The decorations, the family get-togethers, the ugly sweaters — these are the unmistakable signs that the holiday season is in full swing. But no December would be complete without the final mad-dash to buy gifts for loved ones on your list. And if you’re like me, you may have a gift or two (or ten) left to buy at the last minute.

No sweat — you aren’t alone. While people started searching on Google for gifts in mid-October, holiday shopping is far from finished. More than 60% of people are still shopping for gift ideas post-Cyber Monday (Google/Ipsos study), and as of yesterday, shoppers have 37% of their purchases to complete.

To help last-minute shopping procrastinators tick the remaining gifts off their lists, retailers have made it easy by crowning December 17 as “Free Shipping day” - or as we call it, Oh Ship! Day. We’re making it easier to find retailers that offer free shipping by allowing you to sort by items that have free shipping or are in-stock in stores nearby on Google Shopping. And retailers can also drive more last minute sales by promoting their free shipping offers across their online marketing campaigns, from search, display and video.

Here are a few more insights about shopping and shipping trends:

Free Shipping drives purchase decisions
Free shipping can be a dealbreaker for many holiday shoppers. We found that if a site didn’t offer free shipping, 47% of shoppers would find the item on a different site that did, 32% of shoppers would go to a nearby store, and only 20% would buy the product from the site anyway.

Many people search specifically for sites that offer free shipping. Searches on Google for “free shipping” are up 58% in the past month, and peaked on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, searches on Google for “free shipping” spiked 33% on Free Shipping Day. Savvy retailers who are participating in Free Shipping day can make the most out of it by promoting their shipping offers online.

Multiscreen mavens
Gadgets are always high on people’s holiday lists, and 2012 is no different. In fact, we found that 43% of people shopping for electronics are shopping for themselves (Google Consumer Surveys).

But smartphones, laptops, and tablets aren’t just at the top of the tech wish list, people are using these devices to shop across multiple screens more than ever before. 83% of both smartphone and tablet owners have used their devices for some portion of the shopping process post-Cyber Monday (Google/Ipsos study).

There’s still time left, but an important deadline is on the horizon - December 17 is also the last day you can send packages via FedEx Ground guaranteed for a arrival by Christmas. For more insights on holiday shopping trends check out our Google Consumer Surveys Holiday site.

Posted by Eva Barbier, Retail and Technology Team, Google

As we count down to the last few shopping days before Christmas, we took a look at the top searches on Google to see which toys made this year’s wish list and found a blend of nostalgia and tech. From Furby to the LeapPad, this season’s top toys span retro remakes to kid-friendly tablets, and everything in between:
  1. Stompeez
  2. Build a Bear
  3. LeapPad 2
  4. Furby
  5. Easy-Bake Oven
  6. Lego Minecraft
  7. Stuffies
  8. Crayola
  9. Doc McStuffins Toys
  10. Lego Ninjago
This season, even physical toys are integrated with digital technology, enhanced with interactive experiences and games on websites and mobile apps. But digital has not only influenced how kids interact with toys today, it has also changed the way shoppers research and purchase their gifts. More than 68% of all toy sales are now influenced by the web (Google/Compete Toy study). And multiscreen shopping is in full force - 55% of toy shoppers have used a laptop to compare prices, 15% used a mobile phone, and 10% used a tablet (Google Consumer Survey).

As a result, toy shoppers are much more educated before making a purchase - comparing products, retailers, and prices before they step foot into a store or complete a purchase online. In fact, 39% of online toy shoppers research for a window longer than 3 weeks (Google/Compete Toy study). Savvy toy manufacturers and retailers recognize this shift in toy research and have developed a consistent experience for consumers whether it’s browsing through a store aisle or searching for gifts on their tablet at home. Regardless of where shoppers encounter your brand, they should have an opportunity to interact, engage and learn more.

For more research on toy shopping this holiday season, visit the Google Consumer Surveys Holiday Insights website. And for those who still have gifts to cross off your list - happy toy hunting!

Posted by Jen Glare, The Google Retail Team

The Google+ platform provides a fresh canvas for building and strengthening your digital brand, tying into all the marketing you already do with Google. From launching a new product using Google+ pages to engaging with your community of enthusiasts over Hangouts, join our Learn with Google webinar this Thursday for a look at ways your company can build its brand using social. Sign up on our webinar page to attend: Building a Digital Brand with Google+ (Thurs, Dec 6, 10am PT / 1pm ET).

After the Hangout, we’ll host a live Q&A with members of the Google+ team to answer questions about building a brand with Google+. RSVP on the Google+ Event page and add your questions as comments on that page.

With more than 100 monthly million active Google+ users, the time is right to focus on building your digital brand presence via the platform. Google+ has seen a wealth of brands engaging with users in creative, interactive ways. In fact, brands created more than 1 million Google+ pages in just a few months. For instance:
  • H&M: The retail clothing company, with more than 2 million Google+ followers, uses tailored content, images and video to bring its fashions and lifestyle to life on the platform. They’ve also utilized Ripples to identify their trendsetters and saw a 22% clickthrough rate boost after implementing social extensions in AdWords.
  • Cadbury: The chocolate maker has reached a following of nearly 3 million users with a combination of creative posts, Hangouts on Air and even the launch of their Dairy Milk Bubbly bar. They’ve also installed the Google+ badge on the company’s web homepage, making it easy as chocolate to follow the brand.
Like the ideas here? Log on Thursday to learn more about how to create, capture and sustain demand for your brand using Google+. And if you’re going to miss this while you’re at SMX Social in Las Vegas next week, check back at the webinars page later for a recording of the webinar.

Posted by Becky Bowman, Google+ Marketing Team

Well, the results are in on some of the biggest consumer electronics shopping days of the year! According to CEA’s Black Friday survey, a whopping 47% of shoppers purchased consumer electronics over the course of the Thanksgiving / Black Friday holiday. And the top consumer electronic purchases were: Smartphones (26%), Headphones (25%), Tablets (22%), Portable media players (22%) and Video game consoles (20%).

Prior to Thanksgiving, we also sought out what the top tech purchases this holiday season would be, using our own Google Consumer Surveys tool. When asked which tech products they planned to purchase for the holidays, here’s what holiday tech shoppers had to say:

Given that the average consumer has 49% of their holiday shopping left to complete, these products are still up for grabs! On average, tech shoppers are planning to spend $412 towards tech purchases over this holiday season, and over half (52%) plan to purchase 2 or more tech products. For more consumer holiday 2012 insights, be sure to visit our Google Consumer Surveys Holiday Center.


The increasing use of eCommerce
Online has already captured a significant portion of attention from holiday shoppers, with Black Friday online retail sales topping over $1 billion for the first time in history, and 48% of consumers having shopped online on Black Friday. Black Friday 2012 saw a 21% increase in online shopping year-over-year, and Cyber Monday 2012 itself saw a 30% increase in online sales from Cyber Monday 2011.

Digital offers a great medium to influence different segments of holiday shoppers at various stages in their purchase process: from those who use digital to evaluate products prior to purchasing in-store; to those who seek the convenience of home to shop; from the in-store mobile shopper to the last minute shopper; or just anyone, anywhere, who at any time of day reaches out for the device closest to their fingertips to browse the web for their holiday shopping!

For fun: How do consumers feel about doing holiday shopping online? Get a glimpse by viewing their one-word responses here!

The growing importance of mobile
IBM found that mobile made up 24% of site traffic and 16% of sales on Black Friday. And with tablets and smartphones being hot gift items this season, we can only expect this mobile shopping behavior to increase with time!

For fun: Is your site mobile-friendly for holiday shoppers? See what your customers see by testing the mobile readiness of your site.

And the push through December
In our tech shoppers survey, we found close to half (49%) planned to purchase tech products primarily in December, prior to Christmas. And, historically, comScore has found that biggest online retail shopping weeks occur in the first three weeks of December, highlighting some key upcoming periods to reach holiday shoppers as they choose amongst items to purchase for themselves and their loved ones.

And the shopping doesn’t stop even once Christmas is over: NRF found that 81% of consumers plan to purchase gift cards this holiday season, meaning there will be post-holiday funds available for use by giftees. With regards to technology purchases, we’ve found that 17% of consumers who plan to purchase phone or tablet accessories plan to do so after Christmas.

For fun: Check out Google Trends to keep track of rising search interest on some key holiday topics in December, from Green Monday to Free Shipping Day, to gift cards and device accessories!

With all of this in mind, be sure to stay warm, and have a happy, techy holiday season!

Payal Shah, Google Technology Markets Team

(cross-posted on the AdWords Agency Blog)

New product launches trigger an enormous amount of online activity, and cause consumers to shop. And we know that search volume can predict all sorts of things, from unemployment to auto trends. Putting those together, we took a look at the smartphone industry. In our Smartphone Launch Predictor study, we uncovered factors that can maximize and predict product success.
One key takeaway is that aggregate search predicts smartphone sales, with over 90% accuracy.

Here are the key findings that show how marketers can predict, and increase, smartphone sales:
  • Early buzz is a good sign: Maximize official press and marketing efforts early. Why? Pre-launch buzz, like online news stories is a top factor in propelling long-term search interest. We found that an extra 1,000 news stories in the weeks before launch will likely lead to a 9% boost in smartphone sales (compared to the situation if there are no news stories)
  • Customers are searching earlier than you might expect: A whopping 52% of purchase-related searches occur before launch. This is a prime opportunity to reach customers when they’re interested in learning more about the product, as fewer marketers are running ads at this time
  • End of the week availability rules: Some days of the week work better than others. The strongest sales figures correlate with Thursday and Fridays on-sale dates, so schedule messaging when it will generate the most interest
  • Video is a key channel: Shoppers are taking a sneak peak at products before choosing a device: video views for smartphones increased 60% from 2010 to 2011. Video views during launch week generates great results. If a smartphone accrues 1 million video views during launch week launch, it will likely sell over 1.2M units in the 12 weeks after launch
  • Ad clicks correlate closely: The higher the number of clicks on your search ads, the higher your sales - both online and in-store. How much? If a smartphone accrues 100,000 paid clicks during the 12 weeks after launch, it will likely sell over 1.3M units over the same period
  • User research cycle: Before launch, shoppers tend to compare brands to explore the smartphone landscape. More detailed searching increases during the week of launch, when searches for smartphone reviews peak. And then, after launch, people dig into the details: searches for specific smartphone features and product issues hit their high points in the weeks after launch. Tailoring ad campaigns to this cycle is a big opportunity
  • Buying one screen on many screens: As smartphone retailers know, screens are blurring and campaigns are becoming integrated. At launch week, an extra 25,000 searches for smartphones, from smartphones, predicts an increase in sales of 17%
For more insights, download the full research on smartphone sales predictors at Think With Google.

Posted by Matt Seitz, Technology team, Sr. Analytical Lead