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Forbes Consulting Group Releases "Holiday Shopping Unwrapped: Holiday Shopper Motivations Revealed" Study

By Simone Oude Luttikhuis
industry news

Study Finds Shopper Anxiety at All-Time High; Identifies Three Key Shoppers Segments


Forbes Consulting Group, a division of Copernicus, the leading market research company that creates direct dialogues with consumers’ emotional brains, released the results of its “Holiday Shopping Unwrapped: Shopper Motivations Revealed” study, finding that consumers are increasingly feeling deep anxiety and apprehension about holiday shopping. The study also found three key shopper segments this season that may impact how retailers target consumers: “Giving Is Love,” “Obligated Posers” and “Utilitarian Grinches.”

The overall excitement for holiday shopping appears to be waning as consumers report putting in less effort when shopping for loved ones with 60 percent reporting strong effort for spouse/partner in 2015, compared to 73 percent in 2011 (19 percent decline) and 65 percent reporting strong effort for children, compared to 73 percent in 2011 (11 percent decline). In addition, shoppers are starting later than ever, possibly in an effort to avoid the anxiety caused by holiday shopping; 38 percent had not begun holiday shopping as of early December, compared to 24 percent in 2011.

Forbes Consulting used MindSight® Motivational Profiling, their proprietary applied-neuroscience technique, to uncover emotional behaviors tied to holiday shopping and to identify three key shopper groups, each motivated by unique emotions. They are:

·         “Giving Is Love” segment – Shoppers who use gifting as a way to show love and gain acceptance, and who want to be admired for giving the best gifts (83% pride themselves on giving gifts no one else would have thought of). This group is also the least likely to put off their holiday shopping. MindSight® detected that holiday gift giving causes this segment anxiety stemming from a fear of isolation and rejection; to guard against such negative feelings, this segment feels it is important to “wow” the recipient, driving them to splurge on luxury items (52%) more than other segments.

o    How retailers can best target this highly prized segment:

-  Promote luxury - Focus advertising on luxury items to attract their attention. They will respond especially well to celebrity-endorsed and “in demand” collections as these provide indications of the “social proof” this segment craves.

- Pin & ‘Gram your way to their list – Create and curate visually inspiring branded posts filled with inspiration for gift giving, including top-rated products, best sellers, and unique items that will help their gifts stand apart.


·         “Obligated Posers” segment – Shoppers who are primarily motivated by avoiding ridicule from peers. This group is notorious for starting late in the season and like to appear as if they’ve spent a lot of money when, in fact, they have not. They view holiday shopping as an obligation (53%) but seek to avoid looking incompetent, therefore spend just enough to create the impression of caring.

o    How retailers can target this segment:

-  Easy-peasy processing – Free shipping, easy returns and recommendations are preferred for this convenience-driven segment.

-  Gift sets for that special someone –Promote gift sets that are easy to grab and appear to have great value at a discounted price. They will especially be attracted to the product(s) beautifully packaged in premium giftwrapping.


·         “Utilitarian Grinches” segment – These shoppers tend to feel so much anxiety during the holiday season that they retreat from the process -- as much as they can get away with. This segment is practical to a fault and when forced to gift, they prefer giving what they believe recipients “really need,” as opposed to want they want or asked for. Given the stress of the in-store experience, this group prefers buying online.

o    How retailers can target this segment:

-  Click-to-buy buttons – Invest in a click-to-buy button package to remove the irritation of a page by page checkout process.

-  Emphasize practicality – Gift cards for “necessities” such as groceries, mass merchandisers, or home improvement stores, align with this segment’s utilitarian bent.

“We were surprised at the increased level of anxiety felt by survey respondents this year, especially given the relatively better health of the economy compared to previous years,” says Dr. Jeremy Pincus, Senior Vice President at Forbes Consulting Group. “It’s possible that renewed fears of terrorism may be showing up as a growing need for feelings of security in the context of holiday shopping.”

Holiday shoppers are increasingly seeking feelings of Security (safety) and Empowerment (freedom), as well as increased desires to feel a sense of Achievement (success) and to avoid feeling Incompetent. These desires come at the expense of traditional social motivations for holiday shopping, such as feeling of Belonging (connecting with others), Nurturance (loving and being loved), and Esteem (being admired by others).

This trend suggests that the Giving is Love segment has actually been shrinking over the past few years (as this segment is defined by high levels of Belonging, Nurturance and Esteem, all in decline). Unfortunately, the trend suggests growth in Security-minded Utilitarian Grinches and Mastery-focused Obligated Posers.

About MindSight:

MindSight is a proprietary technique derived from applied neuroscience that uncovers the specific subconscious emotions driving consumer behavior in realtime. MindSight® has

three key components:

·         The Emotional Discovery Window: Forbes Consulting Group's patent-pending rapid exposure-rapid response technique circumvents the influence of the rational mind – obtaining authentic subconscious emotional insight from consumers.

·         The Leading Model of Human Motivation: Forbes Consulting Group's academically accepted Unified Model of Human Motivation identifies the specific emotions driving consumer behavior – explaining why consumers act as they do. (See David L. Forbes, Ph.D., "Toward a Unified Theory of Human Motivation," Review of General Psychology June 2011).

·         Talking to the Emotional Brain: Forbes Consulting Group's proprietary image library contains hundreds of emotionally evocative images that have been statistically validated to correspond to the Unified Model of Human Motivation – enabling researchers to talk directly to the emotional mind.