Will Election Distraction Put a Pause on Online Shopping?

As we near the finish line of one of the more unconventional presidential races of our time, consumers and businesses from all walks of life will likely breathe some sigh of relief by the middle of this week. Though there may be parts of the population less pleased than others with its outcome, we will all have the opportunity to return to a less-distracted way of life – or at least, return to our usual distractions.

The distraction of this election season, and the ramifications on consumer behavior, shopping patterns and retail sales, more specifically, have likely been on the minds of many marketers. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have spent record-breaking dollars to bombard the TV screens of Americans over the remaining weeks before Election Tuesday. And throughout the season, we’ve been exposed to an infinite amount of content via social media, with real-time coverage added by Facebook Live, Snapchat Stories and other live video content sharing. And this is just to name a few of the many places we’ve been exposed to news, scandals, debates and more.

The simple truth is that yes, this election has been perhaps the most distracting we’ve ever experienced, which in turn, has put a pause on some of our daily activities. It’s shaken up consumer behavior in more ways that one, which is why the question lurking around so many brands right now is: what can I expect this week, and for the upcoming holiday season?

Current Holiday Projections

Conduct any Google search around election impact and retail, and you’ll find several speculations floating around about how this will all play out. In many instances, there’s also mention of the weather’s impact on retail. With unseasonably warm temperatures over September and October, the transition to fall/winter apparel, footwear and merchandise has been somewhat challenging. But a quick turn of the season, and the end of the election, may release some pent up shopper energy!

As we’re nearing the peak of the retail season, brands are hoping that consumers’ holiday spirit will kick in with full force sooner rather than later. Many projections reflect a positive outlook, noting that while some Americans may be impacted personally by the outcome of the election, it won’t change their attitudes towards holiday shopping. In a study by RetailNext, 70% of shoppers said that if Republican nominee, Donald Trump, is elected, their spending habits would not change. Similar can be said of Hillary Clinton, with 68% of shoppers reporting that their shopping behavior would not change if the Democratic nominee were to be elected.

On the flip side, the general unease in the air has some retailers worried. In a flash poll conducted last week, the National Retail Federation reported that 25% of consumers said the election will affect their spending, and 43% said they are being more cautious of their spending because of uncertainty around the election’s outcome the state of the economy.

There are many projections out there, but we can’t ignore the story being told around overall 2016 holiday spending; mainly a 3.6% increase over 2015, according to latest projections from the National Retail Federation. While there is still uncertainty today, we can likely count on our customers to spend the norm, and potentially more, over the upcoming weeks of the holiday season.

Things to Expect This Week

Americans are likely exhausted by the relentless political messaging, but it’s just as likely that all eyes will be glued to TVs, mobile devices and all other sources of news over the next two days. For this reason, you may notice a drop in website traffic at the beginning of this week; in fact, it’s possible you may see less conversions and purchases all together. However, don’t let the next two days get you down – rather use them wisely to prepare for a potential influx in traffic over the second half of the week, and focus on ways to reconnect.

Re-Engage the Distracted Buyer

With an event like a presidential election happening, particularly one as charged as the current one, it’s not unlikely that you as a retailer may feel less in tune with your customers. After all, not only the physical ad and content space, but the emotional capacity of consumers, has been at least partially overtaken by candidates and election news. On a more immediate level, it’s possible the usual impulse buyer suspects have indulged slightly less in your MUST HAVE pair of shoes. Seen more than the norm of cart abandonment behavior lately? What the election has (not so politely) done is put a massive distraction in front of typically eager and frequent shoppers. Not just for impulse buyers or frequent mall goers, but for more considered choices around cars and furniture, decisions may have temporarily been put on pause. But rather than giving up on those customers, this is the time to nurture the relationships even more. Remind customers of your brand’s story, your special offers during the holidays, and the fact that you’ll be with them through every stage of their purchase journey.

With your buyer’s typical shopping path temporarily disrupted, post-election is a time to regain their attention in a very important way, and quickly! The season has been cut somewhat short as we move into the second week of November, which means offers like free and expedited shipping, and buy online-in store pickup will be in high demand. It’s important to have proper inventory management and other internal processes in place to accommodate for the fast turnaround customers will be expecting. Additionally, you may consider leveraging Black Friday and Cyber Monday messaging earlier than usual in order to re-hook newly eager customers.

Stay Personal, Authentic & Transparent

We don’t think many would associate the current election with the above three words; however, they do reflect an important message retailers should keep in mind during Holiday. Personalization of the experience is key at all points of the year, but now more so than ever, consumers will be craving the individualized, engaging attention from brands looking to make a connection through the holidays. In a recent survey by SessionM, 31% of consumers reported that they’re more likely to shop online with a certain retailer this season if they receive personal offers from the brand.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, customers won’t only be looking for the price steals, but also the best overall offers from brands. As you gear up for the biggest shopping weekend of the year, remember not only to focus on giving your customers the best deals, but on creating the best experience. Keep your customers engaged by telling a great story, making them personalized offers, and ensuring the most seamless, stress-free shopping experience as possible. All of this will be greatly appreciated by customers feeling some leftover anxiety from the election.

We’ve all learned through this election season that behavior can sometimes be more than a little unpredictable. Keep a close eye on your site traffic, and make sure to have maximum visibility in front of your customers as the election comes to a close. It’s full steam ahead to the holiday! Keep calm, and shop on!

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment