Seven insights hiding in Google’s new Christmas shopping research

By Matt Lawson | @onemanisthelaw | Director of Performance Ads Marketing at Google

Earlier this month Google released a set of eye-popping statistics about the Christmas shopping season. It was hard for me to miss, I kind of work for Google, but if you’ve never seen that article I think you should take a look. As we get farther into the shopping season, it can start to feel like the season is close to wrapping up. Based on Google’s data, though, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here are seven insights from that research that you can use to your advantage to make this your best December ever both online and in your locations themselves.

1. Black Friday and Cyber Monday get the hype, but people buy stuff throughout the entire month of December

What the research says: “We see 34% more shopping searches on Christmas Day than on Black Friday.”

What that means for you: We’re halfway through the month of December, but there’s still so much opportunity to be had. This research only affirms what I know to be true: people procrastinate. Finishing your Christmas shopping on Cyber Monday sounds like a great plan. And for so many of us that plan remains entirely theoretical. People shop all the way up to Christmas, then they continue to shop after Christmas. As marketers that may give you Black Friday flashbacks. But all of that work is definitely worth the effort.

2. Weekends are the ultimate battle ground.

What the research says: This year “retailers have an edge. With Christmas on a Monday, there are two full weekends (Dec. 15-17 and 22-24) in the 10 days before the holiday. This bodes well for store traffic with Christmas shoppers out in force on two Fridays and Saturdays.”

What that means for you: Make the most of these final two weekends of the Christmas season. You have to be present for all of the teeming hordes in shopping malls coast-to-coast. This makes the work-life balance appreciator in me quite sad, but plan to check in over the final two holiday weekends. You’ve got to be competitive with your bids on the weekends. It’s also crucial to avoid being limited by budget. The research and conversion cycle is incredibly compressed, so you’ve got to be there for every step.

3. Shipping cutoff date is a big deal. As big as Cyber Monday.

What the research says: “We see online conversions from the week before December’s shipping cutoff date on par with the week of Cyber Monday.”

What that means for you: The last big online shopping day is all about that shipping cutoff date. Cyber Monday has reached ubiquity and it’s undoubtedly a big deal. The week of shipping cutoff is also a big deal. There’s not a snappy name to go along with it, but that shouldn’t diminish its importance. Make sure the shipping info in your ads is prominent, accurate and up-to-the-minute. For frantic online shoppers, it’s the difference between a click and even more worried scrolling for a gift they hope their recipient will like.

2016 where to buy searches“Where to buy” searches in 2016

4. Once the shipping cutoff date has passed, focus on driving foot traffic exclusively.

What the research says: “Around Dec. 21, when the online shipping cutoff passes, Christmas shoppers increasingly turn to their hometown stores to get what they need.” AND “Searches for “where to buy” peak on Dec. 23 as last-minute shoppers grab their final gifts and stocking stuffers.”

What that means for you: Do everything you can to drive offline traffic. Just because you can’t ship them something in time for the big day, don’t exclude yourself from their options. They want to spend money with you, it’s up to you to tell them that you’re there for them (literally). Adjust bids for people close to your stores, ensure your location extensions are good to go, take advantage of local inventory ads, use your callouts and sitelinks to feature in-store pickup.

5. Prepare for the true last-minute shoppers.

What the research says: “Mobile searches for “open now” and “store hours” grow through December and peak on Christmas Day.”

What that means for you: Get into the mentality of a last-minute shopper. Either panic or delusion (based on personal experience). In both cases, you want to assure people that you’re there for them. Call and message extensions along up-to-date holiday hours are crucial. Nothing’s more immediate than a phone call. These shoppers know timing is tight, and you have to assure them that you’ve got them covered.

6. Christmas changes people’s mindsets, but they still shop like crazy.

What the research says: “The days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are just as busy as every other day in December (other than Christmas week itself).” AND “About 20% of all December store traffic happens in the six days after Christmas.”

What that means for you: Imagine that feeling of breaking through the tape at the finish line. Now imagine someone shoots off a starter pistol immediately for the next race. It’s sort of like that. Christmas doesn’t mark the end of the shopping season. It marks the date on which people open the stuff other people bought for them. Now it’s their turn to shop. Returning the crappy gifts, redeeming the practical-but-thoughtless gift cards, buying stuff to accompany the gifts they love most. Your job isn’t done once the presents are unwrapped. Write ads that mention return policies, use extensions with ideas of how to use gift cards, feature the products that go best with what you already know to be your top sellers.

7. Starting on Christmas day, there’s a strong focus on in-store shopping

What the research says: “For general shopping queries (such as “shopping near me” or “store hours”), we see 34% more searches on Christmas Day than we do on Black Friday.” AND “With searches for “clearance” spiking on Dec. 26, shoppers are likely looking to redeem gift cards, make returns and exchanges, find gifts for people they haven’t seen yet, or decide to “gift” themselves a little extra.”

What that means for you: That mindset shift after the presents are unwrapped starts about as soon as the presents are opened. What’s good news for you is that you already have a great plan to get people inside your store. Continue that plan after Christmas and through the new year. Factor in that post-gift-opening mindset in your messaging as you continue to drive people to your stores.

Conclusion

With Christmas season starting earlier and earlier every year, it’s only natural to feel like the holidays are pretty much through with. But recently-published research from Google confirms that there’s still plenty of meat left on the bone for hungry retailers. Ensure your digital plan makes the most of the sizeable opportunity that remains.

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