Some Christmas shoppers have it all wrapped up by the 1st of December, while others are still rushing around on Christmas Eve. Then there are the bargain hunters who scour the web for the best deals. We also know those family shoppers who take their time to find tjust the perfect gift for a loved one, and the Bohemians who will splash out on the latest shiny trinkets. Businesses that can tell the difference between types of people online, and adapt their advertising and marketing approaches accordingly, can gain a significant competitive edge.

What drives Christmas shoppers?

Many brands and retailers will be facing Christmas with a mixture of excitement and fear. Excitement comes for all the sales opportunities the season brings, and fear emerges for profit margins, as discounts and offers are rolled out to fight off the competition.

Of course, price is not the only deciding factor for customers and prospects. Every consumer – offline and online – is a living and breathing human being with a lifetime of experiences and a distinctive set of character traits. Personality is a key shaper of consumer behaviour, playing a huge role in governing how people respond to products, brands, advertising, promotions, onsite design, selection, pricing and much more besides. But with little or no way of understanding the personalities of shoppers streaming past the tills or browsing the website, brands and retailers can only try to outshout – or out-discount – the competition.

Using technology for customer understanding

Technologies that improve the ability to identify online visitors have helped brands and retailers to enhance their segmentation and tailor their marketing approaches accordingly. But conventional data can only reveal what online customers are doing, where and when – not who they are or what will appeal to them. Brands and retailers want to know how different kinds of people respond to their advertising, and their true buying motivations. The ultimate aim is to reach prospects on an emotional level, so that they become customers not just for Christmas, but for life.

New approaches are now emerging that can provide a much broader picture of each online consumer, including insight into their psychology. As a result, a growing number of brands and retailers are now taking their first steps into a new world of market segmentation based on what truly motivates people and on what drives their purchasing behaviour. Researchers in psychology have spent decades building rich models based on the “Big Five” personality factors – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.

By determining accurate personality profiles for a statistically significant group of known web users, then comparing their web browsing and purchasing habits with those of unknown users, it is possible to accurately infer the personalities of the second group of people. In the normally anonymous online world, this provides unprecedented insight into the likely behaviour and motivations of web visitors.

By using real-time analytics on big data, brands and retailers can see the personalities of online customers and prospects, monitor how they respond to different marketing and advertising approaches, determine the best messaging and approach for each type of customer, and then reach out to new – previously unknown – prospects using intelligent search and retargeting.

Understanding visitor personalities means that brands and advertisers can provide content, messages and offers that are relevant, personalised and meet the emotional needs of customers and prospects. Emotion is a major factor in both impulse-buying decisions and long-term brand loyalty. Knowing how Christmas shoppers feel – about a particular advertising campaign, a set of products or the service they receive – can help businesses ensure maximum competitive differentiation. Most personality types like being sold to, so long as the product or service is relevant to their needs and presented at the right time.

By gathering and using data about the personalities of otherwise unknown online consumers, brands and advertisers can move beyond marketing that appeals to utilitarian concerns around pricing and product selection, and instead appeal to people’s aspirations, self-image and dreams. Naturally, there is less competition and more margin in the second category.

This Christmas represents a huge opportunity not only for delighting existing customers and converting prospects, but also for gaining valuable insights into their year-round buying propensity. As this is the busiest few weeks of the year for most consumer businesses, it offers the prospect of capturing the equivalent of months of data revealing the correlations between purchasing behaviour and visitor personality. When Christmas 2015 comes around, businesses that took the opportunity to determine the personalities of online consumers will have the information they need to create even more compelling customer journeys and experiences.

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