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This holiday season consumers want two things when they are shopping – a good friend and a good cause – according to (pdf) the American Marketing Association, which said social networking and cause-related marketing are top holiday trends.

“We’re seeing more consumers seeking out a chance to use social networking sites as a way to chat and share opinions on holiday gifts,” said Nancy Costopulos, CMO of the American Marketing Association, citing an AMA Survey. “In turn, companies are finding they have the flexibility to more overtly market to those consumers on these sites than they did a year ago.”

“And when consumers are ready to buy, they are flocking more often to companies who use cause-related marketing and want to make a difference,” Costopulos said.

Social-Networking Sites

More than half of those responding to the survey said they would visit a social-networking site this holiday season. And when they sign in, they are looking for holiday gift ideas, scouring for upcoming holiday sales, or downloading coupons:

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  • Nearly half (47%) of all respondents said they would go to a social-networking site to download coupons or search for gift ideas if those services were available.
  • Nearly as many said they would visit a social-networking site to find out about upcoming sales in stores or discounts on products (45%); fewer (31%) said they would buy products, if given the option.
  • 22% of respondents would read or write a product review on a blog. Additionally, 26% would post or view videos, if those services were available.

“We’re starting to see a new kind of commercialization of social-networking sites that didn’t exist even just a few months ago,” said Costopulos. “Consumers are more welcoming now of the presence of retailers on these sites, but marketers have to bring more than just promotions, they have to create a way to connect and offer something that makes these shoppers feel special.”

Cause-Related Marketing

Consumers are influenced by more than what is on the “Hot Picks” list; this year, they are showing that cause matters:

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  • One out of every three consumers said they would be more likely to buy a product or service if they knew that a certain amount of the purchase price was being donated directly to a cause or campaign.
  • Young people age 18-24 and women are most likely to buy a product or service connected to cause-related marketing.
  • 40% of women versus 30% of men were more likely to buy a product or service if they knew that a certain amount of the purchase price was being donated directly to a cause or campaign.
  • 46% of respondents age 18-24 versus 31% of respondents 45-64 were more likely to buy a product or service if they knew that a certain amount of the purchase price was being donated directly to a cause or campaign.

Demographic Data

Among the demographic findings of the survey: 

  • 85% of adults age 18-24 said they would visit a social-networking site. The second highest percentage among age groups was for those 25-34 (74%). Those over age 65 had the lowest likelihood (32%) of visiting a social-networking site.
  • Those with children under 18 living in their households are more likely than those without children to visit a social-networking site (65% versus 51%).
  • College graduates are less likely than high-school graduates and those who have not completed college to visit social-networking sites (48% versus 60%).
  • Non-Caucasian consumers (Hispanic and African Americans) remain more likely than Caucasians to participate in social-networking site activities (73% versus 49%).
  • Hispanics are more likely than Caucasians to download coupons (34% versus 23%), post videos (30% versus 11%), and buy products (24% versus 14%).

Best Source for Information this Season

According to American Marketing Association’s consumer survey, more shoppers are choosing the web for information about products and services this season.

When asked to think about how they use media, 44% of consumers responded that the best way to connect them with information about new products and services is through online channels, including the internet, email and e-newsletters, social-networking sites and user-generated video-sharing sites. In 2006, only 30% of consumers rated online sources as best.

“With skyrocketing numbers of consumers turning to the Internet this holiday season, the significance of successful online campaigns is clear,” said Costopulos. “Companies that get it right will fully integrate their online strategy with all other aspects of the marketing mix for a comprehensive approach.”

About the survey: The American Marketing Association partnered with Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) to conduct the research on 2007 holiday shopping. On September 20-21 ORC conducted online interviews with 1,174 internet-representative consumers 18 years of age or older in the continental United States. The sample was composed of 528 men and 646 women.

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