The leaves have barely begun to change color, but the holiday buying season is upon us. This year, 29% of your customers started their gift shopping before Halloween (Google Consumer Survey, July 2014).
Before we know it, Black Friday will be here. According to Google, consumer searches on that day alone rose 27% in 2013 over 2012. But consumers are starting almost a week earlier to search for Black Friday deals.
A New Term: "Gray Friday"
That's why Black Friday took on a new term last year: Gray Friday. This happened because Black Friday sales were diluted as retailers started Black Friday promotions weeks earlier, and consumers responded.
Christopher Ainsley, Shopper Trak CEO, said it best. "Retailers stretched Black Friday deals and promotions across November, removing the focus from just one big day of shopping."
Local Advertisers: Holiday Conversions Up
At my company (Netsertive), we see online research in Q4 boost buying signals in the form of increased search volumes and conversion rates. A conversion happens when a customers links to your website from an online advertisement, taking action to get more information, call, fill out a form to set up a demo, etc.
At the same time, the cost per conversions go down, since shoppers clicked on fewer ads before taking action. They're in a buying mood.
Clearly a strong online marketing push during the holiday season is a cost-effective method for increasing your sales to meet your business goals.
For custom audio video installers, our data shows that integrators see spikes in research all year round – but especially during the holidays. Search volume in this category increases 30% in Q4. Comparing September to December of last year, integrators advertising online see their conversion rate increase 69%. At the same time, their overall cost per conversion go down 33%.
Home furnishing (furniture and mattress) retailers see a slight dip in search volume during Q4, but local shoppers are clearly in a buying mood. Conversions go up 71%, while the cost per conversion go down 18% when comparing September to December.
Auto dealers get an early Christmas present as well, with our client's December conversions rising 36% over September, at a slight increase in cost per conversion of 11%. (In fact, while July sees the highest levels of online searches for new cars, our data shows that this is preliminary research leading up to a December "sell-down" purchase, with buying levels staying high through January.)
Nina Thatcher, Internet Development Manager at Google, went in-depth to report on the impact of online search on holiday shopping in Google's Think Newsletter. Here's an excerpt from the November 2013 issue:
In our study conducted with Millward Brown Digital, we found that searchers are 1.5x more likely to buy than those who don't use search, making them a particularly valuable audience for marketers.
Holiday shoppers use the web — especially search — to figure out what gifts to buy, choose brands and decide where to purchase. In fact, the internet is the top resource for holiday shopping, according to our survey, with four out of five shoppers considering it the single most “useful” resource.
If you want to grow sales this holiday season, people who search are a particularly valuable audience. These shoppers are 1.5x more likely to buy than those who don’t use search. They know what gifts they are looking for and are primed to buy. With pressure to purchase, people who search during the holidays are also much (140%) more likely to buy than those who search at other times of the year.
Google conversion rate of holiday shoppers online
This is rather intuitive, but some of the other findings from a recent study we did with Millward Brown Digital shed some more light on holiday search users, revealing how they behave, when they buy and why they are so important to marketers.
During the holidays, retailers tend to push promotions on key days (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday). But our research shows that shoppers are making purchases throughout the entire holiday season. In fact, conversion rates actually spike at the end of the season, between December 10th and 16th. This is true for both shoppers who used search and those who didn’t.
Knowing this, retailers and brands need to ensure consumers can find their products, services and brands online, among the multitudes of others they see on the “digital shelf.” They need to actively manage their digital displays in the same way they manage their in-store displays.
Read the full report at Think With Google.
Turn Searches Into Sales
My holiday marketing tips dovetail with Google, namely:
Shoppers are starting early and ending late. Implement an “always-on” paid search strategy to reach them whenever they are looking.
Think beyond traditional key shopping days and push promotions all season long, especially towards the end.
Advertise on category terms to capture the attention of those sought-after undecided shoppers. Keep their attention through retargeting.
Shoppers are searching on category terms consistently — whether it’s one month or one day before they buy. Widen your attribution window to account for this.
Knowing the whole path to purchase will help you improve your marketing throughout the holiday season — and throughout the year.