Holidays are a unique time for shoppers. Habits change for a short time, and consumers tend to feel more empowered to make less socially permissible purchases or to splurge on things they normally would not consider purchasing. Be it Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Hanukkah, Christmas, or Fourth of July, expectations change around the major holidays of the year.

We were once tasked with illustrating a complete picture of how consumers approach the holidays. Our client was a confections company who wanted to get deep into the mindset of shoppers on topics like store choice, how the season unfolds for consumers from start to finish, and the role confections played in various holidays. Being the nerdy consumer intuition researchers that we are, we were excited to dive into this project. So, in the spirit of the giving season, we offer some consideration points surrounding consumer behavior and the holidays.  

Creating and Recreating Moments

From a jobs-to-be-done mindset, candy and other sweet treats fulfill multiple jobs for the consumer year-round. During the holidays, however, their roles shift to creating and recreating memorable moments. Whether used for baking, gifting, or for trick-or-treating, our study found that the ultimate emotional goal of buying confectionery products is to relive memories from childhood and to help create memories for the younger generation. 

Permissible Indulgence

The holidays create a sense of permissibility for indulging ourselves more than any other time of year. Where there may be some social and health barriers other times of the year, holidays make shopping the candy aisle more than acceptable, though different holidays cued different behavior. Consumers justify certain candy types and quantities during different points of a holiday season, and there is a correlation between bag size and usage occasion. Shoppers know they can indulge, but they find ways to make it permissible for themselves and others.

Retail Selection is Often Predetermined 

While impulse often drives candy and sweet treats purchases, retailer selection and usage occasion are predetermined. Consumers often use their past experiences when selecting retailers and rely on promotion and advertising to prompt candy shopping in general, not at any specific store. While some associate certain stores with a particular usage occasion, others are associated with great candy prices and holiday deals. Overall, candy shopping during the holidays is planned and nostalgia-driven, rather than impulsive.

Holiday shopping presents unique challenges, but our in-context methods allow us to both observe and interact with real consumers while they are in a natural shopping mindset and in an authentic environment. Our capabilities allow us to be adaptable and find actionable insights even when shoppers are not in their usual mindset or typical stores. Learn more about our methods and read some case studies to gain a better understanding of how we bring consumer behavior to life.

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