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Google Talks Holiday Shopping Trends Businesses Need To Be Aware Of

Consumers intend to spend more on holiday shopping this year than they did last year, according to new research from Google. Do you expect to see better holiday sales than last year? Let us know in th...
Google Talks Holiday Shopping Trends Businesses Need To Be Aware Of
Written by Chris Crum
  • Consumers intend to spend more on holiday shopping this year than they did last year, according to new research from Google.

    Do you expect to see better holiday sales than last year? Let us know in the comments.

    “We expect this to be the first Nonline shopping season,” a Google spokesperson tells WebProNews. “Meaning that the line between offline and online shopping has truly become blurred for users. They don’t see a line between their online and offline experiences, and neither do smart retailers.”

    To perform its study, Google commissioned Ipsos OTX, and independent market research firm. Interviews were conducted via online survey from 8/29 – 8/27, with a total sample of 1,500 consumers.

    “Not only is this the first Nonline holiday season, but it’s an important one for retailers as consumers prepare to spend more money — and spend more time making sure they get the most value for every dollar spent,” says Google Retail Industry Director, Todd Pollak. “Our research released today with Ipsos shows that on average, shoppers plan to spend $900 on holiday shopping this year, up slightly from an average of $854 last year. Along with this bump in spending, we’re seeing an increase in research before purchasing by shoppers who are more judicious about their purchases- 46% plan to spend more time shopping around for gifts this year.”

    “We found that 80% of shoppers will research online before making a purchase this season, and they switch devices to suit their needs,” he adds. “For example, 51% of shoppers will research online and then visit the store to purchase, while 17% will visit a store first and then purchase online. Another 32% will research online, visit store to view a product, then return online to purchase. In short, the shopper’s journey looks less like a funnel and more like a flight map, and the lines between online and offline shopping experiences are blurring.”

    Nonline shopping

    According to the company’s research, consumers are most excited about purchasing clothes, TVs, laptops and tablets (namely, iPads, though tablets in general aren’t too far behind), though they intend to shop across all major retail categories, of course. 83% intend to purchase apparel, 64% intend to purchase toys, 57% intend to purchase electronics, 56% intend to purchase watches & jewelry, 49% intend to purchase cosmetics/beauty products, and 35% intend to purchase sporting goods.

    Here’s what tablet and e-reader purchase intent looks like:

    Tablets and eReaders

    Interestingly, latptop intent is still greater than tablet intent (though not by much).

    Google says its key takeaways from the study are:

    • Capture Consumer Demand: 54% of consumers will start holiday shopping before Black Friday
    • Make Sure Your Brand is Top of Mind: 46% of consumers plan to spend more time shopping around for gifts this year because of the economy
    • Open Attribution Window: While consumers are researching early, 31% plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping in early/mid December
    • Capture undecided holiday shoppers with search: 37% of consumers say search is their go-to source for gift ideas, and 51% plan to research online but buy in-store
    • Implement full coverage for mobile and tablet: 4 in 5 mobile/tablet owners will use their device for holiday shopping, and mobile users continue searching after Christmas

    Starting Holiday Shopping

    We had a discussion with Director of Product Management for Google Shopping, Vineet Buch, who talked about how people are using their mobile devices in physical stores more and more. Depending on the kind of store or product, he says, people rely on humans for expertise and information, but in these types of scenarios, mobile apps can give a lot more info about a product than a human. He gave the examples of shopping for a washing machine or a microwave.

    In cases where customers are more likely to make a taste-based purchase, Buch says mobile apps can empower the sales clerks to provide higher quality services. As far as straight information goes, however, we can probably expect consumers to turn to their mobile devices in-store before turning to sales clerks in increasing numbers.

    According to Google’s findings, 85% of people shop for a gift on one device and then make their purchase on another. To do so, Google says, 45% will leave an item in the virtual shopping cart, 45% will send themselves an email or link, and 32% will conduct a new search on a new device.

    “Savvy retailers are stimulating demand on one device and completing a sale on another,” says Pollak. “Shopping searches spike on mobile devices on days when people are on the go – out at a Thanksgiving dinner or hunting bargains at the mall. The biggest days for holiday shopping searches on mobile devices last year were Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the day after Christmas, and the weekends in December.”

    Shopping Companions

    According to Google, 62% of shoppers used a smartphone in a store to help with shopping research last year, indicating that retailers should aim to inform in-store purchase decisions with mobile apps or sites that are optimized for mobile.

    Buch says that, as far as online goes, video is becoming increasingly powerful in many categories, as far as discovery. For reviews, he says, videos are better than words, because you can see the angles of products, how the move, etc.

    “The user is becoming better informed and smarter,” he says, adding that this is an opportunity for those retailers who can better connect with users.

    Mobile, he says, is another big opportunity, not just because you can drive conversions, but so many people come to retailers through mobile. The key is not to have a disconnect between your mobile experience and your desktop web experience as a retailer. Consumers should get a familiar experience no matter what screen they’re on.

    “Mobile is kind of like the early days of the desktop Internet in some sense,” Buch says. “Tons of traffic, relatively easy to understand but not so may people savvy enough to leverage it properly.”

    Users, he says, are demanding reliability and performance, and that needs to be reflected no matter what screen they’re using to access your site.

    “The same way Google tries to have a seamless experience, merchants who are able to make that happen will do much better than those who have a disconnect,” he says.

    Price has historically been a major driver of purchases online, he says, but having faith in the experience is becoming really important as well, he says, noting that stores with Google’s Trusted Stores badge get mich higher clickthroughs than stores without.

    Much has been made about the importance of social to shopping, and Buch shared some thoughts on that as well. “People have gone back and forth,” he says. “People were putting products into news feeds or their Google+ feeds…that’s not the way social shopping is panning out.”

    “It’s not so much about your personal friends, as opinions you trust,” he says. “Even if they’re not personal acquaintances of yours.”

    In other words, you don’t necessarily need your actual friends on Google+ to gain social shopping value from the Google+ community. If you Circle people whose opinions matter to you, it’s possible that these opinions will come out as needed. Google, of course, is already adding Google+ associations to search results, and continues to find new integrations of these social connections all the time.

    “It used to be that shoppers and merchants formed connections offline – a salesperson could spark a conversation with a shopper in the store,” says Pollak. “Now these connections are happening both online and offline. With YouTube and social networks, people are sharing their opinion on products not just with a group of friends, but with millions of people. Retailers are advertising against terms like ‘reviews’ and ‘haul videos’ to promote their message. And for good reason – we found that 13% of shoppers plan to watch online videos to help with shopping research, and 48% will use tablets to read product reviews before purchasing.”

    Is your business ready for the mad holiday season rush? How important is the mobile shopping experience to your customers? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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