Posted:
(Cross-posted from the Google Analytics Blog)

Plan ahead.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the holiday rush begin earlier and earlier. And we’ve also noticed that the shopping frenzy is extending beyond the traditional season, with transaction rates in 2013 boasting lifts even after Christmas. These trends make for a lot of opportunity for online retailers, but you need to play your cards right. The most important thing you can do to ensure seasonal success is to plan your digital strategy now.  We’ve analyzed transaction behavior from a portion of our Google Analytics accounts over the 2013 holiday season to develop a guide for seasonal success. 

Which days drive the most transactions?
In order to develop a successful holiday retail strategy, it’s important to first understand the days that drive the most sales for your business. Once you understand this, you can craft a strategy that optimizes your media and promotion not only for these days, but for the entire holiday season.

As digital retailers are well aware, Cyber Monday is THE digital shopping day of the year.  It generates the most transactions of any single day and, in 2013, saw a transaction rate lift of 170% over average.  In second place is Black Friday, a day that has increased in digital importance over the last three years. By 2013, the transaction rate on Black Friday was 114% higher than average.  Beyond these two stars, the table below shows you the top days in 2013 by transaction volume and the lift in transactions rates on each day.


In general, beyond Cyber Monday and Black Friday, the Mondays and Tuesdays before Christmas in December tend to generate the highest volume of transactions.  Interestingly, the highest transaction days are not correlated to the days with the most sessions (traffic to your site), so avoid using the top session days as a proxy for the top transaction days.


How can I drive sales on the top transaction days?
The holiday season generates some of the highest transaction rate spikes and the lowest dips for the entire year. In order to drive digital sales successfully, it’s important that you adjust your bids for auction-based media, such as search ads, appropriately to account for higher transaction rates on key dates and throughout the season.  As you navigate the holiday season, use the lift in transaction rates over the average transaction rate as your bid multiplier for auction-based media (learn more about bid adjustments). This adjustment schedule reflects the increased value of clicks that are more likely to convert, and helps ensure that you stay ahead of competitors and  get in front of the right consumers. The transaction rate lift for the top days are shown in the table above, while the chart below gives you an idea of the lift for the weeks surrounding the holiday season.


As you can see, the top days generate some of the biggest transaction rate lifts, but there’s also plenty of upside in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving as well as right before Christmas.  A smart retailer will generate a bid schedule for the entire season, starting 4-5 weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Marketing to consumers is notoriously tricky and often trend-driven, making the holiday season a difficult and uncertain time for retailers. However, with proper pre-season preparation, digital retailers can set themselves up for seasonal success in 2014.  If you’re a Google Analytics user, you can tailor this analysis and approach to your business, using your own data and the data available in our benchmarking tool.  For more strategies for the holiday season, check out our holiday tips blog post and best practices checklist.


About the Data
In order to perform this analysis,we looked at billions of sessions across millions of Google Analytics accounts. We used session and transaction trends; and we looked at the percentage of sessions that included a transaction to calculate transaction rates. The data includes only accounts that have authorized Google to share website data in an anonymous way (read more). For questions, comments, or praise please contact us at gaqi@google.com 


Posted by Daniel Waisberg and Jocelyn Whittenburg from the Google Analytics team.

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Are you an Elsa, Olaf or Anna? Judging by the top trending searches for Halloween costumes on Google, you’re going to see a lot of each on the streets this October 31. The characters from Disney’s animated blockbuster make up three of the top five trending costumes this year.

While last year’s list featured popular choices from TV (Breaking Bad) and the viral video “What Does The Fox Say,” movie-themed costumes are dominating this year. Maleficent and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes round out the top five. Costumes from Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America and The Avengers take places 6 through 8, while video-game Assassin's Creed and pet costume were the only non-movie themed costumes trend to make the Top 10.



With more than half of their traffic coming from Google, online retailer BuyCostumes.com anticipated the surge in interest around these top costumes and tailored their Google Search advertising to ensure that they’re connecting with consumers as they’re looking for this season’s popular costumes.

“We watch the trends with a keen eye, especially around this time of year,” said Jennifer Dominiquini, chief marketing officer for BuySeasons, Inc., parent company to BuyCostumes.com. “It is important to us to leverage the trends and ensure those searching for them are finding our brand in their search.”

Trick or Doggy Treat? 

It’s no surprise that canine companions frequently join the family as they take to the streets, going door to door, but more and more people are looking to incorporate their dogs into the Halloween spirit. Searches for dog costumes are trending nearly 15% higher than last year, and one pet even costume managed to crack the Top Ten trending costumes. At number 9 on this is ‘spider dog’, no doubt inspired by the viral video sensation ‘Mutant Giant Spider Dog’, which has generated more than 99 million views on YouTube since the beginning of September. BuyCostumes.com has been seeing a surge in interest around pet costumes this season, with people also looking for ways to incorpoate their animal friends into themed costumes for the whole family.

Halloween, The DIY Way 

Halloween is one of those holidays filled with the do-it-yourself spirit, particularly if the DIY costume and general Halloween trends on Google Search are any indication:


But nowhere is the the DIY Halloween spirit more alive than on YouTube. Last year, nearly one out of three Halloween costume searches on YouTube were for DIY costumes. Searches for DIY costumes on YouTube grew more than 200% in 2013 compared to the previous year.

One DIY area on YouTube that sees a significant seasonal spike every year for Halloween is in makeup. Searches for makeup on YouTube hits a high each October as millions of people search for Halloween inspiration and tips.

Whether you’re looking to show off your inner Elsa, are searching for the best outfit for Fido, or are looking to wow your friends with your DIY prowess, there are tricks and treats available for everyone this Halloween.

Posted by Danielle Bowers, Data & Trends Manager

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(Cross-posted from the Google Commerce Blog)

This holiday shopping season will be our most connected ever, with devices at our fingertips helping us hunt for deals in short moments—whether it’s on a laptop at work or on a smartphone right before bed. In fact, one third of all shopping searches on Google happen between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.1 That’s because shopping doesn’t stop once the mall closes. Today’s shopper spends more time than ever researching purchases online at all hours of the day; we’ve gone from midnight snacking to midnight shopping.

To understand how digital trends will impact this year’s shopping season, we conducted our annual Holiday Shopper Intentions research with Ipsos MediaCT, surveying consumers on their shopping behavior. We found that people are shopping earlier, using online video to help with research, and turning to smartphones as personal shopping assistants.

Black Friday is becoming a month-long event
People are starting their research early and retailers are stretching Black Friday promotions across November, changing the focus from just one day to a month-long event. More than half of consumers surveyed said they’ll start their research before Thanksgiving, with 26% of shoppers having started before Halloween.2

Shoppers are also spending more time consulting more sources before making a decision. In 2010, shoppers used five sources of information on average before purchasing, but that has more than doubled with shoppers consulting at least 12 sources last year.3 This means that October through November has become a crucial period for retailers to reach shoppers online, being present with offers, information, how-tos and content.


Online shopping is the new window shopping
Shoppers are going online for inspiration at all points of their day, not just to research specific products but to see what their friends and favorite influencers are wearing. Sites like YouTube and Pinterest have become the new window displays, and a new generation of fashion influencers like Bethany Mota are influencing shopping decisions.

Shopping-related content on YouTube, from unboxing videos to product reviews, is becoming an important part of the holiday research process and is trending up year over year. Haul videos—or the YouTube equivalent of telling your best friend about your latest shopping purchases—spike during key shopping events and hit their peak during Black Friday weekend. Videos with "haul" in the title have have been watched more than 1.1B times on YouTube, and views are up 1.7x this year compared to last year.4


And shoppers aren’t just using YouTube for research ahead of time, they’re also looking up videos while they’re in stores to help them make decisions. One in four shoppers say they've used YouTube to search for a video related to a product they're considering while in a store.5

Your phone: The ultimate shopping assistant
One of the biggest enablers for shopping throughout the day is our mobile devices. Our research found that 75% of smartphone shoppers plan to use their phones in-store this holiday season.6 It used to be that shoppers came to the store with little knowledge, and the sales associate educated them on products. Now shoppers are coming into stores teeming with information, and are turning to their phones as personal shopping assistants. One in three shoppers use their smartphones to find info instead of asking store employees.7

We’ve found that when retailers understand mobile behavior in stores, they can meet shoppers online with helpful information. In fact, 46% of shoppers who use their phone in a store still end up making a purchase, an 11 point increase from 2011.8 Consumers are coming into stores more purposeful and informed than before, and savvy retailers are turning this into an opportunity.

Want to know more about the 2014 holiday shopper? Check out more research and case studies at Think with Google.

Posted by Beth Thomas, Industry Development Manager, Google




1 Google Shopping search data, July - September 2014
2 Google / Ipsos MediaCT 2014 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, September 2014
3 Google and Inmar, 2013
4 Google data, January 2013 - September 2014, Indexed views on YouTube
5 Google Consumer Survey, September 2014
6 Google / Ipsos MediaCT 2014 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, September 2014
7 Google Mobile In-Stores study May 2013
8 Google Nielsen, November 2013

Posted:
(Cross-posted from the Google Inside AdWords Blog)

With October kicking off this week, the holiday shopping season is just around the corner. According to our recent research, 29% of shoppers plan to start their holiday shopping before Halloween. With this in mind, we’ve put together a Holiday Shopping Checklist filled with the season’s best practices for retailers to maximize performance across both Search and Shopping campaigns. In addition to our checklist, here are the top holiday trends from last year and tips from the Google Shopping team on how to make this Q4 a good one.

Address increased shopping demand today. Last holiday season, traffic sent to merchants from Google Shopping doubled year-on-year.1 This momentum has continued and in July we saw traffic sent to merchants surpass last year’s peak holiday traffic from Google Shopping.2 Not only has consumer interest increased, but it is also beginning earlier. Our research shows last year consumer interest in Black Friday was up 27% from 2012 and related searches started about a week earlier than the prior year. Get the most out of this high volume shopping period by establishing your marketing goals early and using our checklist to help achieve them.

Connect with mobile shoppers. The best way to connect with your customers is to be there whenever and wherever they are looking for your products, and increasingly this is on mobile. Mobile devices drove 35% of all traffic to retail sites in the US last holiday season, and this is expected to increase to 43% by November 2014.3 Globally, Google Shopping sent over 3X more traffic to merchants on smartphones in holiday 2013 year-on-year.1 Make sure you plan for a significant proportion of your shoppers to be mobile this season.

Provide fresh and accurate information to customers. Pricing and shipping are two of the most important factors for shoppers when making a purchase online.4 Update and resubmit product feeds regularly to ensure that customers see consistent pricing and inventory information across your Product Listing Ads and website. Improve the customer experience by using automatic item updates to update your items on Google Shopping based on the data we find on your website. If you offer free shipping, include messaging in your text ads or use the new Merchant Center shipping configuration tool to reflect this in your Product Listing Ads.
New shipping configuration tool in Merchant Center
Differentiate from the competition. With strong competition during the holidays, promotions are a key driver in determining consumer purchasing decisions. This was evident last year, as 92% of all shoppers took advantage of some type of promotion.5 Consider how you can differentiate your messaging by highlighting a strong promotional offer or unique value proposition. Make your Product Listing Ads stand out by using merchant promotions and provide an additional stamp of credibility for your business by becoming a Google Trusted Store. Provide additional value for shoppers by displaying product ratings on your PLAs. According to Diana Ruka, Senior Director of eCommerce at COACH, product ratings have provided “added value beyond price points or descriptions - they convey a message without need for words- they provide distinction.
Example of merchant promotions, product ratings and the Google Trusted Stores badge displayed on Product Listing Ads
For more holiday tips and best practices, check out our Holiday Shopping Checklist or join us for our Learn With Google Hangout on Air on October 30 at 10:00am PST for more holiday optimization tips.

Posted by Shelby Coyne, Product Marketing Manager, Google Shopping

1Google Internal Data Q4 ‘12 to Q4 ‘13.
2 Google Internal Data Q4 ‘13 to Q2 ‘14.
3 IBM Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, June 2014.
(Note: IBM’s definition of ‘mobile devices’ includes smartphones and tablets.)
4 Shop.org, Holiday Planning Guide, February 2014.
5 Baynote Holiday Shopper Survey, January 2014.

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The 2014 holiday shopping season is nearly upon us, and some shoppers are likely already looking for gifts to purchase. This year, brands and marketers have the chance to connect with shoppers as they search for the perfect products throughout the season.

Data shows that shoppers are increasingly turning to mobile—last year, 40% of Black Friday's online shopping was on mobile. Marketers can use mobile to capture interest at the exact moment a customer needs information, and hopefully make a lasting connection between consumer and brand.

Visit Think with Google to read about all 5 trends marketers should know for the upcoming holiday season.

Posted:
(Cross-posted from the Google Inside AdWords Blog)

Earlier this month, we introduced an upgrade tool for advertisers to upgrade to Shopping campaigns quickly and easily. If you’ve already upgraded, then you’re all set. If you haven’t upgraded yet and don’t do it by the end of this month, the following is what will happen to your regular Product Listing Ads (PLA) campaigns come September.
  • Phase 1: Limited functionality of all regular PLA campaigns - Starting September 2nd, you will not be able to edit your product targeting, max. CPC bids, promotional text and destination URLs anymore. Campaign statuses and budgets will remain editable so you can manage your spend until your regular PLA campaigns are auto-upgraded to Shopping campaigns.
  • Phase 2: Auto-upgrade to Shopping campaigns - Throughout September, regular PLA campaigns that received impressions in the preceding few weeks will be auto-upgraded to a new Shopping campaign with a similar campaign structure. Some regular PLA campaigns, settings and bids might not carry over to your new Shopping campaign due to technical limitations. Once your regular PLA campaigns are auto-upgraded, you’ll receive an email notification and your regular PLA campaigns will stop serving PLAs. Further details on the auto-upgrade are in the AdWords Help Center.

Don’t wait to upgrade
As a final reminder, upgrade your campaigns before September to ensure they are set up as you’d like. We recommend using the upgrade tool as it walks you through the upgrade process step by step.

For more information, visit this help center article on the retirement of regular PLA campaigns and the automatic upgrade to Shopping campaigns. If you have any questions, reach out to the AdWords Community Forum or contact us.

Posted by Eric Tholomé, Director of Product Management, Google Shopping

Posted:
(Cross-posted from the Inside AdWords Blog)

This is the final stretch. At the end of August, regular Product Listing Ad (PLA) campaigns will retire and be replaced by Shopping campaigns. A majority of you have started upgrading to Shopping campaigns, but if you’re one of the few who haven’t yet, we’re introducing a new upgrade tool that’ll help you upgrade in a matter of clicks.

This tool creates a Shopping campaign from your regular PLA campaign, with a campaign structure and bids based on your regular PLA campaign and historical performance data.
If you haven’t started your upgrade, we encourage you to use this tool as a jumping off point for your Shopping campaigns. Be sure to check your campaign budgets, settings and bids so they’re customized to your business needs.

Note that not all campaigns are compatible with this upgrade tool. If, for example, you use AdWords labels or groupings in your product targeting or inventory filters, you must update your data feed with custom labels before you use the upgrade tool, unless you’re happy to use another attribute to subdivide your inventory in AdWords directly.

You can access the upgrade tool, and check which of your campaigns are eligible, in the Settings tab of your existing Product Listing Ads campaigns. Learn more in the help center.

We’re here to help
We want to make sure you’ve thoughtfully upgraded and are ready for the holidays. Join us for a Learn With Google Hangout on Air on August 12 at 10:00am PST to walk through the new upgrade tool. If you have any questions, reach out to the AdWords Community Forum or contact us.

Posted by Eric Tholomé, Director of Product Management, Google Shopping