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The Growing Group of Consumers You May Be Sleeping Through

7 things marketers need to know about this phenomenon that’s happening nightly.

Ever catch yourself multitasking on your laptop in bed before going to sleep? Work emails, personal emails, Instagram, Netflix, and the website with the shoes you’ve been thinking about. Thanks to what we can do online, our way of prioritizing our days is forever changed. And with the rise of ecommerce, one activity has been impacted more than any other: shopping. As a result, there is a new group of consumers out there—we call them Midnight Shoppers.

Here are the seven things marketers need to know about this phenomenon, and why these consumers might be your next big opportunity.

30% percent

1. ⅓ of us are Midnight Shoppers.
The times of waiting for a store to open or rushing to a store after work are long gone. Shopping has become time agnostic. According to Forbes, a whopping 30 percent of all online purchases are made between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., and there’s a reason why. We spend our days in “time handcuffs,” prisoners to tasks and activities with prescribed timeframes, like the hours in which we can hit the gym, drop off our dry cleaning, go to the post office, spend time with our kids, or enjoy dinner with friends. The good news is, shopping is no longer a constraint. Online retailers never close, and it has never been easier to find and buy what we need or want.

2. This trend is here to stay and is expected to grow.
The worlds of social media and online shopping are colliding. Like shopping, social media is one of the most popular late-night online activities—social platforms get high levels of engagement as late as 4 a.m. As brands continue to build their presence on social media, these platforms are creating complementary capabilities, making in-app purchases possible with the click of a button. In fact, a recent study shows that interest in social shopping is up 38% year-over-year among consumers.

3. Midnight shopping is irresistible shopping (it’s how we’re wired).
Late at night, we are exhausted and sleepy. This state of deprivation affects our cognitive and motor function to a degree equivalent to being legally intoxicated. The prefrontal cortex that enables us to exert self-control becomes impaired, therefore impacting our decision-making. And when our decision-making abilities are diminished, we are more likely to be impulsive and favor immediate rewards.

Irresistible shopping

4. This is especially true for the time-crunched and stressed shopper.
Data shows that midnight shopping skews to working Gen X and Millennial women. Research also shows that these generations continue to experience higher levels of stress compared to older generations. Therefore, it’s no surprise shoppers say midnight shopping makes them feel more productive and less stressed. During a person-on-the-street interview, a 24-year-old media professional living in New York said she enjoys midnight shopping, “I feel like I’ve got more out of my day and checked more boxes on my to-do list,”.

5. These shoppers are buying everything from video games to kids’ clothes.
Midnight shopping spans a wide range of products, with the top purchase categories including nursery items, kids’ clothes, health care items, beauty products, shirts, outerwear, accessories, and video games. From a new mom up in the middle of the night with her baby, to a gamer looking for his next challenge—these products help shed some light on who is shopping when the rest of us are asleep, and what’s keeping them awake.

6. Midnight shopping spikes on the weekends.
People tend to consume alcohol more frequently on the weekends and, not surprisingly, the rate of midnight shopping goes up. According to Warc, 78% consumers say that they have made at least one drunk purchase, but the good news is that only 6% regret it. Did you really need that Nicholas Cage pillow sham you bought last night?

7. And it’s creating a whole new opportunity for marketers.
The most effective brands find ways to add value to consumers’ lives and connect on a deeper level. However, targeting consumers with last-minute deals during these late hours can give brands a bad rep. One way to avoid this is to give your consumers engaging and relevant content in place of a promotion. For example, Pampers, knows that moms are up all hours of the night, and those nights can feel difficult. For Mother’s Day, they created a simple video that ran on TV, online and on social from midnight to 5 a.m. to wish moms a Happy Mother’s Day first, making them smile at a time when many feel lonely.

A lot remains to be discovered. How do shoppers feel about this new trend? Is midnight shopping a boon or a bane? Will brands be able to find the right balance between reaching shoppers with relevant content, while also being conscious about not promoting unnecessary impulse purchases? For marketers, there is a fine line and if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn’t. But if the midnight hour feels like a smart match, brands might just want to wake up.

September 4, 2019