With the holidays coming to a close and 2010 just around the corner, what's ahead in the New Year? Below, hear perspectives on marketing from industry leaders to prepare your business for success in 2010, and beyond.

For more marketing insights, visit our Fast.Forward Channel at

Here's to a successful close to the holiday season and a happy, fruitful New Year! See you in 2010.

A mere 3 days until Christmas, one might expect consumers to be ready for the holidays. But, according to our recent Google/OTX Consumer Pulse Check survey, procrastination just might be the hottest trend this season. As of Monday, December 21st, the average consumer has approximately 38% of shopping left to complete.

Compared to the week following Cyber Monday, that's a decrease of 26 percentage points. Also of note is that though many consumers will be scrambling to finish their shopping, there are some who have not even begun. Don't worry, we won't name names but we did find that 14% of holiday shoppers have not started researching their holiday purchases and 17% have yet to purchase a single gift for their family and friends.

Will Santa be tardy this year? We certainly hope not! Assist consumers with their last minute purchases by directing them online or in-store through your online marketing efforts.

With just 4 days until Christmas and record e-commerce sales reported last week, what will go down as the hottest items of the 2009 shopping season?

Using Google Insights for Search, we can see that the hottest toys over the last seven days include stalwarts like Pikachu and Legos, as well as newcomers, such as the Nerf Marshmellow Shooter and the surprise hit of the holiday season, a blanket-with-sleeves known as the Snuggie.

In the shopping category, we've seen Black Friday reach new heights, toping the rising search term list over the last 30 days as consumers continue to seek out the best prices. Consumers too continue to turn to familiar, top retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and Macy's.

In the final days before Christmas, expect consumers to continue their deal-seeking ways as they hunt for the hottest items and where to buy them. Ensure your online presence is strong to reach these consumers during this final push.

Though the holidays may soon come to an end, the winter shopping season is just getting started! Following Christmas, there are a number of post-holiday opportunities to begin taking advantage of.

Of course, the next big retail holiday is Valentine's Day. Using Google Insights for Search, we see that search volume upticks in early January for Valentine's Day gifts. While flowers and candy will likely remain popular, looking at top valentine's day searches we find that many shoppers are searching for unique ideas, especially for men, so make sure to position your products accordingly.

Search traffic: valentine's day gifts

Additionally, though prom season is still months away, traffic starts to pick up immediately after the holiday season and increases again after Valentine's Day.

Search traffic: prom dresses

Prom isn't the only formal event coming up. Wedding planning also upticks after the winter holiday season. Planning a wedding means buying products ranging from attire (dresses, veils, tuxes, shoes), to decor (flowers, candles, and centerpieces), to jewelry and invitations. Target wedding planners through your search and content marketing campaigns.

Search traffic: wedding planning

And last but not least, winter is also time for outdoor sports and activities such as skiing and hockey! Both activities require some serious gear and warm weather clothing. Keep this in mind, and make sure these products are easy to find on your site.

Search traffic: ski equipment

There is a lot to consider when developing your post-holiday business strategies. Remember that while the busiest shopping season is coming to a close, consumers will still be looking for products in many categories. Leverage Google Insights for Search to identify these opportunities, ensure you've positioned these products prominently on your site, and make sure that your ads and budgets are optimized to capture winter shoppers!

With over 700 retailers participating in Free Shipping Day this year, today marks a prime opportunity for online shoppers and retailers alike. While consumers are already enjoying the opportunity to save money on their online holiday purchases today, retailers are poised to benefit from the increased media attention through increased e-commerce sales.

Last year, Free Shipping Day fell on Thursday, December 18th and marked one of the ten highest e-commerce days of the year. And, according to our Google/Compete Daily Search Barometer, which analyzes the top 450 retail websites, conversion rates too peaked on this day - reaching levels similar to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Using Google Insights for Search, we see that searches for 'Free Shipping Day' are up slightly year-over-year.

Similarly searches for 'Free Shipping Code' are up 35%, searches for 'Free Shipping' are up approximately 13%, and searches for 'Free Shipping Coupon' are up 32%.

Is Free Shipping Day the next big online event of the holiday season? With double digit growth in search interest, it may very well be.

With the holiday shopping season in full swing and comScore reporting a cumulative 4% year-over-year increase in online consumer purchases, this season is turning into a record breaking one. But, as we've been discussing so far this week, what happens after the holidays?

In addition to post-holiday purchases and gift card redemptions, every year thousands of individuals promise to take more vacations, lose weight, or knock that pesky bad habit as they ring in the new year. A search for top ten new year's resolutions 2009 produces results for everything from learning a new skill to spending more time with the family.

New Year's resolutions provide an opportunity to reach the "resolutionaries." In fact, search volume for "new years resolutions" begins to uptick around December 26th, with search volume remaining high through mid-January.

With 2010 just around the corner, it's not only time to think about your New Year's resolution but also to build a campaign if you sell related products to capture this increased interest.

With 73% of consumers planning to purchase gift cards this year, gift cards are likely to be a notable driver of profits this holiday season [1]. Most recently, retailers like Home Depot, CVS, and the Container Store have gone digital, ditching the plastic and adding electronic gift cards to their websites. These expansions are reflected in search patterns - search volume in "gift cards" has trended above 2008 levels throughout the season.

But the selling of gift cards is just one part of the equation - gift card redemptions can come just days or even months after the gift is received. As we discussed yesterday, consumers are expected to head online to both research and purchase post-holiday and, as we can see below, searches for "gift card redemption" peak just following the holidays and last through mid-January.

With that, the opportunity is ripe to reach these gift-card recipients. Top rising "gift card" searches over the last 30 days include those focused on discounted and printable gift cards, as well as those from top retailers.

Target these recipients through post-holiday campaigns that encourage gift card redemption.

Source: [1] Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, September 2009. n= 2002. [2] Google Insights for Search, 2009.

Though some may recoup from the holiday season with food-coma enduced naps, many overcome the post-holiday blues with a few purchases. In fact, 62% of shoppers plan to shop after the holidays. And, even more surprising, 10% won’t even begin purchasing until after the holidays have ended. [1]

In looking at indexed search volume using Google Insights for Search, we find that traffic in the shopping category actually peaked on December 26th during the 2008 holiday season. And, not surprisingly, much of the post-holiday season is about seeking out sales. In fact, as we see below, searches for "sales" peak on December 26th. Similarly, searches in the product review category, as well as, searches for “returns” increase sharply post-Christmas.

Most important to note is that shoppers are turning to the web not only to research post-holiday sales, product information, and where to return/exchange their gifts, but also to buy. According to the Google/Compete Daily Search Barometer, conversion rates to top retail sites rebounded immediately following the holidays in 2008 and increased to levels that were on par with November conversion rate levels.

So though the post-holiday doldrums may get us down, there's nothing like a little retail therapy to recoup and revive. Consumers will be heading online this post-holiday season to do just that.

Source: [1] Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, September 2009. n= 2002. [2] Google Insights for Search, 2009. [3] Google/Compete Daily Search Barometer, 11/09. Analysis based on top 450 retail sites.

Procrastination just may be the main shopping strategy for shoppers this year. According to Google Insights for Search, search traffic on 'last minute gifts' and related terms spike in the days immediately before Christmas:

'last minute gifts'
December 2008

'last minute deals'
December 2008

'shipping by christmas'
December 2008

Keep in mind that shoppers will be looking for last minute gifts, deals, and shipments through Christmas Eve. Make sure that your budgets are optimized to capture this last minute traffic, and that you are bidding competitively in the days leading up to Christmas. You should also ensure that your ad text is enticing to last-minute shoppers and that it clearly states shipping deadlines so that your customers have a clear idea of whether or not you'll be able to ship gifts in time.

For the first 36 days of the November-December Holiday Season*, comScore reports online holiday sales up 4% year over year, with last week's sales up 5% year over year. Better yet, historical buying behavior dictates that the most important shopping weeks are yet to come; during the last few years, the three weeks prior to Christmas represented approximately 45% of total online holiday sales.

Our posts this week have focused primarily on retailers' considerable opportunities in e-commerce sales during the final weeks of the Holiday Season, but it's also worth noting an additional avenue for success among those merchants whose sales span across channels.The increasing frequency with which consumers are researching online before purchasing offline offers additional possibilities for stimulating sales in physical stores through the use of web-based marketing and promotions.

Using Google Insights for Search to do a year over year analysis of search volume for terms such as “store locator”, “store locations” and “printable coupons”, we can see that consumer interest in conducting web research prior to making an in-store purchase is growing rapidly. The visual below also depicts two periods in which annual demand for information about physical stores typically peaks - the first occurs over Thanksgiving Weekend and the second during those days immediately preceding Christmas.

Given both that search volume for the term "store locator" over Thanksgiving Weekend 2009 increased by 342% when compared to the same period in 2007, and that the second expected surge in demand (occurring just before Christmas) has historically been even more dramatic then the first, retailers will want to ensure that they are well-prepared; regardless of where the ultimate transaction occurs, consumers are increasingly viewing shopping as a cross-channel experience.

Source: Google Insights for Search, comScore 2009

With record e-commerce sales reported last week and top e-commerce days still to come, how far along are consumers in completing their holiday shopping and purchasing? Our recent Google/OTX Consumer Pulse Check survey reveals that as of Sunday, December 6th, consumers, on average, have a whopping 64% of shopping left to complete.

Compared to the week before Thanksgiving, that's a decrease of 18 percentage points. This indicates that while consumers completed 18% of their shopping over the busy Thanksgiving week, with just over two weeks until Christmas, shoppers have plenty of purchasing still to do.

While the average shopper still has many gifts to buy, also of note is that many have not even begun. In fact, we found that 19% of holiday shoppers have not started researching their holiday purchases and 29% had yet to purchase a single gift for their loved ones.

Though excellent news for retailers headed into the next few weeks, we certainly hope none of these last minute shoppers are related to us!

National Free Shipping Day is quickly approaching, marking the start of shipping cut-offs on Thursday, December 17th. Using Google Insights for Search, we've found that search volume for 'free shipping' has increased steadily over the last several years and is trending well above last year's levels.

During the 2008 holiday shopping season, searches for "free shipping" peaked on key shopping days and remained consistently high through December 18th. Likewise, in partnership with Compete, Inc., we've found that not only do searches for shipping increase through the shipping deadlines but so do conversion rates. In fact, conversion rates on top retail sites showed significant and steady increases through the shipping cut-off deadlines last year. In fact, Tuesday, December 16, 2008 marked the highest retail conversion rates, exceeding even Black Friday and Cyber Monday during the 2008 holiday season.

So as your shipping cut-offs approach, be sure that you are communicating these important dates to your shoppers and that you are capturing these ready-to-buy consumers through your online marketing efforts.

Source: Google/Compete Daily Search Barometer, 11/2009. Analysis based on top 450 retail sites.

With the success of Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, what's ahead for the rest of December? When we spoke with consumers we found that 42% of them plan to complete the majority of their purchases in early/mid December while 6% plan to wait until the last minute. Combined, that's almost half of consumers that still need to complete the majority of their holiday shopping - a promising sign for retailers headed into the rest of December.

When we take a look at e-commerce spend from 2008, we see a similar story with comScore reporting around $16.2 billion in online sales from Thanksgiving through Christmas last year. The week before Christmas accounted for a surprising 20% of these sales - that's purchases that happened after the start of the December 18th shipping cut-offs. Similarly, the weekend before Christmas saw a 98% increase in e-commerce sales in 2008 compared to the same time frame in 2007.
Is Santa arriving late this year? Are consumers more comfortable than ever making last minute purchases via the online channel? Time will tell but many signs point to a successful December and a successful last-minute holiday shopping season.

Source: comScore, 2008

Headed into the weekend, what are your plans? A big night out or maybe a big night in? It turns out many of us may be ditching weekend getaways and late nights to spend some time shopping online. Using Google Insights for Search, we've found that searches in the Shopping category have upticked on weekends over the last 90 days. Consumers are turning to the web on Saturday and Sunday to complete their research and make purchases online, especially during this busy shopping season.

In partnership with Compete, Inc., we've also seen that time spent on retail sites peaks on the weekends and that conversion rates too tend to increase on these days.

So whether your site's visitors are browsing or buying, ensure that you reach these weekend warrior shoppers through your online marketing campaigns.

[1] Google/Compete Daily Search Barometer, 11/2009. Analysis based on top 450 retail sites.

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday's hot searches were for apparel, electronics and toys, consumers are also seeking more thoughtful gifts.

In the last month, searches for "personalized holiday gifts" have increased 160%. Other popular searches were "unique personalized gifts" and "personalized photo gifts". While traditional gift items, like electronics, are making a come back, people want to retain the sentiment of the holiday season.

As it is said, it's the thought that counts. Searches for homemade gifts have skyrocketed. "Homemade christmas gifts", "homemade gift ideas" and "homemade christmas ormanments" have grown 70% or more. A personal touch, along with a smaller price tag, are likely drivers.

Be sure to be on your best behavior leading into the holidays. "Best christmas gifts" is a top search, but "good christmas gifts" are more highly sought than "great christmas gifts". Here's hoping to get a great one!

What spreads faster than office gossip? A good deal! And the word is out about Black Friday. The novelty of Black Friday seems to have jumped borders, leapt across oceans and taken root outside of the U.S.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S., has enjoyed a notable boost in awareness and importance for U.S. consumers and retailers alike. For consumers Black Friday has become associated with doorbuster deals and a day of pavement pounding, route planning, all-out shopping strategery. In more recent years the traditional Black Friday deals have extended to the internet leading to a blossoming of online purchasing on Black Friday.

This year Black Friday has gone global. After all, who wouldn’t want a good deal?

“Black Friday” was the top rising search term in Brazil, Japan and Israel and the second fastest rising in France and Sweden within the “Shopping” category over the last 7 days (week ending Sunday, Nov 29. Google Insights for Search. Rising searches are searches that have experienced significant growth in a given time period, with respect to the preceding time period ) (Interesting, but not surprising, to note the searches were performed in English as opposed to the local language).

What does this mean for retailers in the U.S.? Could this be an opportunity for those who ship internationally, distribute through local retailers internationally and/or have store locations abroad?

Apple seems to think so. This year Apple promoted their one-day-sale in several countries including Brazil and Sweden. (see Gizmodo report for more examples)

…did Apple help to drive those international searches on the term "Black Friday" or did Apple offer the promotion in response to pre-existing interest in Black Friday internationally? Like the 'chicken or the egg' we may never know, but we can say with certainty that the interest is there and the opportunity is ripe.

As can be expected, "cyber monday online deals", "cyber monday discounts" and "cyber monday bargains" topped the list of yesterday's Google Hot Trends.

Building on Black Friday popularity, "best buy cyber monday 2009 deals" indicated consumers continued to shop for electronics. The most sought after toys yesterday were "zhu zhu pets" and "american girl". Given their prevalence over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, keep an eye on toys and consumer electronics as the rest of the holiday shopping season unfolds.

A useful resource for spotting and tracking hot gift trends is Google Hot Trends. Google Hot Trends is a fun and free resource that enables you to track the fastest rising searches each day, as they are happening. You see immediately when there's late breaking news, or in this case, which gifts were the hottest for Cyber Monday.

Although the kickoff weekend of the official holiday shopping season is behind us, there is plenty of shopping left to be done. Last minute shopping, Free Shipping Day and the Christmas shipping cutoff are in front of us. You can use Google Hot Trends to stay ahead and keep your fingers on the pulse of what people are searching for.

Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday showed a strong surge in online shopping searches, with searches for "Black Friday" up by more than 20%, year over year. Searches for "black friday sales" and "black friday ads" were both up by more than 50%, year over year.

These notable increases indicate that consumers now expect to find the weekend's hot deals prominently listed online (as opposed to solely in newspaper circulars). Some of the fastest rising search terms were "Walmart Black Friday", "Kohls Black Friday Ad", "Sears Black Friday Sales" and "Target Black Friday Deals Online", as consumers planned their purchases, based on each store's specials. Google Search was also used to develop in-store shopping strategies, as "Walmart Black Friday Store Map" surfaced as a fastest rising term, blurring the lines between online and in-store shopping.

Value minded shopping continued to reign, as searches for "printable coupons" on Thanksgiving and Black Friday were up about 50% over last year and searches for "sales" were up by more than 25%.

Consumer interest in apparel, electronics and toys was revived, as searches in the apparel and toys categories rose about 50% and searches in the consumer electronics category more than tripled over last year. This was reflected in Thanksgiving and Black Friday's fastest rising search terms, with "Toys R Us Black Friday Sale", "Best Buy Black Friday Deals" and "Black Friday Computer Deals" high on the list.

Source: Google Insights for Search, 2009.

With Black Friday weekend seeing strong e-commerce growth last year, Cyber Monday too posted impressive gains. In fact, Cyber Monday accounted for $836 million in e-commerce sales in 2008, up an impressive 15% over the previous year. [1] This indicates that consumers have become increasingly familiar with this major online shopping day.

First coined in 2005 by based on research that showed that 77% of online retailers reported a significant increase in sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2004, Cyber Monday has only gained in popularity over the past few years. In fact, earlier this season we saw early-than-expected consumer interest - searches for "Cyber Monday" began upticking in mid-September versus mid-October in previous years. Likewise, using Google Insights for Search, we find that search interest in "Cyber Monday" has increased steadily each year, starting in 2005.

Over the last 30 days, top rising searches have focused on Cyber Monday sales, deals, ads, and key retailer offerings, reflecting a research-oriented consumer. Searches for 'Black Monday' also prevail, indicating there is still opportunity for Cyber Monday to be better understood by consumers.

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, shoppers are primed and ready for the biggest shopping weekend of the year. With the idea of 4 a.m. doorbuster sales making some of us weary, more and more shoppers are avoiding the crowds and turning online as an alternative to the traditional Black Friday Weekend shopping experience.

In 2008, in the midst of the economic downturn, the online channel proved more than resilient on this weekend. In fact, according to comScore, the Black Friday weekend saw substantial growth year-over-year in e-commerce sales - 6% growth on Thanksgiving, 1% on Black Friday, 19% on Saturday and Sunday.

With that, is Black Friday weekend becoming the new Cyber Monday? With the substantial e-commerce growth throughout these days and conversion rates on Black Friday rising above those on Cyber Monday in 2008, it's looking like that weekend may be bigger than ever online. Consumers are headed to the web not only to research deals and product information before heading to the stores bright and early, they are also making that special purchase for their loved ones.

Be sure you're not underestimating these in-market online shoppers.

Last week, Marissa Mayer, Google VP of Search Products and User Experience, appeared on CNBC's Power Lunch to discuss what consumers are searching for this holiday season.

For more on CNBC's Power Lunch, please visit their site.

Each year shoppers scramble to find the perfect gifts for their loved ones. But what happens when they don't know what to buy?

Over the last seven days the 'Gifts' category has seen an increase in gift 'idea' terms on Google Insights for Search as users search on broad categories to find the perfect gift:

What does this mean for advertisers? Make sure your ads address the consumer need for gifting ideas. Write ads that state your major product offerings, but also let them know that you have ideas to help them narrow down their gift options. Also, make sure your website is optimized for indecisive buyers. Options to look for gifts by recipient ('Gifts for Dad,' 'Gifts for Wife,' etc), interest (sports, biking, reading, film, etc.) or price point are all popular ways to help shoppers find the right present.

While some consumers will need help finding the right gift, others know exactly what to buy. While some people are cutting back and looking for creative gifting opportunities, as evidenced by the rise in searches for homemade holiday gifts, others are buying practical, large-ticket items that can be used for years. Seaches for netbooks are up more than 60% over last year and searches for mini notebook computers are up by more than 70% over last year. If you offer a wide selection of price points, don't shy away from marketing large ticket items, but be sure to position their longevity and practicality.

Some classic kids toys (Barbie, Nerf, bicycles) will remain popular gifts, but there is growing demand for trendy, new toys this year. Zhu zhu pets searches are up 75% since October, as parents across the US scramble to find the 'must have' electronic hamsters. Not surprisingly, Twilight gifts will be extremely popular, as searches for Twilight dolls are on the rise, and searches for the Twilight soundtrack are 20% higher than those for High School Musical and the Hannah Montana soundtrack.

Canadians started shopping for the holiday season in early November but that does not mean they will stop any time soon. The buying fever is here and will continue until the end of the holiday season. In fact when we spoke with consumers in our Google/OTX Canada Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey, 37% of Canadians will do the majority of their purchasing by November, while 42% will do so in early/mid December.

We are seeing similar trends as in 2008. According to our survey, the Internet remains the top Canadian source of information for holiday shopping both as a research tool and to help make a purchase. The “Internet” was actually selected as the leading shopping resource ahead of “in-store” by a large margin as Canadians are more likely to research their holiday gifts online before going to a store to make their purchase. In this context, it is not surprising to realize that online advertising is more important than TV commercials when it comes to influencing Canadian purchase decisions this holiday season. In fact, search engines were cited by almost 50% of Canadians as the leading online resource for making holiday purchase decisions. [1] Rising searches in Google Insights for Search can help to identify the hottest gifts for 2009. Some of the top rising searches include: GI Joe, Transformer toys, Barbie games, Beatles Rockland, Twilight DVD release, Laptops, iPhones and more.

So, is your holiday campaign ready? Are your online ads visible from now until Christmas? Google Insights for Search data shows that search activity for the boxing day and boxing week start ahead of time and 54% of Canadians intend to take advantage of post holiday sales. Did you know that in 2008, searches for “boxing day sales” started to climb on Dec 20, and lasted until around Dec 29? Search volume for “boxing day sales” has shown growth year over year. [2]

So make sure you do not miss out on the opportunity to finish strong in 2009 and start 2010 on a positive note. The number of Canadians online is at an all-time high, keep your campaigns on and relevant to reach last minute and boxing week shoppers throughout the holidays. Happy holiday season!

Source: [1] Google/OTX Canada Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey, October 2009, n=1,004, [2]Google Insights for Search, 2009

Happy Monday! Does it really grind your gears when someone arrives in the office Monday morning bright-eyed and bushy tailed and greets you with a resounding “Happy Monday!”? If so, please give this person a break because he/she is right. During the holiday season we have a lot to be happy about on Mondays.

Mondays seem to bring out the shopper in all of us - especially online. According to ComScore, during the last holiday season two of the top three days for purchases from Retail websites were Mondays, including Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving, which will be November 30th this year).
But why limit ourselves to Mondays? Fridays are pretty happy too. Last year, conversion rates for Retail websites were higher on Black Friday than Cyber Monday [1] (although total e-commerce sales were higher on Cyber Monday according to Comscore). It’s interesting that the day best known for the image of ravenous shoppers stampeding through the doors at the local mall was actually a banner day online as well.

So where do I focus my marketing efforts this holiday season? Online or in-store? How about the place our good friend Avinash calls the nonline world (he got the term from David Hughes). This is the place where consumers live, aka the real world, where purchase decisions are not linear and certainly not channel exclusive. In the nonline world customers move back and forth between channels and each stop influences the final purchase. In the nonline world web and store are not mutually exclusive. To the customer all channels coexist and commingle peacefully. The consumer lives in the nonline world and therefore the retailer must also live in the nonline world with an integrated strategy free from the curse of “organizational silos”.

The most important thing to do is to prepare for everyday from Black Friday through to the shipping cut off to be happy online, offline and nonline.

[1] Source: Google/Compete Daily Search Barometer, 11/2009. Based on visits to top 450 Retail websites.

Wow! Our latest results from the Google/OTX Consumer Pulse Check survey reveal that as of last week, half of US consumers have already made holiday gift purchases for this season! This is a good sign that shoppers are not simply shopping earlier today to research, but also following through to buy now when they find the right gift with the right price as opposed to later. We have been checking in with consumers regularly since late August; as you can see from the charts below, their steady increases in holiday purchasing and holiday researching throughout the past weeks go hand in hand.

Note to Retailers: For those who may think holiday shopping does not start until after Thanksgiving, think again, because holiday shopping clearly began 11 weeks ago (if not longer)! Consumers are becoming savvy and prepared holiday shoppers -- while we may all "hold out" for the best holiday sales closer to the actual holidays, we are not waiting around to check off part of our shopping list now.

In the final clip of our holiday video series, we hear from retailers on how they will focus on nailing the marketing basics to drive holiday sales.

Click here to view part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Stay tuned for more retail trends and insights this week and check out our Fast.Forward. Channel to connect with marketing leaders across industries.

Consumers are shopping for the holidays earlier than ever, but the shopping season still extends well into December. Of consumers responding to our Google/OTX Consumer Intentions Survey from September, 46% plan to purchase the majority of their gifts in early and late December or wait until the last minute. As of last year, consumers have had a new incentive to finish their last minute shopping online: National Free Shipping Day.

Thursday, December 17, 2009 marks the second annual National Free Shipping Day, in which participating retailers ship products for free and guarantee arrival by Christmas Eve. Looking at 2008, we see that search traffic upticks at the start of December for "free shipping day," well before the actual day as users begin researching participating retailers.

If you are a participating retailer, ensure that you are advertising on these terms early. And remember, while Free Shipping Day is an important event for shoppers concerned with a holiday delivery date, free shipping is an enticing offer any time during the holiday season. As we discussed earlier in the week, search interest in "holiday free shipping" is up over last year and, as we see below, in the last thirty days, interest in free shipping is greater than interest in discounts or coupon codes:

Clearly, consumers are willing to do their homework to find free shipping offers. Since last minute shoppers will be looking for deals and deadlines, make sure any free shipping offers and date parameters are reflected in your ads. You'll also want to ensure that your budgets are set up for maximum traffic during the last shipping days in December.

Though the popularity of the layaway has declined since its hey day during the Great Depression, layways are regaining the spotlight this holiday season. As credit has tightened and as consumers have become more conscious of taking on debt, layway is becoming a popular alternative for both retailers and consumers alike. Major retailers - such as Kmart, Sears, Burlington Coat Factory, as well as, online players such as - have expanded or reinstated layway programs to attract budget conscious consumers and those with limited access to credit.

Consumers, in turn, have taken advantage of these expanded programs. As we see in the Google Insights for Search chart below, search interest is trending well above last year, up 60 percentage points.

If you offer a layaway program, be sure to advertise on appropriate keywords and include offers in your ad text.

With consumers both savvier than ever online and turning to the web for free shipping, discounts, and deals, coupons and promotional codes are also driving substantial search interest. In the Google Insights for Search graph below, searches for coupons are growing fast in 2009, even compared to 2008 when the recession was nearing its worst. And, as we head into the holidays, 68% of consumers report that they plan take advantage of coupons this season. [2]

The same is true for promotional codes, trending well over last year’s levels, increasing by as much as 55% year-over-year.

With growing interest, ensure you are advertising your coupons, coupon codes, and promo codes to capture increased search volume.

Source: [1] Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, 9/09. (Q12) In general, how likely are you to take advantage of the following holiday offers an promotions during the upcoming Holiday Season? n=2002 [2] Google Internal. Insights for Search.

Even in a recession, consumers have shown that they will buy if they are given a reason or incentive to do so. Programs such as Cash for Clunkers have breathed life into the Auto industry, generating 700,000 new car sales and jetBlue's 'All You Can Jet' promotion ran in August and was so successful, they sold out their airline passes in 2 days. So even if money is tight, consumers respond to a strong value proposition.

A simple way to capitalize on this consumer behavior is through advertising your discounts and free shipping online. 87% of consumers plan to take advantage of price discounts or sales this holiday season [2] and, as we see in the Google Insights for Search graph below, search interest in 'discounts' is consistently trending above 2008 levels online.

Likewise, 73% of consumers plan to take advantage of free shipping this holiday.[2] And, as we see below, "holiday free shipping" is trending well above where it was last year.

Though not all retailers offer free shipping, discounts, or other rebates, know that these value propositions resonate with consumers so begin thinking about how your company or product is providing value and incorporate that messaging into your online marketing campaigns. Consumers are eagerly looking for a reason to buy from you.

Source: Google Insights for Search. [1] Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, 9/09. (Q12) In general, how likely are you to take advantage of the following holiday offers and promotions during the upcoming Holiday Season? n=2002

In part three of our holiday video series, we hear from retailers on how they will tap into the multi-channel consumer to drive holiday sales.

Click here to view part 1 and part 2.

Stay tuned for more retailer advice from your peers next week, and check out our Fast.Forward. Channel to connect with marketing leaders across industries.


Earlier this week, we saw that search interest in Black Friday is starting earlier than ever. Today’s consumers invest more time searching for a bargain, and Black Friday has proven to be a key example of consumer savviness. In fact, using Google Insights for Search, we see that over the last seven days, 50% of the top ‘Black Friday’ related search terms include ads, sales, and deals.

Clearly consumers are seeking out deals heading into this important shopping day. Interestingly, when we look at Black Friday rising searches over the last 7 days, we see that "Early Black Friday" is the second rising search term, meaning it has grown over 2,000% during this time period with respect to the previous time period. It also may indicate that consumers are not only leveraging "Black Friday" and searches to locate promotions on these days, but may be seeking out similar types of promotions and offerings even before Thanksgiving weekend.

To capture bargain hunters’ attention make sure your ads appeal to thrifty, deal-seeking searchers. Text ads should highlight specific price points, discounts, coupon codes, and special promotions. Also, remember to keep an eye on search trends in your own category by leveraging Google Insights for Search.

Erin Piper, the Google Retail Team

As retailers gear up for the holiday season, maximizing website conversion rates will be more important than ever. Evidence suggests high quality search can play a big factor; for instance, according to MarketingSherpa, 43% of visitors who land on a website go immediately to the site's search function. And customers who use the search box on e-commerce sites convert at nearly three times the rate of general browsers. We've taken these trends to heart, and we're now excited to announce a new search product specifically built for retail websites: Google Commerce Search.

Google Commerce Search was built with two principles in mind - speed and relevance. Both of these are critical to an end user's shopping experience. To optimize both, we decided that a hosted, cloud-based model would be best, leveraging the power of the Google platform. Typical search results are delivered in 0.25 seconds; in context, the average blink of an eye is around 0.1 seconds. Google Commerce Search will also leverage the relevant information from millions of product-related clicks on and in Google Product Search to bring the most relevant search results to shoppers using online stores. Another main benefit of being hosted is how easily the solution can be deployed - in days, as opposed to weeks or months for an on-premise e-commerce search tool. Retailers can also now use the same product feed for both Google Product Search and Google Commerce Search, which cuts down on time and tech costs.

To enhance the user experience, we also added numerous retail-centric features. Parametric search enables customers to view and sort search results by category, price, brand, or any other attribute. Spell check, stemming, and synonyms makes sure that users find the exact product they are looking for. Product Boost and Promotions enable retailers to promote certain products during sales or to cross-sell related products.

Birkenstock USA has implemented Google Commerce Search on one of their online properties and found it has already made an impact on their business. "Google Commerce Search is improving user satisfaction -- bounce rates have decreased and we're seeing more return customers,' said Jeff Kilmer, COO, Birkenstock USA. 'The search results are ultra-fast, so customers more easily find the specific products they're looking for. We deployed Google Commerce Search quickly and easily, and we've seen dramatic conversion improvement since implementation. It has also meant a better shopping experience for our customers, which is critical given the holiday season rush."

Read more about Google Commerce Search on our Enterprise Blog, or on our website.

More and more people worldwide are accessing the web with their mobile phones and, as we heard Monday, retailers are looking to leverage consumer use of emerging media this holiday. This year, half of all new internet connections will come from mobile phones. [1] As mobile internet usage is on the rise, so too is mobile search. In fact, compared to last year, mobile search traffic has grown significantly.

Source: Google internal data

What does this mean for retailers? It means big opportunity. One way to capture this opportunity is to enable mobile users to find your nearest store locations. About 1 in 3 mobile search queries has local intent . [2] Mobile advertising can help you drive more traffic to stores by offering a way to reach customers who are close to point-of-sale and want to spend now.

In addition to driving purchases in-store, mobile advertising can motivate users to purchase directly on their mobile devices. Mobile users aren't just spending money on mobile content and apps. One in three US web buyers who used their mobile phones to make a purchase spent over $50, buying a range of items including electronics, clothing, books and jewelry .[3]

If you'd like to create a mobile ad campaign within AdWords, check out this FAQ to learn about your options.

[1] eMarketer, 2008 and 2009
[2] The Kelsey Group, 2009
[3] North American Technographics Retail Online Survey, Q3 2008; “Consumer Behavior Report: Mobile Internet Shopping Trends” 4/30/09

With November upon us, Black Friday (November 27) and Cyber Monday (November 30) are just around the corner. Consumers are showing early interest - as we see in the Google Insights for Search graphs below, 'Black Friday' searches began increasing the week of August 2, 2009 versus mid-September in 2008 and 2007. And while everyone knows how crowded the malls are on Black Friday, note last year's online sales of $534MM on Black Friday. That's up a modest 1% over the previous year and during the height of the downturn in the economy. [1]
Cyber Monday is also increasingly top-of-mind. The term 'Cyber Monday' was first used in 2005 in the e-commerce community (coined by and was based on research that indicated that the vast majority of online retailers reported a significant increase in sales the Monday after Thanksgiving. As we see below, the uptick in searches for Cyber Monday started the week of September 13, 2009 versus mid-October in 2008 and 2007. Also of note, we saw e-Commerce sales on Cyber Monday reached $846M in 2008, up 15% over 2007.[1]
With both Black Friday and Cyber Monday driving even earlier consumer interest online this year, ensure that you are reaching these consumers through creative online promotional efforts now to ensure your brands and products are in the consideration set when consumers head in-store and online to buy.

Source: Google Internal, Insights for Search. [1] comScore Press Release, 12/3/08.

In part two of our holiday webinar series, we hear from retailers on their plans to leverage emerging and social media this holiday season.

With search being central to the consumer shopping cycle, search should be part of your strategy to not only drives sales, but also build your brand awareness as consumers are considering what gifts to buy for the holidays.

In a joint test with Levi's, Google found that paid search ads, whether or not clicked, raised consumer awareness of the Levi's brand.

When in-market consumers were asked which brand of jeans came to mind, 53% of consumers named Levi's when a Levi's search ad was in the top sponsored position, compared to 30% who named Levi's when there was no Levi's search ad on the page. (a statistically significant lift)

Better yet, when Levi's "non-customers" (people who hadn't bought Levi's jeans in the past 6 months) were asked the same question, 45% named Levi's when the ad was in the top sponsored position, versus 23% who named Levi's when there was no ad in the search results. (also statistically significant)

Placing your ad in top paid position can increase top of mind awareness for both current customers and non-customers, a desirable outcome at the time when consumers are making their holiday gift lists.

Source: Google/OTX Brand Lift of Search study, April 2009. Research was sponsored by Google, conducted by OTX, an independent marketing research company, in a controlled "laboratory" format that mimicked an actual online search query. Question asked: "Thinking about specific brands of jeans, which one brand comes to mind? Please only write in the first brand that comes to mind." Results are a significant increase from control (no exposure) at 95% confidence. n=2,000 online consumers who had recently purchased jeans or intended to soon.

With 79% of holiday shoppers finding the internet very or extremely helpful, where are shoppers planning to go once they head online this holiday? Not surprisingly, 60% will head to store websites (such as, etc.) and 42% will head to online-only retailer websites (such as,, etc.) to seek out product information and store offerings and make an online purchase.

46% will also head to search engines to seek out information and complete their holiday shopping - a 7% lift over last year.

With such a high percentage of consumer completing their holiday shopping on search engines and other content sites, consider reaching these online audiences through advertisements on both search engines as well as news, consumer, blog, video-sharing, and review sites.

Source: Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, 9/09. (Q8) Which of the following online sources, if any, do you plan to use for your Holiday Shopping during the upcoming Holiday season? n=2002

With 58% of consumers already starting their Holiday research, it is clear that completing research prior to purchase is the norm for holiday shoppers. In fact, when we spoke to consumers responding to our recent Google/OTX Consumer Intentions Survey, 48% plan to spend more time this holiday season shopping around for gifts. That's a lift of 12% compared to 2008 during the initial downturn in the economy.[1]

And, as we see below, shoppers look to a variety of sources to complete this research. The internet ranked as the most helpful source of information with 79% of consumers finding it very or extremely helpful. Next up were friends, relatives and colleagues at 59% and in-store displays at 56%. [2]

When it comes to your online marketing efforts, ensure that you are creating useful, informative advertisements that highlight price, product features, and special promotions where applicable to ensure you are capturing the information-seeking shopper this holiday season.

Source: Google/OTX Consumer Intentions for Holiday 2009, 9/09. n=2002 [1] (Q16) Using the scale below please tell us how much you agree or disagree with the following statements about shopping during the holiday season [2] (Q7). Based on your past shopping experience, how useful do you think each following sources of information will be to you while you do your Holiday Shopping? (Top 2 Box)

This holiday season more than ever retailers are gearing up and planning ahead. We recently spoke with some of the leading retail experts and discovered that all of them plan to focus on a few key strategies to help them succeed in the coming months. Beginning today we will be launching a weekly holiday video series showcasing the top holiday tactics they have shared with us:

Stay tuned for more retailer advice from your peers, and check out our Fast.Forward. Channel to connect with marketing leaders across industries.

As we discussed yesterday, keeping an eye on key product categories and hot items is always vital during the holidays. Google Insights for Search provides a platform to do just that—the tool enables us to look at search trends and see how things change from day-to-day and year-to-year.

Below are the rising searches in the 'Mass Merchants & Department Stores' category, followed by rising searches in the 'Consumer Electronics' category. These are searches that show significant growth during a time period with respect to the previous time period. In this case, we're looking at the last 7 days compared to the previous 7 days.

For instance, today we see that 'black friday' search terms make up 4 of the top 10 in the 'Mass Merchants & Department Stores' category, indicating that consumers are already seeking out Black Friday deals. In the 'Consumer Electronics' category, we see rising interest in e-readers. This indicates increased search interest in this product category and may be noteworthy to retailers who carry this item.

Keep an eye as these search terms and the search terms in your category change to better understand how consumer sentiment and search queries are changing over time. These consumer trends can help inform your keyword strategies.