How Mobile and OOH Can Defy a Dip in Traffic to Coffee Shops During the Otherwise Hot Winter Season

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As the temperature drops, coffee-shop store visits across the United States see significant lift. New Verve research shows that winter is indeed the hottest season for java.

Looking at two major US coffee-shop brands, both Starbucks and Dunkin’ saw a 33% store-visit increase, on average, as measured between December 21 and March 20 (the winter season as National Geographic defines it) compared to the store visits on average during spring, summer, and fall.

And while it might seem intuitive that lower mercury means increased interest in piping-hot joe, not all weeks of the winter turn out to be equal. Packed into the data is a specific window of opportunity on which both brands can act to boost sales during a certain run of days that represent a mid-winter dip—Christmas to New Year’s.

Window of Opportunity: Holiday-Season Dip … and Why It Happens 

During one weekend per winter Verve saw a drop in store visits to Starbucks and Dunkin’.

  • Starbucks watched its store visits drop 22%, nationwide on average, for the 18–34 age group between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day as compared to store visits within that age range prior to the window of December 24 to January 1. Note that the focus is on the 18–34-year-old demographic, as Verve data did not show a similar dip outside this demographic.
  • The same period showed a dip for Dunkin’, a store-visit decrease of 8% nationwide on average. 

In general, the decrease in store visits for the two brands could be related to the ways we buy coffee. To start, recent research in the journal Appetite characterizes “caffeine consumption as a daily routine, as a behavior that is regularly repeated and tends to occur subconsciously,” often in connection with the workplace, one of three main locations for coffee consumption found in the study. 

It’s not a huge leap, then, to suggest that changes in workplace routine during the holidays—Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day—interrupt consumers’ otherwise regular visits to their work-week coffee vendors. People travel. Shopping supersedes the workday routine. This all represents a seasonal moment of disruption, but it’s one that mobile experiences—when deployed across the many screens that coffee drinkers encounter daily—can help counter.  

Mobile Strategy: Capturing Customers Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day

To give Starbucks and Dunkin’s holiday-visit stats a boost in the 18–34-year-old demographic, both brands could benefit from allocating some advertising spend to catch those consumers in their end-of-year—and potentially atypical—patterns. With AAA reporting that 91% of the 112.5 million people in the US who travel during the holiday season take a road trip during that time span, it’s intuitive to dovetail mobile creative with digital out-of-home creative, targeting all these travelers who are undoubtedly moving about the country … and outside their usual stop-for-coffee routines. Below are some strategies to bear in mind when trying to reel in the customer at year’s end.

  • Consider location-relevant mobile units that include a map feature—one that consumers could tap, for example, to see the nearest Starbucks or Dunkin’ location based on where they’re driving or near the airports in which they’re arriving or departing. 
  • Location relevance is key to a contextual approach, but it doesn’t always have to be an in-the-moment prompt. If opt-in consumer data tells marketers and advertisers that out-of-home patterns cluster around particular days of the Christmas to New Year’s span, then the run-up to those times are perfect windows to create anticipatory moments on mobile screens.
  • Remember that mobile screens work together. From the connected TV to the smartphone, to the digital billboard, the in-car display, and more, we live in a world of federated mobile experiences. Starbucks and Dunkin’ can leverage opt-in consumer-granted data across the spectrum to see where context and relevance match the time and place to which coffee drinkers will respond best.

The wintertime is the right time for coffee brands looking to keep customers coming back. When encouraging cold-weather travelers to come for a cup, the details are—as always—in the data.

As chief marketing officer, Julie Bernard leads Verve’s brand strategy, marketing, analytics and creative services. Julie was previously senior vice president of omnichannel customer strategy, data science, loyalty, and marketing technology at Macy’s, where she was recognized as a customer-centric leader implementing data-driven approaches for strategic growth, including award-winning personalized communications at scale, first-of-a-kind loyalty programs, and modern media attribution techniques.  Julie previously held executive leadership positions at Saks Fifth Avenue and XRoads Solutions Group, a boutique retail consultancy.