Seasonal Psychology: 5 Ways To Sell More During The Holidays

The following is a guest post by Future Buzz community member Andrianes Pinantoa.

Ask any consumer what they intend to spend for any coming holiday, and they’ll tell you, “Not much.” The media seems to support this with stories of closing small businesses, retailers heading into bankruptcy and of course, the crushing economy.

But did you know that as a nation, the United States spent record-breaking amounts during the holidays?

We all claim to want to cut back, but the data shows that we often go over budget. By how much? Check out this infographic on Mashable.

It looks like savvy marketers around the world cracked the code. So how did they do it?

We’re far away from the holidays, but starting to think about your plans now is critical to win. Here are 5 way to get even the most frugal consumer to be more open with their pocketbook.

1. Surprise

Let’s start with the obvious one: the sale.

But not just any sale. People expect more during the holidays. Cutting your price by 20% may do well any other day of the year, but during the holidays… that can serve to turn people off.

So if you don’t want to cut your price by 50%, 60% or even 75% (as the big retailers do), then here’s an idea: use surprise to your advantage.

If people expect a crazy discount and you deliver a modest one, they become disappointed. If you deliver what they expected, they become a satisfied customer. But if you give them what they don’t expect – even if it is of a less monetary value – they become raving fans.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • A handwritten card to wish them Happy Holidays means more to some people than $50 in cash – this is especially true if you deal with luxury items. A local store owner I know of even took the pains to draw cartoons on the cards he sends to his customers. How much did it cost him? $5 on Fiverr.
  • Give them unadvertised presents.
  • Give them free shipping. Free shipping has been shown to increase conversion rate more than discounts – even if the discount has a higher monetary value. Strange but true.
  • Donate on their behalf – I will discuss the effect of altruism during the holidays later.
  • Upgrade your customer’s membership for free.
  • Upgrade their order to a limited edition version of the product.
  • Leave notes in the unlikeliest places, like under the bed if you run a hotel, or the footer if you have a website, or in the changing room if you sell clothes. These are called “microcopies” and you’ll be surprised how much it influences your customer’s happiness.

2. Nostalgia

The holidays are a time when we reflect on our lives. We ask ourselves, “What have I achieved thus far,” – a question that inevitably leads you down memory lane.

Remember the good old days when you can run around your neighbourhood and not worry about drunk drivers and dangerous neighbours? Remember the good old days when kids play arcade games?

Pretty soon you find yourself wishing you’re a teenager again. It’s a condition so common, psychologists have a name for it: holiday nostalgia.

Some even theorizes that the whole reason why we behave as we do during the holidays is to recreate our childhood memories – the smell of pinewood, the sight of Santa, the jingles, the soft socks and of course, the delicacies.

Companies who know this often use nostalgia-inducing ads and themes to hook in customers.

They know that during trying times, people always desire the past. They can’t travel back in time, of course, so their subconscious mind settles for the next best thing: an object that reminds them of that time.

Objects such as food, fashion style, jingles, logos and atmosphere.

3. Hope

Nostalgia, of course, isn’t a good fit for ALL businesses. If you’re the owner of one of those businesses, try this: hope.

Every New Year, for example, we set ourselves a new list of goals because we hope for a better future.

Products that promises to fulfil that desire, win dollars.

This is why we see a surge of advertisements for weight loss miracles – while we stuff down turkeys. And continually get offers from businesses who swear they will “teach how to make millions online” – while we burn cash on gifts.

But you don’t have to pull a fast one to profit from people’s need to live a better life.

Here are some of the most common “wishes” people have during the holidays – see how your products fit into these desires:

  •  Parenting
  •  Health. Quit drinking/smoking/etc
  •  Money
  •  Control
  •  Revenge
  •  Get out of debt
  •  Enjoy Life
  •  Learn something new

4. An excuse

This is perhaps the most important reason why people spend the amount they spend during the holidays. Let me explain.

You see, we all form a belief system to navigate around the world, and we keep the different beliefs we have, consistent (or at least we try to). If we have two beliefs that conflict, that causes a “cognitive dissonance” – a mental discomfort much like an itch for the mind.

We reduce this discomfort by realigning the conflicting beliefs.

For example, we all believe that we are intelligent human beings who are also financially sensible. So unless there’s a rationalization that we can use, we control ourselves from any frivolous purchases.

There are many rationalizations people use to buy stuff they don’t need, but today, I want to talk only about the holidays.

The holidays are like a checkpoint in the rat race. It gives us an excuse to do what we really want to do without introducing dissonance. This is a once-in-a-year thing, we tell ourselves. I will start saving/dieting/working/etc after this is over.

So we eat more than we usually do. We buy things we don’t normally buy. We drink stuff we don’t normally drink. And we do things we don’t normally do (eg: go for a vacation).

In fact, this is true of any uncommon event. It’s why there’s such a thing as a “vacation fling.”

Assuming they already have a desire for your products, that’s all people needed – an excuse from you, to buy your stuff. You’ve seen this in multiple ads over the years: “give yourself a break,” “give yourself a makeover this Christmas,” “isn’t it time you gave yourself a Christmas gift,” and “why wait?”

These ads didn’t sell the product, they simply sold the excuse.

5. Altruism

Volunteering skyrockets during the holidays and charities bask in cash. We have all been taught that this is a season of giving.

So why not help people do that?

Instead of taking 50% off your retail price, donate 20% of your proceeds to charity. Instead of providing free service, why not advertise the fact that your company volunteers in a local charity?

Or, get this, instead of aligning your campaign around how much you cut your price, why not align your brand with a particular cause over the holidays?

Not only will you boost sales, you’ll also have built your brand – the results of which you can enjoy for the rest of the New Year.

Andrianes Pinantoan is part of the team behind Open Colleges. You can find him on Awesometastic Writer or Google+.

image credit: Shutterstock