I’m certainly no expert on the economy, but I’ve been wondering how the most recent crazy events of this Presidential Election have had (and will have) any effect on digital marketing or consumer behavior.
It’s been interesting to note the variability within our client base regarding how they’ve changed their plans in this election-year environment, especially since we are in the home stretch heading toward November 8th. Some of them have opted to pare down display budgets to avoid the pricey inventory they perceive to have been driven up by an influx of political campaign ads. Others have chosen to accelerate their spend/programs to avoid being “forgotten,” wanting their brands to be where their consumers are going for information as they are reading the newest shocking headline on the latest egregious actions. Neither approach is either good nor bad; it simply depends on what our brands are trying to achieve.
The other question is, will this election year impact consumer spending this holiday. Some brands, as a recent Bloomberg article reports, have theorized that any decline in their sales versus last year is a direct correlation to the election. This is because consumers have been so wrapped up in watching the debates and keeping tabs on election drama (or, that is to say, “news”) that they don’t make time to shop for their new fall boots or the coolest new Internet-enabled device. Or, the campaign has left them so disgusted that they opt to stay in and nurse a glass of wine.
But, I wonder, if they’re that despondent, isn’t there such a thing as “retail therapy?” Heck, you’d think sales would be through the roof if we were taking advantage of that!
Even with all the deliberation around negative impacts to consumer spending, some reports indicated that all that speculation around a dip in consumer confidence around the election was not going to prove out (even though a small dip in traffic to site and stores could happen). According to an article in Retail Dive, the economic environment is going to “trump” (no pun intended) any influence the events of the presidential campaign may have. And, we are still likely to find the positive projections around consumer spending to be true.
For example, recently the NRF announced that they are forecasting a strong holiday season with holiday sales up by nearly 4% over 2015. And, in a similarly positive story last Thursday, I read the Breaking News in the Washington Post that the U.S. economy has seen its strongest growth in more than 2 years. However, this particular election has left us guessing and is certainly not following any traditional cadence. With such uncertainty and new twists revealed on what seems to be a daily basis, consumers appear to be cautious and even confused.
While the headlines of yesterday may downplay any election impact, the headlines today reveal otherwise. Just this morning, Retail Dive published an article with the unnerving subject line: “Consumer confidence tanks ahead of election.” According to the article, consumer sentiment, which was measured by the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, has slipped to its lowest level in two years, although the article goes on to say such dip is likely temporary.
Perhaps the prospect of another Democratic president in the White House is becoming more real for some voters. Some early polls show Hillary in the lead, and the consumers with confidence are hitting the “Shop Now” button to splurge on an overseas expedition (perhaps to escape from the US for the next 4 years).
Only time will tell as to what the future of this country (and in this case, consumer behavior) will hold. But, either way, I’m looking forward to visions of noise-canceling headphones dancing in my head – followed by some “retail therapy” because, hey, it can’t hurt!