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Data shows January is not such a 'slow month' for consumer spending after all

Traditional wisdom dictates that January is the slowest month of the year, as consumers tighten their belts after breaking the bank in the run-up to Christmas, and advertisers adopt similar spending patterns. However, recent studies indicate that there are still windows of opportunity as some shoppers attempt to spend their way out of the January blues, with some advertisers beginning to wake up to this trend.

Data released today (4 January) by eBay Advertising offers insights into the January mindset of consumers, with the company also classifying shoppers during this time into three broad categories: deferred purchasers; long haul listers; and self-indulgent shoppers. 

The e-commerce juggernaut's advertising unit made the classifications based on search data from January 12 months ago - although it expects these trends to be repeated this year, if not increase even further - additionally claiming that these "tribes" represent a lucrative opportunity for advertisers willing to look beyond "sales shoppers" during the opening month of the year. 

Self-indulgent shoppers
EBay Advertising's data reveals that a significant chunk of shoppers treat themselves to combat the month that’s often billed as the most depressing in the calendar. For instance, women made more than 2,400 searches per day for “diamond ring” during week commencing 4 January last year, while the following saw over 35 searches per hour for "champagne flutes" -representing a 40 per cent rise overnight. 

Long haul listers 
Meanwhile, others start to dream of foreign shores, and start to make purchases for their travels later in the year in January, according to eBay. Its insights demonstrated a 72 per cent hike in searches for “beach towel” during the week commencing 4 January 2015, and a jump of 49 per cent in interest for “bikini” compared to the previous week. 

Deferred purchasers
In addition, January shoppers also become more "sensible", with sales of 'white goods', also picking up compared to December, according to the numbers, as consumers begin to make the purchases they deferred over the expensive shopping season. In January 2015 searches for “washing machine” on eBay.co.uk were almost a fifth (19 per cent) higher than in the previous month.  

All of the above statistics reveal the level of opportunity for brands willing to make the extra investment in paid-for media during January, according to eBay Advertising's director Phuong Nguyen. 

He added: "What this data shows is that there are several factors at work in New Year shopping – from wanting to splash out, to an urge to ship out of the country. If brands can identify different shopper mind-sets and use this understanding to be hyper-relevant, they’re in a good position to start 2016 with a bang.” 

Nguyen told The Drum that such data and insights allow brands to understand why consumers are behaving in a certain way, and that the more nimble advertisers are able to take advtange of this through the use of "predicitive targeting".  

Pauline Robson, MediaCome Real World Insight's director, also stipulated the importance of brands working more intelligently to foster relationships with consumers during January, compared to their media spending in the run-up to December. 

She added: "Shopping doesn’t grind to halt at the beginning of a New Year – rather that people are even less inclined to spend time and money on offers that don’t match their priorities. As a result, it’s more important for marketers to forge a closer relationship with audiences and use this knowledge to help and inspire them.”

The importance of mobile media in the post-Christmas period 
Meanwhile, a separate study published recently also revealed the growing importance of mobile in the contemporary marketing mix, particularly during the period between Christmas Day and New Year's Day - when hordes of consumers beging to activate their newly purchased devices. 

Research from native advertising outfit Adyoulike, revealed a huge hike in 'second-screening' - when audiences are simultaneously watching TV, while acessing the internet on an additional connected device - on Christmas Day this year with nearly half (48 per cent) of all UK web traffic generated by mobile devices, up from a third (33 per cent) a year beforehand, between 4pm and midnight.

The study also cited a forecast from Experian which predicted that UK shoppers would spend £728m online on Christmas Day alone, with m-commerce expected to contribute significantly to these numbers. 

Dale Lovell, chief digital officer at Adyoulike, added: “The jump in mobile usage in the UK has led to a huge increase in online activity on Christmas Day. From our research, it looks as if post-Christmas lunch, Brits started feeling cooped up with their families so they turned to their mobiles and started surfing.

Media agencies advise clients against blowing their budgets before Christmas 
It was exactly because of these emerging trends that advertisers are increasingly advising clients to stretch their media budgets beyond the pre-Christmas period (when rate cards are at a premium), as was previously the tradition. 

Speaking previously with The Drum, Paul Dolan, global general manager of Xaxis' performance marketing outfit Light Reaction, dubbed the period as "Phone Activation Day", as new phone owners begin to customise their devices.  

Included in this new mindset was an initiative from Light Reaction, where some of its client's apps are preloaded on to devices distributed by a host of mobile phone operators, with the Xaxis-owned outfit then encouraging users of such devices to "activate" said apps via paid-for media during the post-Christmas period. 

"So much attention is paid on the run-up to Christmas, but the digital activation period really happens over the Holidays themselves," added Dolan.

EBay Advertising's Nguyen also explained how his outfit was adopting a tailored approach towards its individual clients' needs in this respect, in order to take advantage of spikes in consumer behaviour throughout the year in all of the relevant categories. 

Featured by The Drum