The Candy Report: Easter 2017

We’ve seen the Easter displays in stores since the day after Valentine’s Day. Our kids have survived multiple egg hunts. For those of us who are old enough, we’ve waxed poetic about the retro Cadbury TV commercials with the bunny that clucked like a chicken. Now that the Easter basket grass has settled, it’s time to analyze the data to find out who won the holiday.

Through our proprietary mobile apps, InfoScout captured purchase data during the two weeks leading up to Easter. We also surveyed 500 people during Easter weekend based on actual purchases of Easter candy. This data produced a number of interesting insights.

Which Candy Brands Filled the Most Baskets?

InfoScout shopper data tells us that 9% of the population purchased some type of Easter candy, spending an average of $2.26. While Cadbury and Peeps were clearly the two brands purchased by the most shoppers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Dove Chocolate were the most expensive, followed by Hershey’s and Cadbury.

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But what do people think of first when it comes to Easter candy? When asked what Easter candy first comes to mind, respondents to the InfoScout survey during Easter weekend mentioned Cadbury Eggs, Peeps, and jelly beans above all others.

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Where Did People Buy Easter Candy?

Compared to any product purchased across the United States, we see the strongest index in the Midwest (125) and the least engagement in the West (85) for Easter candy. Interestingly, our data also shows a high “over” index (121) in rural areas of the country, opposite of urban environments (80).

This data confirms that tastes and preferences are not the same for all people and all places. Winning holidays like Easter requires brands and retailers to offer the right products for the right people rather than having the same products in every store.

Walmart and Target Dominate Easter Candy Share of Wallet

Nearly $8 of every $10 spent on Easter candy went to Walmart (40%) or Target (37.9%). In fact, the share of wallet for Easter candy for these two retail giants was nearly 2.5 times higher than their dollar share for any product – clearly Walmart and Target have the right balance of marketing and assortment for Easter!

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Digging into Easter Candy Shopping Trips

Most Easter candy shopping trips were not frantic, last-minute dashes to the store. On average, 17% of shopping trips are for pantry stocking, with more than 20 items per basket. However, this number jumped to 43% when Easter candy was involved, indicating that Easter candy was part of a larger, weekly trip.

Overall, about seven in 10 Easter candy shopping trips involved the purchase of more than 10 items. The basket also sheds light into the type of trip being made as the top five products sharing basket space with Easter candy were greeting cards, energy drinks, writing supplies, vegetables, and soft drinks.

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Our survey confirmed that very few shoppers run out for goodies on Easter morning. About half shop two or three days prior to Easter, while 35% shop three to 10 days ahead of the actual holiday, and 9% shop even earlier.

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This data shows that brands have time to market to and engage with shoppers during the days and weeks leading up to Easter. Most shoppers (77%) plan ahead to spoil their own kids and grandkids, rather than pick up random products at the last minute.gifting-easter-2017

3 Key Takeaways from Easter 2017

1. “One size fits all” is not a winning formula. Product preferences vary, sometimes significantly, from region to region across the country. Understanding these dynamics and preferences can be a major competitive advantage.

2. Lower risk translates to higher sales. The massive share of wallet for Easter candy won by Walmart and Target shows that people are confident these retailers not only have plenty of Easter candy, but also many other products. This allows shoppers to consolidate trips and simplify the shopping experience.

3. Procrastination is not always the rule. When it comes to Easter, shopping is usually a thought-out process and part of larger, weekly trips that occur during the weeks before the holiday weekend. With careful planning, brands have plenty of time to win the holiday.

Unwrapping Halloween: Candy, Kids and Shopping Behavior

Assuming I can avoid the treats until halloween :) On another note... I have decided to rename what I do to "photoadayish" as that is more accurate haha.

When we go trick-or-treating with our children or grandchildren, each house has an overflowing bowl of candy, along with the occasional stickers, pencils and erasers. We make sure the kids say “trick-or-treat” and “thank you,” and we move on to the next house so the kids can add to their Halloween loot.

Of course, here at InfoScout, we see that giant bowl of candy and want to know the story behind it. We analyzed receipt images of purchase data captured by our proprietary mobile apps during Halloween shopping occasions throughout the month of October. We broke them down into two categories: early bird shoppers, who shopped October 1-15, and last minute shoppers, who shopped October 16-31. We also wanted to find out the impact of having kids on those shopping trips.

There was no significant difference between early bird and last minute shoppers in terms of demographics such as gender, ethnicity, generation, income or education level. We also noticed consistency in four key metrics:

  • Percentage of Households Buying One Brand: 39% for early bird, 43% for last minute
  • Average Number of Candy Units per Trip:1 for both early bird and last minute
  • Average Candy Spend per Trip: $5.04 for early bird, $5.75 for last minute
  • Average Basket Size: $53.93 for early bird, $53.05 for last minute

The small increase in candy spend per trip for last minute shoppers suggests that these customers didn’t have time to look for the best deals. They likely either had to buy whatever candy was available at stores where they were shopping for other things, or just take whatever candy was left, even if it was a little more expensive.

One obvious takeaway from these four metrics is that the money spent on candy only represents about 10% of total spend during these shopping trips. So what exactly are these Halloween shoppers buying?

Early Bird Halloween Shoppers

Looking across all early bird shoppers, we see the candy brands we are all familiar with being bought the most.

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Customer affinity was highest for the following product categories during early bird shopping trips:

  • Party Favors
  • Marshmallows
  • Stickers
  • Meat and Poultry
  • Snack Mixes
  • Indoor Decor
  • Writing Supply
  • Paper Tableware
  • Cake Toppings

High affinity for products such as party favors, meat and poultry, indoor décor and writing supplies would indicate that many early bird shoppers were planning to host a Halloween party, which would typically occur during the week before Halloween.

Last Minute Halloween Shoppers

M&M’s was the clear candy winner of the Halloween shopping season, finishing in first place by a relatively large margin among both early bird and last minute shoppers.

Customer affinity was highest for the following product categories during last minute shopping trips:

  • Party Favors
  • Bowls
  • Snack Mix
  • Diet Food/Drink
  • Paper Tableware
  • Plastic Containers
  • Straws
  • Cake Toppings
  • Boys/Girls Tops and Bottoms

Clearly, there is some overlap between products purchased by both early bird and last minute shoppers as many of these products are typically found in the same or nearby aisles during the weeks leading up to Halloween.

How Kids Impact Shopping Trips

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Interestingly, the amount spent on candy dropped when children were present, but the average basket ring increased across the board. This would indicate that parents shopping with kids may have tried to avoid candy aisles, but increased their purchases of other items.

M&M’s still rules the day, whether kids are present or not. The top candy brands continue to capitalize on their heritage and brand recognition. While Twix was introduced to American consumers in 1979, the other candy brands purchased most often during the Halloween season – M&M’s, Hershey, Snickers, Kit Kat and Reese’s – are at least 75 years old. All are owned by either Hershey or Mars.

Is false pessimism about the economy fueling support for Trump?

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Trump supporters are 44% more likely than Clinton supporters to claim that they’re paying significantly more for groceries over the last year. But in fact, they’re paying less.

This election season, it’s been widely reported that Trump supporters are much more likely than Clinton supporters to hold the opinion that the American economy is doing much worse this year than a year ago.  To understand this phenomenon, InfoScout decided to peel back the onion to better understand whether or not individual Trump supporters might actually be facing a different economic experience than their Clinton supporting counterparts.

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To perform this study, InfoScout surveyed nearly 2,000 consumers who have been using one of the company’s mobile apps (e.g., Shoparoo & Receipt Hog) to submit pictures of their receipts after every shopping trip for more than one year.   These consumers were asked a series of questions related to their views on social issues, the economy and especially their perception of price inflation versus one year ago.  Once a survey respondent’s economic perspective was captured, they were then asked whether or not they were planning to vote, and if so, which party they are affiliated with and which candidate they planned to support.   

For each of the 1,842 individual respondents who stated that they were planning to vote in Tuesday’s election, InfoScout identified purchases of the exact same grocery item in both the most recent three months ending October 31, 2016 and in the same three month period one year ago.  The prices paid for these identical items at the exact same stores (e.g., a 12.25oz box of Honey Nut Cheerios from Target) were then compared on a year-over-year basis.

The data clearly indicates that overall prices for the same items are down from a year ago and in fact are down slightly more for the Trump supporters studied due to geo-demographic attributes.  Taken by itself, this is not a very interesting or insightful finding, but when we combine these shopping behaviors with the attitudes expressed by these voters, the results are quite illuminating.

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Despite paying less for their groceries, 52% of Trump supporters surveyed believe they are paying more for their groceries now than they were a year ago.  By contrast, this number falls to 36% for supporters of Hillary Clinton.  This means that Trump supporters are 44% more likely than Clinton supporters to falsely believe that grocery prices are on the rise.  This false pessimism may be fueling their drive for a change of party in the White House – especially if Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is seen as a continuation of the current administration.  Perhaps more concerning for the Clinton campaign is that undecided voters appear just as likely as Trump supporters to incorrectly assert that they are paying more at checkout.  Clinton’s White House pursuit may very well depend on her ability to convince undecided voters that perhaps the economy isn’t so bad after all.

The Real Story Behind Macy’s Sales Declines and Store Closures, Part 2

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In the previous post, we uncovered some of the driving factors behind recent sales declines at Macy’s, one of America’s oldest and most iconic retailers. These struggles have resulted in two announcements of mass store closures within the past year.

InfoScout analyzed the shopping occasions of 12,801 Macy’s shoppers between June 2015 and June 2016, using our proprietary mobile apps to capture physical and digital receipt images of customer purchase data. We also supplemented this data by surveying 499 Macy’s shoppers to get firsthand accounts of their experiences and find out why Macy’s is losing share of wallet in its physical stores.

Our research uncovered a number of revealing facts and trends about Macy’s shoppers, which we discussed in Part 1:

  • 37% are shopping less frequently at Macy’s.
  • 32% haven’t shopped at Macy’s within the last six months, causing Macy’s to miss out on key seasonal purchase cycles.
  • The top frustration of less frequent Macy’s shoppers is high prices, cited by 50% of shoppers.
  • Other frustrations include store location (23%), customer service (15%), product selection (12%), and poor store organization and merchandising (10%).

 

Purchase data from actual Macy’s shoppers shows that the challenges facing Macy’s go deeper than “people would rather shop online.” Competition from e-commerce is certainly a challenge for all brick-and-mortar retail stores, but InfoScout data proves e-commerce is far from the only challenge that is causing Macy’s share of wallet to shrink.

Explaining Macy’s Low Share of Wallet and Where Their Customers Are Going

Of 21,776 panelists who purchased merchandise in the apparel, electronics, entertainment, health and beauty, sports, and toys categories, 15,494 purchased these products at Macy’s stores. That translates to a closure rate of 71%. But as we look further down the leakage tree, we see that Macy’s brick-and-mortar stores only own a 6% share of wallet.

If Macy’s owns 6% share of wallet, who’s getting the other 94%? The top two beneficiaries of Macy’s struggles are mass retail giants Walmart and Target at approximately 17% and 16%, respectively, followed by Best Buy (7%), Kohl’s (6%) and Costco (5%). Only 6% of purchase dollars are going to Macys.com.

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The Amazon effect is not as significant as one might expect, with the online retailer earning less than 4% share of wallet for Macy’s brick-and-mortar shoppers. However, when InfoScout analyzed the purchase data of Macy’s lapsed shoppers – those who hadn’t shopped at Macy’s in the last six months – we found that these shoppers increased their spend at Amazon by 10% after they stopped shopping at Macy’s.

While e-commerce is certainly a challenge, the data mentioned previously shows that more Macy’s customers are shopping at other brick-and-mortar stores than online. InfoScout confirmed this trend in a survey of Macy’s customers, who were asked where they have been shopping or will be most likely to shop for items that they would normally purchase at a Macy’s store.

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52% said they would turn to non-department stores such as Walmart, Target or Kohl’s, while 33% said they’ll go to other department stores such as Nordstrom, JC Penney or Neiman Marcus. 23% said they would go to apparel retailers such as Gap, H&M or Forever 21.

Of course, e-commerce is getting its fair share of business from Macy’s shoppers. 31% of survey respondents said they’ll shop at Amazon. 19% will shop at another department store website, 18% will shop at an apparel retailer website, and only 16% will go to Macys.com. This would indicate that the frustrations experienced in Macy’s stores are causing many consumers to abandon Macy’s completely, both in-store and online.

What Can Macy’s Do to Stop the Bleeding?

When shoppers were asked what would motivate them to shop at Macy’s more often, 55% said they could be swayed by easy-to-use coupons and promotions. Better product selection came in second at 15%. 10% would be encouraged by better everyday value on merchandise.

When those who claim to be shopping less at Macy’s were asked how they would feel if Macy’s closed their stores, 54% said they wouldn’t care. 41% would be sad and miss Macy’s. 5% said they would be happy and that it’s time for Macy’s to close. The sentiments of those who shop at Macy’s as often as they always have are more positive. 61% would be sad, 37% wouldn’t care, and only 2% would be happy about it.

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Clearly, the majority of frequent Macy’s shoppers are loyal to the brand, as are a large percentage of those who are shopping less frequently at Macy’s. Collectively, these customers represent a major turnaround opportunity for Macy’s.

For shoppers who are frustrated with pricing and location, offering targeted promotions and discounts for both in-store and online purchases could drive incremental purchases. Also, issues related to selection and merchandising must be addressed. While a large percentage of Macy’s customers are shopping online, not enough are shopping at Macys.com. By delivering a seamless, omni-channel experience, Macy’s can win more online dollars.

Simply attributing store closures and sales declines to the growth of e-commerce is an incomplete, oversimplified rationalization. While a 16% closure rate and 6% share of wallet are disappointing, they also represent tremendous upside for a legendary brand like Macy’s to increase those numbers. Macy’s and other retailers that are struggling with in-store performance need to dig deep into customer behavior and purchase data and adapt accordingly to retain customers and grow sales.
 
InfoScout uses proprietary technology and targeted surveys to provide valuable insights into shopper behavior, purchasing decisions and industry trends. Contact us to schedule a free demo and learn how InfoScout can help you build revenue and enhance your brand.

 

Lessons from Sports Authority, Part 1: What Went Wrong?

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After nearly 30 years as a sports retail powerhouse, Sports Authority will soon cease to exist. Burdened with $1.1 billion in debt, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in March. After failing to secure financial assistance, Sports Authority announced in May that all 463 of its stores would be closed and liquidated by August.

The demise of this once-great retailer begs a simple question. What went wrong?

The company admitted that it had been slow to “react to changing consumer trends.” The crushing debt that Sports Authority has carried since being purchased by a hedge fund 10 years ago surely didn’t help. Various analysts and commentators have weighed in on the matter, pointing to everything from a dull shopping experience to a lack of uniqueness.

InfoScout decided to get the real story from the people whose experiences and perceptions matter most – actual Sports Authority customers.

Using receipt images of actual customer purchase data captured by our proprietary mobile apps, we analyzed more than 17,000 Sports Authority shopping occasions during a 52-week period. We also conducted a survey of more than 300 Sports Authority shoppers.
The problem clearly wasn’t customer service, which is an easy scapegoat when things go south. 56% of survey respondents rated Sports Authority’s customer service as very good or excellent. Only a handful said customer service was fair (8%) or poor (2%).

Our research revealed three primary reasons for Sports Authority’s downfall.

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You Want Me to Pay What?

When asked to identify issues or frustrations experienced while shopping at Sports Authority, nearly half (49%) of survey respondents pointed to high prices, which was more than three times higher than the next highest contributing factor. Not only were prices deemed too high, but consumers said coupons didn’t work for the most popular brands, making them virtually useless. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for retailers to push out coupons and special offers without ensuring their relevance to shoppers.

Price transparency on the web allows people to compare prices in a matter of seconds. Many shoppers know what they should be paying before they walk into a store. Sports Authority failed in large part because its pricing was not competitive – and its customers knew it.

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

30 % of respondents said they were frustrated by merchandising issues, including a lack of desired products or brands (14%), products in the right size (11%), and overall selection (5%).

The reality is that we live in an environment of a rapid convergence of channels, with limitless aisles that can be instantly accessed from our mobile devices. Failing to fully understand and deliver the correct merchandise is a fatal mistake for retailers.

The continued fragmentation of our retail environment, customer tastes and general trends makes the merchandising function more and more complex.

Missing with Millennials

Millennials now represent the largest segment of the U.S. population. According to customer data generated by InfoScout mobile apps, Sports Authority hadn’t done nearly enough to win over Millennials. Among loyal Sports Authority customers – those who shopped at Sports Authority at least five times per year – just 22% were Millennials. Gen Xers (66%) outnumbered Millennials three to one. This was a major miss that clearly had an impact on the company’s bottom line.

InfoScout data and insights clearly show us that high prices, poor selection and the failure to attract Millennials represented a three-headed monster that Sports Authority was unable to overcome. In the next post, we’ll discuss where Sports Authority’s former customers are planning to go for sporting goods and apparel and what can be done to earn their business.

How Politics Can Shape Our Grocery Shopping Behavior

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Although they wave the same American flag, Democrats and Republicans often hold clashing opinions on a seemingly infinite number of issues, such as immigration, health care reform, and global warming. Knowing someone’s political identity makes it easy to predict which side they’ll adopt in these debates. But can this information also be used to predict which products shoppers will buy at the grocery store?

 

To explore this idea, InfoScout identified over 3,000 panelists who agreed to share their data on the celebrities and public figures they follow on Facebook. Panelists who follow liberal pages like Hillary Clinton were coded as Democrats; Trump followers were coded Republican. Afterwards, we compared the purchase behavior of the Democrats and Republicans using our Household Affinity report. This tool helps us determine which brands and categories most strongly differentiate the two shopper groups.

 

Below, we summarized our findings according to which brands/categories are disproportionately bought by either Democrat and Republican households, as well as the magnitude of this effect (i.e. higher numbers represent greater political skew). Percentages were determined by calculating the relative ratios of Liberal and Conservative households purchasing a particular brand or category. Specifically, we divided the % of Liberals buying and the % of Conservatives buying, with the higher percentage in the numerator. The values can be interpreted as, “Liberals are 37% more likely to have purchased a Kashi product in the past year compared to Conservatives.”

 

The data suggest that progressive and traditional values extend not only to our political beliefs, but to our grocery baskets as well. Republican households tended to buy family-oriented brands (such as Malt-o-Meal and Capri Sun) as well as traditional American foods (like white bread and sugar cookies). By contrast, Democrats tended to over-index on products that are positioned as more healthful and organic, such as Kashi and kale. Democrats also skewed towards products that are more culturally diverse, like flatbread, jalapeños, and mangos.

 

Finally, we also found that the Altoid mints brand was among the top “bipartisan products”. In other words, Altoids are purchased at nearly identical rates between Democrats and Republicans. Perhaps the greatest lesson learned from this exercise is that true political cooperation may finally be achieved by focusing on what makes us similar rather than different from each other. This summer, consider reaching across the aisle and offering your fellow American a cool, refreshing mint.

Graduates Win with Aunts and Uncles


 
Graduation Season is here! The time to celebrate a lifetime of accomplishments and the beginning of a promising new stage. Parents couldn’t be prouder, Grandma is definitely going to cry, and aunts and uncles apparently get generous.

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According to one of our recent surveys, more graduation gifts are purchased for nieces and nephews than anyone else. This makes sense, especially in bigger families where people likely have have more nieces and nephews than sons or daughters. So what are they gifting?

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Graduates received mostly gift cards this year, with greeting cards and actual cash also among the popular gift-giving options. Other gifts like coffee and cars—much needed elements of adulthood—get honorable mentions. Female grads were more likely to receive flowers, while male grads were more likely to receive electronics.
 

When deciding what to gift a graduate, the number one consideration was “something that would be useful” in the next stage of their life. One curious data point also related to this decision is that uncles and aunts were more likely to ask the family and friends of the grad for gift recommendations, while mom and dad were more likely to ask the grad directly.

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Gift card purchasers are twice as likely to buy a greeting card in the same shopping trip during graduation season than during the Christmas season. The difference suggests that shoppers try to get gift and greeting cards in the same trip for graduates, while spreading the purchase of those two categories across more trips during the holiday period.

 

Another tip for all retailers out there: an overwhelming 61% of shoppers return to buy their graduation greeting cards at the same retailer where they bought their Mother’s Day card. So if you’re capturing that Mother’s Day shopper, you’re more likely to capture the graduation greeting card shopper.

 

As to which retailers people prefer for purchasing their greeting cards, the usual suspects of Walmart and Target show up on top. There is also a considerable showing from the dollar channel (Dollar Tree and Dollar General), which achieved significantly high unit sales but underperformed in dollar sales, a common trait for the channel due to its usually lower price points.

 

In summary, parents need to step up their gifting game. Spoiling uncles everywhere are going for the cash game while parents skew towards the traditionally more emotional and thoughtful greeting cards.
 
As a marketer, are you interested in knowing more about seasonal gifting in your category or other aspects of shopping behavior? Are you curious about which brands of gift cards these graduates received? Get in touch with us at contactus@infoscoutinc.com and we’ll be happy to help you out!

Procrastinators Are Not Who You Think They Are

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Different groups of people purchase in different ways. It is usual to study shoppers based on criteria like geo-location, demographics, or previously purchased products. But how about looking at their purchase behavior based on how timely they are?

 

Having a purchase panel that you can survey on-the-fly makes shopper group creation a breeze, enabling you to combine claimed data from surveys with behavioral data from receipts. In this particular case, we identified shopper groups of “early birds” and “procrastinators” by asking if they had or had not filed taxes by April 1st.

 

Procrastination is often associated with young millennials. A quick attempt at a google search would show that much.
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To our surprise, nothing could be farther from the truth. Who were the procrastinators? The profile of the procrastinator turned out to be mostly Gen-Xers (50.4%), at the extreme ends of the income spectrum (below $25k and above $125k) with no children. One finding that did align with the laid-back stereotype of the region, is that people on the West coast (47.4%) procrastinate more than those in other regions.

 

What do their receipts tell us about their purchase behavior? Procrastinators likely often find themselves in situations where they need to pick up something quickly from a Drug Store or Convenience Store. Meanwhile, early birds seem to plan their purchases better and tend to buy more at the mass merchandiser channel.

 

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In a curious case of routine dragging, the procrastinators were also more likely to make their shopping trips after 5pm while the early birds preferred to get their shopping done before 3pm.

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When it comes to the brands they purchase, procrastinators may not be buying the brands you might normally associate with slackers. Instead, they showed higher affinities to health-conscious brands like Kind and Nature’s Bounty. Early birds were more likely to purchase brands like Nutella, Totinos, and Funyuns, which, although delicious, are not necessarily associated with a healthy diet.

 

Another curious behavior we noticed while looking across categories was that procrastinators drag their feet when buying Christmas cards—making this purchase the same week of December 25th, while early birds were already done two weeks before.

 

When looking at the household category, it seems like the procrastinators make an effort to turn a new leaf with a New Year’s resolution to clean the house, but they revert to their old habits fairly quickly as they begin spring cleaning later than the early birds.
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Some takeaways for marketing execution are to plan in-store events and promotions earlier in the day to appeal to early birds and later in the day to reach procrastinators. The latter are often late to the game around holidays and other important retail events, with the only exception being Valentine’s Day. Capturing early-week holiday promotions is important, but there is a secondary opportunity when this type of shopper finally makes it to the store.

 

In summary, make sure to re-examine how you perceive generations overall and give extra thought as to how they interact with your brands and categories.

 

As a marketer, are you interested in the “Why” behind some of the behaviors discussed here? Are you curious about which brands in your categories are favored by procrastinators or early birds? Get in touch with us at contactus@infoscoutinc.com and we’ll be happy to help you out!