to be interested in name brand fashion and luxury items. This is true across the spectrum: Department stores and beauty brands (Nordstrom, Sephora), grocery chains (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods), and home goods/furniture stores (Crate & Barrel, Sur La Table) are all top stores for urban consumers, according to Epsilon data. Even luxury cars and jewelry rank higher for urban shoppers than their suburban and rural counterparts.

To reach urban households, marketers should consider connected TV (CTV). These shoppers are not only interested in emerging technology and luxury items, but they are also on the go. Reaching these consumers where they are (watching Project Runway while waiting in the back of a Lyft) will be vital for the holiday season.  

Rural shoppers are recreational and home-focused

Unsurprisingly, rural shoppers are much more focused on at-home spending. They’re bargain hunters who will switch brands if the price is right. The typical profile for a rural consumer with children includes shopping at discount stores and focusing on spending their dollars in the home for things like DIY and home projects. They’re also more interested in buying items for the outdoors, like fishing and gardening equipment, including recreational vehicles.

What is somewhat surprising, though, is their spending. Rural shoppers are more likely to be considered “heavy spenders,” buying in higher volume than the average U.S. consumer at a lower frequency, according to Epsilon data. This means a big spend for less items, making stores like Best Buy and Sam’s Clubs popular among these consumers. They aren’t afraid to go big on vacations either: One of the top spots for rural consumers was Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

These consumers want brands that resonate with them and their lifestyle—all for the right price. This is valuable for brands looking to acquire more customers. Using strong identity resolution—like Epsilon PeopleCloud—marketers can identify what messages truly resonate with consumers on their preferred devices when they’re most likely to convert.

Rural shoppers will wait until the price is right, and if you’re unable to recognize a rural consumer’s shopping journey, you might miss them.

Suburban shoppers are family focused who are loyalty driven

Suburban shoppers are an amalgamation of both their rural and urban counterparts. The have a taste for high-end products but remain cost-conscious. They’re also huge fans of loyalty programs and coupons.

The bulk of suburban shopper spending is for their children. Epsilon demographic data shows suburbanites with kids typically have at least two children and frequent stores like Costco, Cold Stone and Pottery Barn Kids. On average, they’re more likely to purchase toys, young adult apparel and gift cards.

This is a solid category for many retailers. Those hoping to capture suburban shoppers need to get serious about their loyalty program offerings. Not only can strong loyalty create customer value and cultivate long-lasting relationships, but loyalty program members spend three times as much as non-members.

Strong performance doesn’t require a holiday miracle

Strong marketing begins with a fully realized understanding of your consumer. Each segment needs something different from brands, and blanket marketing tactics won’t do the trick.

So how can marketers reach each segment in unique ways all at the same time? Identity resolution and activation drive better personalization at scale, meaning brands can customize how they speak to their customers, on which devices and when they’re most likely to convert.

At Epsilon, our CORE ID is the industry’s most accurate, stable, and scalable identity resolution that recognizes 225 million+ U.S. consumers in a privacy safe way. CORE ID works with both online and offline transactions. And combined with our PeopleCloud solution, we can connect billions of online and offline intent signals, all of which narrow down what a person really wants.

Make your marketing work smarter this holiday season and create personalized marketing at scale through Epsilon.