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Marketing Consumer Behaviour Christmas

Nielsen identifies 5 new holiday shopper segments

By Scott McKenzie | Founder

November 4, 2020 | 5 min read

The definition of what constitutes a ‘gift’ has changed as economic difficulties and lockdown restraints continue for many. To help brands better understand where the opportunities and challenges lie this season, Nielsen has identified five new consumer groups that have emerged.


With the world in various stages of lockdown, the festive season may be a little tough to recognize this year. So, how should brands align their gifting opportunities?

Combinations of financial constraint and physical constraint are particularly important to recognize. The five consumer groups Nielsen has identified for the holiday season look like this:

1. Constrained and restricted. Already financially constrained or newly constrained having suffered income loss as a result of Covid-19, these consumers have less money to spend. Due to local restrictions on travel, business, and/or social interactions, these consumers have less freedom to physically shop. Online will be key as they shop around for the best deals and assortment.

2. Constrained but free. They have the same financial restraints as the group above. They’re likely to have a savings mindset as they prepare for the festive season, but because they have no physical restrictions, they will have more freedom to celebrate with others. They will be looking for ways to make their money go further with the likelihood of spending time with larger groups of family and friends.

3. Cautious middle. Not yet impacted financially and celebrations are not limited by physical restrictions, these consumers hold fears for worse times ahead. They are more likely to be cautious spenders and may prioritize occasions and gift-giving with those closest to them.

4. Insulated but restricted. Not financially impacted by Covid-19 but festivities will be impacted by local physical restrictions, such as lockdowns. Forced smaller gatherings may curtail normal spending levels but encourage more self-indulgent celebrations. Financial flexibility will drive these consumers to splurge in some ways to compensate for experiences that are no longer possible (eg travel).

5. Insulated and free. Not financially impacted by Covid-19. While their own social interactions may not be restricted, their typical celebrations may be affected by those unable to be with them this year. These consumers are likely to spend the most freely and to exhibit pre-coronavirus holiday behavior. Many will be compensating for luxuries forgone earlier in the year and may be more included to help those less fortunate, especially those close to them.

What does this mean for brands?

Gifting will vary from segment-to-segment in ways they we haven’t seen in the past— at least not at scale.

Among the constrained groups, there will be opportunities for products not typically considered as living in the gift category. For example, ingredients that tie to a surge in home baking, increasingly expensive staples like fresh fruit, and DIY tools and supplies will be more than welcome for some this year.

Additionally, luxury items that no longer fit the everyday household grocery budget will get a strong look. Think wine and liquor, and fresh cheeses, meats and vegetables.

Among the insulated groups there may be expansion opportunities within those categories. For example, one bottle of high-end spirits might not be enough if people are hunkered down over the holidays avoiding bars and restaurants. Insulated shoppers may be looking to purchase multiple bottles for themselves and others.

For all groups, one of those hard-to-get items as demand levels around the pandemic-challenged supply chains could be in vogue. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that masks, sanitizers and paper goods were scarce.

But there is still room for spontaneity, even as people increasingly turn to online for their groceries and gift-giving. Personalized cards available at checkout will be another way to show you care. The online checkout page is also be a place to encourage a gift or donation to those less fortunate.

All told, gift etiquette is being redefined and products that normally would not be in the consideration set may suddenly be filling stockings. In other words, ’gifts’ will be a little different this year.

Scott McKenzie is the global head of the Nielsen Intelligence Unit.

Marketing Consumer Behaviour Christmas

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