This Christmas will be different – Branka Orosnjak, European Managing Partner of brand and consumer insight agency Hall & Partners, reveals two distinct consumer segments that marketers need to appeal to this festive season.

There’s a lot of pressure for retailers and brands to maximise sales in the Christmas period and get back into the black after a challenging year and ahead of any further potential lockdowns or supply chain issues (an issue particularly relevant in a post-Brexit and Covid-stricken Britain). 

Although everyone is looking forward to spending time with loved ones this Christmas and building memories to take us into a new year, in research we conducted exclusively for WARC, it’s clear that this year is a tale of two types of Christmas consumer.

  • Firstly, there are the Excess Escapers who want to have a simpler time at home.
  • Then there are the Frivolity Fanciers who want to ensure that Christmas is the best and brightest it possibly can be after last year’s festivities were ruined for so many.

Brands really need to understand what type of shoppers their customers are if they want to remain relevant and avoid alienating them.

Excess Escapers

People’s values changed during the pandemic. Hall & Partners’ global study, The Value Shift Report, highlighted a cross-generational desire to live more simply and sustainably. Protecting the environment and working together towards a more sustainable future was a top priority and was ranked as the number one value by nearly 70% of consumers worldwide.

Although nearly half of the UK consumers we polled this week said they would be spending the same as in previous years, nearly one in five shoppers (18%) will be actively shifting away from excess and spending less. They will avoid expensive gift buying, seeing it as unnecessary and overindulgent and going against their desire to live more sustainably.

They will also be opting to buy locally and support local business – 23% of shoppers selected this option when asked about Christmas in general this year. With 42% of respondents saying they would be staying at home over Christmas, we can expect to see more focus on small treats and home comforts. 

Excess Escapers may feel a little nausea at the thought of Christmas starting so early. They are worried about the cost of Christmas increasing (24% of respondents selected this as an option) and will actively buy sustainable and environmentally friendly products (18%). Homemade gifting could see a resurgence for this segment.

If your customers are made up of a lot of Excess Escapers you will need to avoid showcasing too much frivolity in your Christmas communications or high frequency of exposure.

Frivolity Fanciers

This segment wants to deck their halls with every trimming and are planning to celebrate in style. They will be planning ahead to make sure that Christmas is the best it can be – buying in all their favourite treats and perhaps a few more.

In our poll, 36% of respondents said they were planning on starting Christmas shopping early this year. And, while nearly half (47%) will be spending the same as in previous years, 10% are planning to spend more this year (7% a little more and 3% a lot more).

They may be travelling – 16% in our poll said they planned to travel over Christmas – and are the least likely to be worried about the cost of Christmas (76%) or whether Covid would impact their plans (73%).

Planning ahead’s ad campaign, This Very Moment, launched earlier this month in the UK and was the first Christmas ad to appear this year. It is a nod to consumers who love to plan ahead – both the Frivolity Fanciers who want to get a head start on the countdown to Christmas in order to make sure they have the most perfect time as well as the Excess Escapers who need to spread the cost of Christmas as inflationary retail prices bite. 

Brands will need to readjust their communications this season to the Christmas tale that their customers are most attuned to. Christmas is still a highly anticipated event, but with a growing number of more conscious consumers as we approach COP26, it would be a mistake to shoot the partridge right out of the pear tree and alienate loyal customers by piping to the wrong tune.