6 Trends to Watch in Holiday Search Marketing

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This post is the latest in our “Holiday Blitz” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of November, including topics holiday shopping behavior, year-over-year trend analysis and retail strategies. See the rest of the series here

With fewer than two months to go until Christmas, retailers are already kicking their holiday search marketing tactics into high gear. Holiday sales this year are expected to increase roughly 4% over 2018, according to the National Retail Federation, and consumers are expected to be especially price-conscious. How will the retail industry respond to the changing dynamics in search marketing?

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest trends expected to influence holiday search marketing this year, from tactics for extending the local reach of holiday campaigns and how those tactics convert customers at the point of decision to newer products like Local Inventory Ads, which allows marketers to feed store-level inventory into Google search.

1. People are searching for holiday gifts early.
A look at Google Trends shows just how early people start thinking about holiday shopping. According to the latest data, searches for keywords having to do with holiday shopping began to increase in September. The number of Google searches for holiday shopping keywords typically begins to decrease after December 15th, which means marketers have a finite amount of time to run their holiday search campaigns. Many retailers, including Walmart and Pottery Barn, have already launched their 2019 holiday marketing campaigns, with online promotions and discounts that incentivize consumers to get their shopping done early.

2. Retailers are uploading more inventory into Google.
Google has been mining business websites for search terms relevant to consumers for years. What’s new in 2019 is the increased interest surrounding Local Inventory Ads, which is a local extension of Google Shopping. With Local Inventory Ads, retailers can feed store-level inventory into Google search, and they can direct shoppers who are searching for specific products right to their physical storefronts. (Retailers can achieve similar results when they use the Products tab in Google My Business and add photos, prices, and descriptions for the items they sell.) Having a local presence on Google is important year-around for retailers, but especially during the uber-competitive holiday season.

3. Google’s new Shopping experience is being put to the test.
The new Google Shopping experience was rolled out in the U.S. earlier this month, and merchants are eager to see the impact on their e-commerce holiday sales. The updated Google Shopping experience offers shoppers personalized product recommendations, price alerts, and the ability to purchase from merchants directly through Google’s checkout system. Consumers will also be able to find local stores by searching for products or brand names. Retailers are hoping that increased personalization and decreased friction will make it easier for people to buy from their stores online, and they’re putting more eggs than ever before in Google’s basket.

4. Christmas and Hanukkah shoppers are being marketed to differently.
Drilling down into shopping trends allows retailers to understand how gift-giving habits differ between groups. One of the trends that’s influencing how retailers market to shoppers this season involves the differences in gift-shopping patterns between Christmas and Hanukkah. An analysis by Microsoft Advertising found that Hanukkah shoppers convert much more quickly than Christmas shoppers, with ~70% of Hanukkah shoppers converting on the same day and ~70% of Christmas shoppers taking multiple days to complete their transactions. The differing journey lengths give marketers targeting Christmas shoppers longer conversion windows for remarketing campaigns. To capture more Hanukkah shoppers, marketers are boosting visibility via in-market audiences.

5. Gift guides are more popular than ever before.
Gift guides are an emerging category in search marketing, as consumers show increased interest in seeing lists of gift ideas for every member of the family. Logically speaking, the shift makes sense. It has historically been more difficult for people to “browse” when they shop online vs. in-store. Without the ability to wander through the aisles of a store, many gift-givers are unsure of what to buy. Savvy marketers are capitalizing on the trend by publishing their own online gift guides and personalizing their links and ad copy.

6. The shopping season is shorter.
Consumers have six fewer days to shop between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2019 than in 2018. Just how significantly the shortened holiday season will impact retailers is yet to be seen, but marketers are pushing back by leaning even more on key shopping “events,” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Search marketers are looking to promote these shopping events, along with incentives like faster shipping, in a bid to grow their revenue in a holiday season that could be tough on retail.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.