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.