Zeta Data Proves Consumers Shop/Spend More than They Report

Despite gloomy economic predictions, Zeta Data shows average spend and total marketing activity are as strong as ever.

Ever since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, marketers and industry experts alike have been predicting stagnant holiday retail sales. Each year, headlines bemoaning the state of the economy and the anticipated pullback in spending start to inundate the news cycle. And it’s no wonder why. Because shoppers keep telling brands that they’re going to change their previous behaviors and tighten their wallets each holiday season. In fact, when Zeta ran surveys across thousands of shoppers in North America earlier this year  asking consumers about their shopping habits, they reported the following:

  • 37% of consumers claimed they would spend less than $100 on their holiday shopping.
  • 54% of U.S. consumers said Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no longer compelling.
  • 48% of consumers said better product prices, or discounts and coupons, would drive their decision-making process during the holiday shopping season.
  • 28% said they would drastically cut spend to prioritize necessities like groceries, and 35% said they would only spend on necessities instead of gifts this holiday season
  • 37% said they would focus their holiday shopping online, with the rest focused on in-store transactions. A higher amount for online than years prior.

 Pretty stark numbers right? While some of these self-reported numbers from North-American consumers were actualized, many of them didn’t pan out. This is because self-reported data and surveys can be biased. The fact is, even when people are alone in their cubicles or sitting in their home offices, they’ll often respond to surveys to present as a certain way, rather than how they actually act.

 In order to understand how consumers will engage with your brand—from Black Friday through the end of the year—you need to work with a powerful CDP that can help you understand shopping trends in real time. So, we took a look at our own database of 235M+ US consumer profiles to get a more accurate grasp on how people actually shopped during this critical time.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Weekend Shopping Trends

Shopper Turnout Set an All-Time High

Initial reports indicated record-breaking shopper turnout over Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

  • 134.2 million people shopped online this year, topping last year’s total, according to the National Retail Foundation.
  • An additional 121.4 million people shopped in store, reflecting the post-pandemic trend toward online shopping.
  • Over 200 million people shopped over the four days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, setting an all-time record.

Marketing Engagement Soared Compared to Previous Years

This increase in turnout is reflected in consumer engagement across all of the marketing outreach they received during this decisive period. A deep dive of all consumers within the Zeta Marketing Platform (ZMP) revealed:

  • An increase of nearly 25% from last year in terms of total consumer digital consumption–which is measured in the number of marketing emails opened and programmatic ads that were clicked on Black Friday.
  • The total clicks on emails served by marketers increased 11% on Black Friday and 15% on Cyber Monday compared to the previous year.
  • Within the ZMP, we noticed that programmatic impressions increased 44.8% on Black Friday and 63.5% on Cyber Monday compared to the previous year.

Bargains Drove Consumer Spend

 Our initial surveys noted that product pricing, discounts, and coupons were the most important influencing factors for shoppers. And that played out in actual shopping behavior throughout the end of November, as well. Multiple industry experts noted that discounts and reduced holiday staffing dictate behavior regarding in-person spending. This in mind, it’s still important for retailers to highlight any discounts or sales in the interest of overall market sentiment.

Yet Average Spend Per Customer Beat Expectations

In Zeta’s pre-holiday survey of thousands of consumers across North America, almost 40% reported that they planned to spend less than $100 on their holiday shopping this season. We were dubious about this from the start—and for good reason.

Reputable sources noted that average spend topped $300 over just the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, leaving a full month before Christmas to rack up a bill on tidings of comfort and joy. Brands should continue to underscore bargains while remaining leery of a pullback in consumer spending.

And Marketers Stepped Up Their Game to Meet Demand

Finally, marketers took note of the record-breaking turnout this year. And smartly so. Instead of bending their will to many economists who predicted a shrink in e-commerce and traditional spend, they doubled down and focused efforts on their Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing.

When looking at the performance data within the ZMP, we found:

  • 64% YoY increase in omnichannel digital messages served
  • 49% YoY increase in ad impressions served to online shoppers throughout the whole weekend
  • 192% YoY increase in CTV ad impressions
  • Nearly 50% open rate 

If you increased your marketing efforts this year, you aren’t alone. While this is certainly an exciting trend, it also means marketers need to be smarter about reaching consumers with highly personalized, cross-channel messaging

The Key Lies in Truly Understanding Your Customers

 Brands shouldn’t solely rely on what customers claim they want to buy or how they intend to spend. To create effective marketing campaigns, they must combine customer preferences with real-time spending data, both online and in-store. This approach paints a more holistic picture and improves the chances of converting target audiences.

Good news—you’ve got time!  We’ve found that nearly 50% of people plan to start shopping in December (a fact backed up by NRF surveys conducted post Black Friday), with a quarter saying they won’t start shopping until a week before Christmas. Eleventh-hour scramblers, we see you! This still leaves time to make an impact on your bottom line and convince shoppers to make a purchase with you this holiday season. Unsure how? Request a demo, or learn more about how you can effectively market to your target audience here.

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To implement these strategies effectively, brands need the right technology and tools to support their personalization efforts. The Zeta Marketing Platform empowers businesses to offer highly tailored experiences driven by AI.
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