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How to Reach Holiday Bargain Hunters During COVID-19

Bethany Johnson, Writer

In this time of economic upheaval and societal unknowns, many shoppers are looking for one thing: great deals, especially online. Enter the bargain hunter.

These sale-scouting, coupon-clipping, deal-detecting buyers pop up in every buyer segment. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that 76% of shoppers consider discounts and promotions to be either very or extremely important to them. Recent research from Hawk Incentives puts that number closer to 97%.

Never is this truer than in a time when consumers are tightening their belts in the face of economic uncertainty and feeling anxious about going to brick and mortar retailers. According to Morning Consult, 24 percent of consumers said they won’t feel comfortable shopping in a mall for more than six months. Consumers are motivated to stay home and take their shopping online.

Here’s what businesses need to know about capturing the attention of the bargain hunter online shopper.

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Understanding the bargain hunter

According to the NRF, 70% of shoppers said the best time for deals is the holiday season. For bargain hunters who appreciate the thrill of a deal, this really is the happiest time of year.

They’re strategic. They’re strategic. Bargain hunters do their homework before committing to a purchase. They’re not swayed by the need for instant gratification, the NRF reports. In fact, nearly half of shoppers won’t buy something if it’s not on sale and another 85% said they would back out of a purchase if it’s not on sale, choosing instead to wait. With the COVID-19 pandemic sidelining in-person retail, bargain hunters are taking their hunting online, with everything from browser extensions like Honey or Wikibuy or apps like Ibotta and SnipSnap.

They’re not confined to one demographic. Until recently, analysts said discount shoppers were mostly of one generation or income level. Today, we know better. Recent coverage from Inc. tells us that more than half of millennial shoppers “always” look for a deal before buying online, as opposed to only 40% of their Baby Boomer counterparts.

They love the chase. The thrill of the hunt stems from a gaming spirit, not necessarily a miserly one. As cited by PYMNTS.com, the psychology of bargain shopping creates a level of satisfaction that a shopper has found something special. By purchasing something at a discount, bargain hunters feel like they’ve won something. Plus, in this time of great economic uncertainty, people need to make smarter financial decisions than ever before, so while there is still the thrill of the hunt, it has also become about necessity.

They’re not difficult to please. Along the same lines, sale spotters shouldn’t be viewed as troublesome, especially right now. According to a recent consumer survey from GlobalData, 53% of bargain hunters in lockdown said that they would like to see news about money-saving initiatives adopted by brands during the pandemic. Everyone is looking for ways to save money and stretch their hard-earned dollars farther, so offering any kind of sale, deal, or bundle is going to appeal to bargain hunters.

How to meet the bargain hunter’s expectations

With bargain hunters actively seeking out deals, and potentially comparing prices at other retailers, pointing them in the direction of your holiday promotions is key.

Prominently display sales. Sale seekers scan for clearance sections and bargain bins first, their well-trained eyes spotting discount signs and sections. This contrasts with the wandering, display-browsing meander of typical shoppers, who look at items first, signage second. Online, bargain hunters also prioritize clearance and sales. Instead of scrolling through your home page, they may click your navigation menu or “Shop All” tab, hoping for a holiday sale option among the usual FAQ, about, return policy, and contact links.

Understand shoppers’ online referral sources, and pay it forward. Did website visitors arrive from a link shared in a sale-swapping group full of coupon-clipping enthusiasts? Or from a blog post featuring your item in a gift list of great seasonal deals? You can see how uniquely motivated each visitor is by understanding where they came from, and also help them brag about their score to others. According to Consumer Reports, only 10% of delighted deal winners keep the news to themselves. Keep the excitement going by providing them an affiliate link to share their experience.

Make your deals readily accessible. If no deal is detected, they’ll move on, and fast. Check your online store’s bounce rate for disappointed value shoppers who could be skipping out. Specifically, you’ll see visitors go to product pages, sniff around for a telltale price-slash graphic or sale badge, and, if unsatisfied, leave. Another common exit point for bargain hunters is the checkout page. Shoppers may pause mid-buy to open a new tab and hunt promo codes before ultimately deciding against the purchase.

How to catch their eye

Because bargain hunters are tantalized by savings, it’s all about making it appealing and fun to cash in on every great deal they find.

Offer COVID-19 discounts or bundles. You can also offer ways for people to buy in bulk, something that consumers are doing a lot of during the pandemic. It is also smart to emphasize that if a consumer likes your business, supporting it now during these trying times is going to help you stay in business and weather the storm.

Offer multiple ways to “win.” Use coupon codes to offer a deeper price cut on sale items. Or incentivize the purchase of multiple gift cards by offering a pack at a cheaper price. You could also offer a one-time discount for joining your email list or subscribing to your newsletter (which you can also use to tell them about your next big seasonal sale).

Make it easy to share their haul. Use a hashtag for your promotion so happy buyers can snap a selfie with your product and gush their joy. You might also consider referral incentives to ensure their whole network hears of their happy experience.

Tease the next win. The value in a bargain buyer is repeat business. Drive them to return to your online store by tantalizing them with the dates of the next clearance event, complimentary gift wrapping on their next purchase, or loyalty pointsto accrue toward free products and services.

Reaching Bargain Hunters Checklist

  • Prioritize sales on your site or in your store. 
  • Offer discounts and incentives for referring your store to friends and family.
  • Give shoppers multiple ways to “win” and get the best deal.
  • Provide discount bundles that make it easy to save. 
  • Encourage sharing their bargain haul on social media to reach new shoppers.
  • Tease out your next great deal to build anticipation.

Discounts and promotions not only help keep bargain hunters on budget, but they’re also a way to gamify the experience and make them feel proud of their purchases. While big-box stores offer their flashiest promotions during the holidays, small businesses can also get involved and engage with their shoppers, both during the holidays and at other times of the year. By doing so, sellers can create a shopping experience that draws in bargain hunters all year ‘round.

Bethany is a writer covering emerging technology for small businesses, content marketing for enterprise-level practitioners, and consumer trends.