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Welcome to Attest Investigates! In this series I use the Attest platform to test anyone’s hypotheses and answer your burning questions.
As a scientist, I am obsessed with experimentation, empiricism and using data to make decisions. We’ll delve into all things consumer research to lift the lid on the most important unknowns for brands, as requested by you!
Whether or not the intricacies of recent US and UK supply chain issues passed you by, the likelihood is that you felt their effects. Either as a consumer or as a brand you’ve probably seen some empty shelves or had to revisit a product launch.
And for retailers, the challenges presented by supply chain woes couldn’t have come at a more crucial time – in the build up to Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Christmas, three of the biggest shopping events of the year.
So have consumers changed their festive shopping plans in light of supply chain issues? Here’s my hypothesis for this edition of Attest Investigates: while they might face some shopping difficulty, people on the whole will stick to their usual Christmas shopping timelines.
Let’s find out, by asking consumers directly.
In mid November 2021 we surveyed US and UK nationally representative audiences of 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Brits. Our original supply chain submission for this research came from the UK but since Black Friday is also a massive deal in the US, we’ve made this a transatlantic affair.
Over on the Attest dashboard you can see the full results and delve into demographics to get to the bottom of the data:
In the US 55% of people say supply chain issues haven’t changed how they’ll buy Christmas presents this year, and 61% of Brits said the same. A minor sigh of relief for retailers there – a thin majority shows ‘no change’.
But hold your horses – it’s likely there’ll be some unpredictability around many other people’s Christmas shopping as a result of supply chain challenges.
A significant 43% of Americans say they’ll start their Christmas shopping early because of perceived supply chain challenges. In the UK, 35% said the same.
While this shows that people are still up for splurging during Black Friday, it’s certainly worth brands bearing consumers’ concerns over product availability in mind. For brands, this could translate into an earlier-than-usual start to brands’ Black Friday advertising, and perhaps a nod towards this year’s circumstances in ad messaging, to let customers know you understand their pain.
Not content with just one day’s increased sales, enterprising brands have in recent years stretched consumer events like Black Friday so that they last for days or even weeks – we’ve seen ‘Black Friday Week’, even ‘Black November’. The UK’s traditional Boxing Day sales are now unashamedly referred to as the January sales. Retailers and channels are extending these events from single days to entire periods.
But do consumers whose Black Friday shopping plans have been scuppered by supply chain challenges think the shopping event is too long?
We found a transatlantic divide on this topic!
In the US the people who’ve started their Christmas shopping early because of supply chain woes are more likely to think Black Friday should only last between 1-3 days:
Meanwhile in the UK the same disrupted shoppers seem to be more keen for a lengthy Black Friday event – compared to other Brits they’re keener for Black Friday sales that last for more than one week:
While there are some consistent patterns in consumers’ attitudes to Black Friday sales events, it’d be super interesting to get an even more thorough picture of which market segments prefer which options. We’ve highlighted here some of the generational differences – geographical and other demographic differences would also be key for brands to nail their Black Friday ad spend and product targeting.
Don’t forget you can explore demographic differences in the data over on the Attest dashboard:
I’ve been surprised to learn just how many consumers are changing their Christmas shopping plans because of this year’s supply chain challenges, yet it’s also entirely understandable. It’s certainly valuable for brands to understand how the news agenda can affect buying behaviours. Consumers are responding to media stories – and greater availability of ‘Black November’ and ‘January Sales’ windows – to take advantage and adapt their behaviour accordingly.
Even more interesting is price sensitivity. Here we have a group of consumers responding to supply chain challenges by shopping early – some to avoid missing out on the products they desperately want to get hold of, others simply to exploit discounting that’s ever-more available in the November lead-up to Christmas.
Will the remaining December shoppers – who find the items they want suddenly unavailable, or only available at ‘full whack’ price when heavily discounted only a few weeks earlier – learn in 2021 to pay attention to supply chain challenges and therefore we’ll see an even more permanent shift in behaviour in 2022+? That’s one for future Attest Investigates too!
Get to the bottom of your target consumers’ plans for this shopping season by running some research. With Attest your first survey is free, so give it a go! You might learn something your brand can’t afford not to know.
Jeremy founded Attest in mid-2015, following 9 years leading global teams across industries at McKinsey & Company. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, originally trained as a scientist with a focus on genetics, ecology and animal behaviour, and also helps to improve state primary schools with his charity work.
16 min read
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