Changes in human behaviour or the changing of the seasons can have a profound effect on search and buyer habits. This includes how, what and why consumers search and buy. To ensure your search activity is making you the most money, it needs to change to match these seasonality changes.
How Human Behaviours Alter Consumer Habits
Consumer buying behaviour is often divided into 4 categories:
- Impulse – no research
- Routine or Programmed – frequently purchased, little research
- Limited Decision – occasional purchases, some research
- Extensive or Complex Decision – high involvement purchases with lots of research.
When consumers go through these buying decisions, they’re further influenced by additional factors:
- Personal – age, occupation, economic situation, lifestyle and life cycle position
- Psychological – consumer’s wants, which are influenced by motivating factors, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and learnings, and basic human needs, which include physiological needs, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem and self-actualisation
- Social – social class and role in the household (who is dominant and holds the buying power)
- Cultural – The values, ideas and attitudes generally accepted by the consumer’s society. An individual’s culture and sub-culture, which determine many factors including where people travel, live, what they eat and what they wear.
And ultimately, all of these factors are influenced by the world around us. For example, when a popular television show features a specific product, for example, sales of that product can skyrocket. Or a change in the seasons causes consumers to change the items and information they seek out online.
The effects aren’t always as direct as the previous example, however. For example, in 2009 more Australian babies were born in October than in any other month. Therefore, it’s safe to assume the search for and purchase of baby related products and information would increase around this time.
How Holidays and the Seasons Change Search Behaviours
Seasons, holidays and the traditions they trigger can have a profound effect on consumer’s search behaviour and consequently your business. For some, seasonal changes can directly affect sales. For example, consumers are more likely to buy warm jackets in winter. In the month before school starts, the sale of individually packaged juices and snacks might increase.
Other times, the effects can be more indirect. For example, the start of university might trigger an increase in decorating supplies and home items. Why? Empty nesters will be redecorating rooms that are now empty and students on their own for the first time need items to furnish their new homes.
Autumn is the busiest season for home sales. Considering the popularity of October as a birth month, it’s possible that pregnancy triggers the need to create a more permanent home. This requires further investigation, but it’s certainly an indirect trend to watch.
Geography and the passing of time can also create holiday trends. Last Christmas, Google pinpointed important dates that ecommerce sites should prepare for by adjusting their paid search and SEO campaigns:
- The last day Australians can order items from overseas and still have guaranteed delivery before Christmas
- The day users perform the most mobile searches in search of physical store locations
- The last day to order online from Australian sites to guarantee Christmas delivery
- Boxing day sales.
This year for the first time is the “Click Frenzy” Online 24 Hour Mega Sale. Retailers should prepare for an influx of searches on key items and add keyword variations to ensure an online presence for this great retail opportunity.
By increasing ad spending around key Christmas dates, and emphasising the time message and urgency in the ads, you could dramatically increase sales. And in many instances, Christmas shopping makes up a significant portion of a company’s annual sales.
According to Nielsen, the National Retail Federation and ZippyCart, the holidays are expected to trigger increases in a number of product sales online. In 2010 for example, these included a 9% increase in online gift card sales and an 8% increase in toys and tech products.
Google also notices regular trends around the holiday season. For example, searches for ereaders have more than doubled for the last three years in the months leading up to Christmas. Searches for winter boots, however, don’t begin to increase until January and peak in May at more than four times January’s numbers.
How to Identify Seasonal and Holiday Related Changes
Before you can identify trends, you need to profile your target audience. This profile should include:
- Demographic Variables – education, occupation and income as well as socioeconomic status, age, gender, and race
- Psychographic Variables – Your target audience’s lifestyle, personality, morals, values and attitude
- Geographic Variables – Climate, population, topographic details, location, etc
- Consumer Behaviour Traits – The amount of decision making power, benefits and values most important to the individual, as well as brand loyalty levels, usage rates, etc
- Visitor Statistics – Frequency, duration and profit value of their visits.
Next, profile the industry. Look at your analytics and identify trends. Determine the popular styles and types of information/products/services. Assess your competitor’s habits and record any other insights that may be of use to you.
Armed with this information, you can segment your audience into specific groups:
- Product/service types
- Geographic regions
- Sales channels
- Branches, departments, sales representatives, etc.
And monitor for trends such as an increase/decrease in:
- Visits, visit duration, pages viewed
- Profits and sales
- Customer churn rates.
With a set of suspected trends, you can compare them to the seasons, holidays and historical data to identify regular seasonal trends.
How to Use These Changes to Your Advantage
Because you know when the trends occur, and which products/services sell better during which seasons, you can adjust your SEO and PPC campaigns accordingly. For example, if you know that blue teddy bears sell the best in the months leading up to Christmas, increase the spending on blue teddy bear keywords during this time and reduce the spending when sales decrease.
If you don’t normally purchase ads, you might consider purchasing them for specific terms around certain dates. For instance, you might buy ads for items such as beach balls and flags just before Australia Day or for plush toys prior to Valentine’s Day.
Even if you don’t sell products or services that match a specific seasonal trend, you can still take advantage of this knowledge by promoting related ones. For example, if you sell baby clothes, you might want to target those who have recently purchased a cot or books on pregnancy. To get the consumer’s attention while they’re in a buying mood, you might even consider purchasing PPC ads for baby items that appear in Gmail when he or she receives conformation or their thank you email.
Remarketing or retargeting can also be extremely helpful. For example, you can remind previous customers of specific dates, recommend gifts that complement gifts they’ve already purchased, or encourage them to buy gifts from you again by offering incentives.
To have successful SEO, PPC and marketing campaigns, you need to go far beyond just optimising for the right keywords. You need to have a thorough knowledge of your industry and target audience and be prepared to adapt to any trends or changes in buyer behaviour like those triggered by the seasons.
To read more about how FirstClick uses seasonality insights in their strategic marketing focus on business ROI, click here.