It’s often claimed that Christmas comes earlier every year, but while the day itself stays stubbornly faithful to December 25th, consumers are increasingly keen to get ahead of the game.
Certainly, savvy shoppers have many reasons to start their purchasing early. There are a raft of post-summer sales, swiftly followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Plus, there’s a need to make sure a hot commodity doesn’t sell out before the big day. Retailers often need to have their festive strategies in place before there’s even the merest whiff of pine and cinnamon in the air.
The shopping season is indeed getting earlier, with our newly released research showing that one in 10 shoppers (11%) plan their Christmas spending even before summer. That doesn’t mean that, by autumn, marketers have missed the boat. Simply that before the busy festive period is a great time to work on building brand awareness.
Closer to Christmas and the late November ‘Black Friday’ weekend also is an attractive time for shoppers to grab a bargain, and price is 13% more influential in their buying decisions in this period. However, brands should consider ramping up their festive activity before this deadline as a massive 38% of Christmas shopping has already been done. Add to that the fact that 83% of people start thinking about their planned purchases two weeks before buying, and it becomes clear that campaigns need to start earlier than you might think.
Attracted by glittering displays or promotional prices, impulse buying for Christmas gifts does happen, but two-thirds of Christmas purchases are planned. With 83% of shoppers online in those two weeks, retailers need to help them by making the right information available through search to meet their specific, festive needs.
Almost three-quarters of shoppers who use search (72%) also shop in-store and even when they are there, 40% are still using their smartphone for research as they go. In fact, they continue researching right up through the busy Christmas week period, and switch between platforms to do it, with 57% buying in-store and the rest online or via smartphone. Making sure price and product information match, whichever platform the customer uses, gives them the confidence to go ahead and buy.
The right gift is very important to festive shoppers. They’re not just researching to hunt down the best deal, they’re checking they’ve got the best brand or most desired gift.
Product review videos are becoming a safety net for nearly half (46%) of all shoppers, reassuring them they’ve made the right choice, particularly when considering big ticket items. Making sure the reviewer community has access to the latest product to hit the shelves in time for Christmas is vital. Many shoppers look to influencers to find the most appropriate gift for their loved ones. The rise of ‘Vlogmas’ which sees YouTubers post daily in the run-up to the big day is hugely important to the 88% of online video users who research gifts on YouTube.
Of course, a single source of information often isn’t enough, with 7% of shoppers using as many as eight channels to research their purchase, from search to phoning up retailers. From digital touchpoints in-store to social feeds, video, search and more, brands have to make sure they have the opportunity to be in front of their potential customer, wherever they are. But this doesn’t mean retailers should treat every customer the same – 86% of millennials use search to research gifts, compared to 68% of total shoppers so if they are a significant target audience, it pays for retailers to make sure their online experience is as smooth as possible with highly focused search advertising and results.
And finally, it’s worth noticing that a festive campaign isn’t just for Christmas. Shopping-related online videos are most watched after Christmas week. This could be owners working out how to use their new gift, or happy recipients of gifted cash or vouchers working out what to self-gift. Keeping campaign momentum across all platforms into and even beyond can keep retailers’ Christmas spirits up right into the New Year.
Martijn Bertisen is director of retail at Google UK