You may have heard of “binge-watching,” the phenomenon popularized by Netflix, in which people watch entire seasons of a TV show all in one sitting. The phrase describes a new trend that is changing the way we consume entertainment. But the “binge” phenomenon also spreads to other types of consumption, including shopping.

As Wharton School of Business professor Eric Bradlow points out, the way some people buy products is starting to follow a pattern similar to the way they watch TV shows — in clumps. These “clumpy” consumers will go for weeks, sometimes months, without buying anything, and then go on a shopping burst of sorts.

Clumpy consumers don’t necessarily spend more overall than their more regular-buying counterparts; rather, the clumpy buyers tend to shop for a few days, then lie dormant for a few months, then come back for another burst. Also, clumpy customers aren’t necessarily less loyal to a certain brand or product — they simply buy on a different schedule.

Granted, “clumpiness” only applies to goods that you don’t need on a regular basis, such as clothes or tech products — groceries and other necessities aren’t subject to “clumpy” shoppers. But if you’re a small business that sells potentially “clumpy” goods, it can be crucially important for you to be aware of the habits of your customers, to know what percentage of them are “clumpy,” and to be ready for the clumpy ones when they go into buying mode.

So how can small business owners capitalize on the “clumpy” trend? The first piece of this puzzle is doing a little research to determine if any of your customers buy in clumps, and if so, how many. If you have tools such as Google Analytics Application Gallery, you could analyze your customer data to see if there are patterns and trends in when your clumpy customers enter their spending phase, and then make sure your products are stocked and ready for them.

You can also cater your marketing to clumpy customers, to ensure that you’re capturing their business when they do their shopping. Particular events like a changing season may trigger a clumpy buyer into buying mode. Paying attention to how your customers behave, and anticipating their behavior, can give you a big leg up when it comes to ensuring you retain their business in the long run.

3 Tips for Marketing to Clumpy Customers

1. Take advantage of events that cue “shopping binges.”
If you have data to indicate that a “clumpy event” such as a holiday or change of season is coming up, prepare in advance. Send out mailings, newsletters, or invitations advertising promotional events in advance of the event, and be sure to offer incentives that you know will appeal to this group of customers. They may care less about price discounts and more about having the newest products, or the first seasonal products. Watching your sales trends over time should give you a window into what these customers want, and how to give it to them.

2. If possible, create events that may prompt clumpy customers to shop.
Some events will always happen – the end of Winter and transition to Spring, for example. Others can be created.

3. Be sure to reward clumpy customers, even though they aren’t “regular” customers.
Clumpy customers may not shop on a regular basis, but they can be very loyal. Offering them rewards in the form of discounts or early access to new products can be a powerful way of showing clumpy customers that you value their business.

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