With the New Year fast approaching, millions of people take a reflective look over the past year’s accomplishments, good and bad. New Year’s Resolutions are goals for the next year that usually involve letting go of bad habits. Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions include losing weight and improving overall physical wellness. Sound familiar?

Each holiday season, users research diets, exercise programs and fitness equipment for purchase. Google Insights for Search shows that fitness and diet queries skyrocket on December 26, and appear to correlate with the spike in New Year’s resolution queries.

Retailers have a chance to speak to consumers in search of resolutions, diet aids, supplements and exercise equipment with pertinent advertising and related content. Guide consumers to your brand by developing appealing creative and using a diverse keyword mix. If you have relevant content, be sure to engage consumers by linking products directly to diets and exercise plans.

For the rest of us, it is time to pull out a pad of paper, curl up by the fire and draft our resolutions for 2011.

Posted by Keri Overman, Google Retail Team

By now the smell of baked gingerbread cookies is in the air, the fireplace is burning, the tree is lit, Mom is wrapping gifts, and Dad is … well … Dad is realizing that he hasn’t finished --or started -- Christmas shopping yet.

According to a December 15th PR Newswire article, “Almost half of men (48%) regard holiday shopping as worse than the stress of being dumped by their girlfriend, losing their job, or moving home.”

Have no fear, men! Last year you weren’t alone. In 2009, online retailers saw an increase in last minute shoppers - including both men and women - many of whom were holding out for better deals near the end of the season. For all of the online retailers this year, make sure that you keep those little elves working and your stores ready for the final rings of the cash register.

Even though we make it sound so easy, this time of year many offices often resemble the Nightmare Before Christmas as everyone tries to complete their lengthy to-do list before the holiday celebrations begin. In hopes of simplifying your tasks, I wanted to offer you a few key account areas to watch throughout the next few days:

An Online Advertiser’s Holiday Checklist:

1. Aggressive Bidding
Many retailers raise their bids around November/December in attempt to capture the increased holiday traffic.

ACTION: Monitor your average position changes and increase bids as needed.

2. Monitoring Budgets
Watch your budgets carefully this month in order to allow your ads to compete for optimal traffic throughout the day.

ACTION: Monitor CPC levels and budget utilization to best allocate dollars.

3. Keyword Review
Review your top converting keywords and determine the following:
  • Landing Page - Is it correct?
  • Bid Level - Is my ad above the fold? On the first page?
  • Expansion Opportunities - Can I expand this keyword for the holidays?
ACTION: Investigate the Keywords Tab in AdWords to answer the questions above and make changes.

4. Analyze Traffic Sources:
By selecting the “click type” option from the “Segment” button above the graph in AdWords, you can view the traffic generated from mobile devices.

ACTION: Consider building mobile-only campaigns to target this audience effectively.

Hopefully this list helped you uncover some quick wins this holiday. If you’re not sure if you’ve missed something, Santa recommends that you check the list twice!

Posted by Terra Teague, Google Retail Team

‘Twas the last week of shopping, and all through the land
All the shoppers were shopping, on foot and by hand;
Their lists were made, as usual, with care,
In hopes that great gift-giving soon would be there.

Oh Ship! To family! To friends and to beaus!
On overnight, two-day, for electronics or clothes!
To the local store, online or the mall!
Now shop away! Ship away! Give gifts to all!

If you’re anything like us—and based on research data from a Google/OTX study which notes that the average shopper still has to complete 50% of their holiday purchases, we suspect you are—you may be asking Santa for a bit more time to finish all your holiday shopping before December 25.

But if you’re traveling for the holidays or buying gifts for far away friends and family, you may be doing something a bit stronger than wishing for more time; you may be shouting, “oh, ship!” today, the last shipping day on which the USPS recommends sending packages for delivery before Christmas via First Class Mail, and the last day on which many online retailers guarantee delivery by Christmas via Standard Delivery.

As we enter this final and cheerfully panicked sprint toward Christmas, we took a look at some U.S. search trends related to two of the most important shopping days for procrastinators—today, which we fondly refer to as Oh Ship! Day (otherwise known as Last Shipping Day) and last Friday’s Free Shipping Day (a day in December on which numerous retailers offer free shipping and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve).

Planned procrastination is in the air
While some of us can’t resist putting off our holiday shopping until the last minute, we seem to have become better at planning for procrastination.

A number of searches related to guaranteed Christmas delivery, along with specifics like [free shipping day], [last shipping day] and [free overnight shipping] have risen rapidly, indicating that we’re interested in hunting for deals and making sure our gifts arrive on time.

Some other top shopping-related searches this month include:

Last-minute local
For shoppers determined to shop at the last possible second, local stores will likely be a lifesaver. Fortunately, many of these super-procrastinators seem to be super-shoppers; [store locator] searches peak in late December each year, generally on December 24, and have continued to grow in volume through the years.

Other searches such as [open christmas day], [christmas eve hours] and [holiday hours] further point to the last-minute local shopper phenomenon, while the continued rise in searches for [printable coupons] indicates these in-store shoppers are deal-hungry, whether they’re making purchases early or at the final hour.

Whether you’re done with your shopping or still sprinting toward the holiday shopping finish line, the Google Retail Industry team would like to wish you a happy holiday season and a wonderful Oh Ship! Day.

Posted by Dan Schock, Google Retail Industry Director (with our thanks to Clement Clark Moore)

Christmas is right around the corner, but the holiday shopping season doesn't end on Dec. 25th. Many retail advertisers mistakenly scale back their search campaigns after Christmas, but lots of search traffic and sales occur after Dec. 25th! You might be surprised to learn that 9% of consumers don’t even begin their holiday shopping until post Christmas.

While a large percentage of shopping happens before the holidays, 64% of consumers plan on shopping post holiday season. Because of this, it is important to make sure you keep you “keep the lights on” (search campaigns on and bids optimized).

Some consumers are looking for sales and promotions post-holiday, others are buying that holiday gift they didn’t receive for themselves, and others are taking advantage of sales to buy gifts for next year. The following shows query trends on the keyword “iPod”, one of the hottest holiday gifts in 2009.

While the height of the query volume took place between December 20-26, the query volume from December 27-January 2 was higher than the volume from December 13-19.

Recommendations for a post-holiday checklist:
  • If you're closing out inventory or having a year-end sale, use search to promote these products
  • Keep your daily budgets open to receive as much traffic as possible
  • Maintain strong bids and average positions
  • Customize text ads to promote post-holiday sales & specials

Sources: Google/Ipsos OTX Consumer Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, September 2010. N=2,000.
Q: Do you plan on taking advantage of post-holiday sales and promotions? (Top 2 Box).
Q: When do you plan to start your holiday shopping/researching and purchasing this year?
Google Internal Data

Posted by Courtney MacConnell, Google Retail Team

Do you know “The Smart Shopper"? The Smart Shopper is constantly connected and always mobile. The Smart Shopper values on-line information, researches on-line then shops in-store, and uses a smartphone while shopping.

You can see the smart shopper in action by watching the first two videos in our Smart Shopper series.

The Smart Shopper: Constantly Connected
An exclusive look into consumers’ research and purchase process.

The Smart Shopper: Always Mobile

A clear snapshot of how smartphones are changing the way consumers research and shop.

Use these Smart Shopper insights to help formulate your 2011 marketing plan. Engage the smart shopper by creating compelling video and display ads, developing a cohesive mobile strategy, and using an integrated multi-channel marketing campaign.

Posted by Heidi Spector, Google Retail Team

The shipping deadline for guaranteed Christmas delivery is fast approaching for most retailers. But what’s a retailer to do after the deadline passes?

We have always encouraged retailers to "keep the lights on" throughout the entire holiday season -- as in, keep working hard to reach people at the moment of interest.

Don’t ignore the hordes of last minute shoppers just because it's not possible to ship to them by Christmas; instead, shift the focus from driving online conversions (online gift cards aside!) to helping interested shoppers locate and buy products from your stores.

This strategy is more relevant than many might think; despite yet another year of strong growth in web sales, many holiday purchase procrastinators will head to the malls for last-minute purchases. In December 2009, queries for “best buy store” and “target store” showed strong demand leading right up to Christmas and peaked on December 24.

Drilling down on the types of information last minute shoppers might be looking for, Google Insights for Search further shows that queries for “best buy store hours” and “target store hours” were substantial during the week around Christmas.

So what can you do?

Last minute shoppers are looking for store information...why not make it easier for these consumers to find what they're looking for? A few ideas to consider:
  • Invite shoppers to visit their local store – Tweak creative messages to tell consumers to shop in-store and don’t forget to mention extended store hours if you have them.
  • Turn on keywords you might not normally utilize – Turning on terms which include your company name and words like "store", "store hours" and "locations" may help to reach last-minute shoppers looking for information in short order. Google Insights for Search offers top searches and information on which regions/areas see the most demand for these types of queries.
  • Add shortcuts on Sitelinks – For retailers employing Sitelinks, consider adding a link such as “Extended Store Hours & Directions” and send consumers to the store locator pages. This saves time for the consumer -- a valuable commodity for those with a long shopping list!
  • Supplement with Mobile Search – Coremetrics reported that on Black Friday, 5.6% of shoppers logged on to a retailer’s website from a mobile device (a 26.7% jump from 2009). Set up a mobile campaign using the above mentioned keywords. People will be looking for this information whether they are at home or away, searching on a desktop or on a mobile device.

Posted by Charles Chin and Joe Cannella, Google Retail Team

What's a consumer to do after the crazy rush of holiday shopping ends on December 24? Shop some more! In fact, 2/3 of consumers plan to keep on shopping after Christmas. Looking at last holiday season, consumers' searches for "sales" and "returns" during the holiday season actually peaked on December 26, 2009 (same as 2008).

Much of the post-holiday season is about seeking out sales, using gift cards, and returning gifts that weren't perfect! So think of post-holiday, as another key holiday component of your overall marketing strategy. You want your brand and product to be at the forefront of consumers minds as they think about how to use their gift card, or when they make their own purchase of what they 'really' wanted for the holidays. Keep your presence in the marketplace, advertise your promotions and keep consumers engaged as they continue with shopping after the 25th!

Posted by Heidi Spector, Google Retail Team

One of the biggest hits on TV is Bravo’s “Real Housewives” reality series. It’s been the franchise that just keeps on giving, featuring season after season of wealthy housewives across America showering themselves with spa treatments, luxurious clothes, jewelry, and lots of drama.

But then last year, consistent with the rest of the economy, even the Real Housewives struggled! They bought less, downsized homes, and even faced bankruptcies.

This season however, the Real Housewives are back. They are once again buying expensive jewelry and throwing lavish parties. While most of us will never live quite as large as the Housewives, could this mean that the luxury consumer is coming back?

Beyond the DVR, there is real data supporting this:

  • On Cyber Monday, sales of luxury goods rose 24.3% from 2009 (CoreMetrics)
  • Last week, luxury retailer Neiman Marcus announced that it tripled profits last quarter
  • Google Insights for Search reveals that consumers are searching more and more for luxury goods

Searches in the Luxury Goods category: 2010 vs. 2009

Searches related to “Denim” show high-end brands like Dior, True Religion and Paige:

Searches related to “Handbags” show interest in Coach, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Burberry, and luxury retailers like Saks and Neiman Marcus:

Rising searches around “Saks” indicate that even when indulging, some consumers are seeking the best value, and are searching around sales, coupons and outlets:

However, just because consumers have learned to be more deal conscious in their searches, doesn’t mean they are afraid to go big: The size of average luxury transactions grew 10% from Q2 2009 to Q2 2010 (Amex Luxury Report). And global luxury sales are expected to grow 10% this year to $235B (Bain & Co.), which is far more than the 4% growth originally predicted.

Maybe it’s not just the Housewives who are back in the luxury market!

Posted by Jocelyn Liu Delgado, Google Retail Team

Tablets, netbooks, laptops--oh my! As the holiday quickly approaches, consumer electronics and gadgets are at the top of many consumers wish lists.

To better understand how consumers are researching and shopping for laptops, tablets, netbooks and eReaders, Google and OTX interviewed 4,000 respondents and used analysis of clickstream data from Compete’s 2 million US internet users. The full study was posted on TechCrunch, and some of the highlights are below:

New Devices Have Fueled Overall Interest in the PC Category
In terms of unique visitors to each category, tablets saw 1,328% growth and eReaders saw 114 percent growth from last year.

Shoppers Are Undecided
While eReaders and tablets are getting a lot of attention on the web, almost half the market starts out undecided on device type, with 49% considering more than one type of device.

Shoppers Spend ~1 Month Research and 2/3 of Device Purchases are Influenced by Online
Consumers on average spend one month researching the type of device they should buy, and there is a long window of opportunity to influence them throughout their research process. Additionally, 2/3 of consumers' device purchases are influenced by online.

Posted by Reshma Nichani, Google Retail Team

Everyone is talking about mobile these days, as we're starting to see consumers using mobile phones as a personal shopping device. While m-commerce (buying over phones) is still small, shoppers plan to use smart phones during Holiday 2010 by comparing prices, locating retailers, looking for promotions, etc. Given this shift, smartphone owners are looking forward to using Apps to help with shopping this season.

Source: Google/Ipsos OTX Consumer Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, September 2010

Think about creating apps, which offer retailers a chance to deepen relationships with their customers. Or if you can't develop apps, be sure to take advantage of mobile advertising, a new channel, where shoppers’ attention is focused and they are much deeper into their purchasing process, and optimize your website for mobile.

Posted by Heidi Spector, Google Retail Team

Still searching for a gift for the person on your list that has everything? Are you considering a gift card? You're not alone. This category is on many shoppers’ gift lists as query volume for gift cards has been growing over the past few years. And online is a top purchase channel for gift cards, with Google Insights for Search listing “gift cards online” as the top rising search term associated with gift cards in the last week.

How can you take advantage of these trends? Clearly position gift cards on your site to facilitate purchase and to capture consumer awareness with maximum impression share. Draw consumers in by featuring gift cards prominently in your creative as a suggested alternative for general gifting terms such as “gifts ideas” and “gifts for him” and “white elephant gift ideas”. And for those who have procrastinated past the Holiday shipping deadline e-gift cards are a popular solution for gifting, so keep advertising until the last minute.

Google and OTX’s Post-Holiday Consumer Study conducted last year revealed that 34% of consumers were planning to redeem their gift cards after January. Take advantage of this by switching your post holiday messaging with gift card redemption prompts to ensure you are the retailer of choice when recipients go to spend their gift cards.

Posted by Keri Overman, Google Retail Team

Many of the gift guides we see each holiday season recommend fairly straightforward and practical gifts: exotic scarves for lady friends, kegerators for frat brothers, and a designer paperweight for your workaholic parents.

We always enjoy seeing these guides and finding useful presents for our loved ones -- so we thought we'd combine some items you may see in this season's gift guides or on wish lists with our love for search trends; these are a few of the more popular gift searches we've seen this season.

1. Hasbro’s Nerf Stampede: Google searches for these Nerf guns shot up by over 60% over the past month.

2. Sing-a-Ma-Jigs: Searches have doubled since July, for these toys that sing happy tunes when their tummies are pressed.

3. Pillow Pets: These stuffed animals come in many animal variations and are both a pillow and a stuffed pet. Searches for these goodies peaked on Black Friday, and are on the rise again.

4. Monster High Dolls: These teenage children of famous monsters are generating a lot of interest this year. In fact, searches for these dolls have tripled in the past month alone.

5. Snuggie Blanket: Searches for these cold weather favorites have increased by 146% since mid-October.

Have fun with these frequently searched recommendations, and feel free to refer to Google Insights for Search to see what other queries are gaining high levels of traction. Happy Holidays!

Posted by Jieun Baek, Google Retail Team

The Slate. The Streak. The Notion. The Eee. The Galaxy.

Nope, these aren’t drinks at a 1990s East Coast scenester bar. These are just a few of the many tablet computers that have come out or are coming out soon. Apple’s iPad is no longer the only kid on the block with a lemonade stand. Dozens of major hardware manufactures are all selling their own tablet computers--across a dizzying range of tech specs, OS platforms, and carriers. In mid-November, as retailers ramped up for the holiday season, Slate tech reporter Dan Gillmor announced, “Let the tablet wars begin."

Some of the 6,800,000 results of a Google Images Search for “tablet computers” performed in November 2010

Yet for online retailers, war is the wrong metaphor for the rise of tablets. Instead, think opportunity. Opportunity for growth. Opportunity to interact with and delight potential customers in new ways.

Here are three ways you, as an online retailer, can jump into the new and ever-deepening world of opportunity being generated by the rise of tablets:

1. Know the Basics: Apps Are the New Black

Tablets and apps go together like bread and butter, like snow and skiing, like Lady Gaga and awesome. So, apps---what are they exactly? Why are they such a Big Deal?

Apps are the latest delivery vehicle for code. Remember the reign of big box stores like CompUSA selling software on CDs in boxes two decades ago? Now the instructions to get your devices do interesting things arrive in the form of apps downloaded directly from the creator or from an app store.

Apps are developed for a specific platform. Android, Apple iOS, and Microsoft are the current major players. Once an app is produced, it is pushed out in any number of ways--the app stores of these platforms, your own site, or through advertising the app on other sites.

Don’t be intimidated if you don’t have programmers on staff for app development. Mashable estimates that an app can be developed by a third-party for as little as $1,000. Additionally, help resources on DIY app development abound for each platform (while geared toward smartphones, many of the lessons of this Mashable compilation cross-over easily into tablet app development.) An especially cool resource--the Appcelerator--allows you to translate an app built for one platform to another platform quickly and easily. And it is 100% free to use.

As for actual content ideas, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Apps take advertising to an entirely new---read: interactive and intensely fun---level. For some inspiration, check out the iPad app for Google’s

2. Get on board now--and reap the rewards as reach grows massively

Consumers have crowned tablets the Next Big Thing in the realm of gadgetry. Information Week projects that global tablet sales will surpass 200 million units by 2014. This fall, the number of wireless services subscriptions surpassed 5 billion. The Wall Street Journal is calling the movement of consumers toward tablets (as well as smartphones and other touchscreen devices) a “dramatic shift”.

Expanding diversity and choice are opportunities for retailers. And moments of new technology mass-adoption are golden opportunities. Remember the advent of smartphones a few years ago? In half a decade, high-end mobile technology went from a few users to a central part of advertising strategies and tactics for online retailers. Tablets have this same potential---and perhaps even more, with greater computing power, bigger screens, and an already app-savvy public.

3. Stay tuned and pay attention

While consumers are gobbling up tablets faster than Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, they have not placed this technology completely in one box. Tablets straddle home, work, and play. They also occupy a middle zone between mobile and nonmobile devices, laptops and desktops. Consumers won’t just be using tablets for single events (like phone calls)---they’ll be spending lots of quality time with them browsing the web. Tablets are an equally great companion for reading the morning news during the BART morning commute as well cuddled up on the sofa at night with hot cocoa, shopping for that perfect gift for Grandma. They may develop important---but different---uses in all these areas. Keep this in mind--this is a rapidly evolving technology and market.

While the 2010 holiday season might be a testing-ground for tablet producers, it is an absolute bridge of opportunity for online retailers. Beyond this, 2011 will be the year when consumers say what they are using these devices for and manufacturers and programmers respond. This will reshape the advertising landscape for online retailers going forward and in the 2011 holiday season.

So, take a deep breath, toss mouse and keyboard aside for a moment, and jump onto the tablet-optimized advertising train. It may not be leaving from Platform 9 ¾, but it is going to be a magical ride nevertheless to widening reach and revenue potential.

Posted by Paul Nauert, Google Retail Team

The Black Friday-Cyber Monday-Cyber Week party has come to an end, and retailers and economists are now off to post the week’s best pictures. With nearly 9 out of 10 retailers offering promotions during the long weekend, there are certainly plenty of snapshots to review.

It seems what started 5 years ago as an informal get-together for online shoppers & retailers officially escalated this year into the social event of the season. And consumers didn’t just stop by quickly to say hello; they showed up early, brought their friends, and stayed all week! According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 212 million people shopped over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend--the highest number recorded since the NRF began surveying consumers on the topic in 2004.

Miss the cyber-festivities or dying to recap the week’s hottest trends? Here’s what happened in online retail.

  • Daily visits to Retail 500 sites were up 9% on Thanksgiving Day, and grew more frequent as the weekend progressed. Black Friday & Cyber Monday visits were up 13% and 16% respectively, year-over-year. (Experian)
  • Search & cross-shopping across retailers remained the largest sources for traffic, accounting for 44% of referrals to the Retail 500 on the week ending 11/29. (Experian)
  • About 33.6% of the weekend’s shoppers made their purchases online, the highest percentage ever recorded. Total Spending per shopper boosted to $365, up +6% from 2009. (NRF)
  • Mobile made significant gains, with 3.9% of consumers logging on to a retailer's mobile site on Cyber Monday (comScore)
  • Consumers indulged more readily than they did in 2009, resulting in +17.6% growth in luxury good sales on Cyber Monday (comScore)

Google Insights for Search shows us that this year’s savvy holiday shoppers were more interested in product searching than they had been in recent history. This made it more important than ever for retailers to capitalize on precise targeting options and advanced SEM products such as Product Listing Ads.

And many shoppers found just what they were looking for. According to a 2010 Online Holiday Shopping Report released by search engine marketing platform Kenshoo, clicks on paid search ads increased by 55% from 2009 to 2010 with a 13.5% boost in online conversions, indicating that more shoppers are opting to skip the frenzied mall scene and make their holiday purchases from the comfort of their own homes this year.

If you missed out on last week’s great deals, don’t lose your holiday spirit—many are predicting that the sensational sales will continue this week, and if purchase patterns mimic Holiday 2009 results, this week will see the highest online sales numbers of the season.

Happy Shopping!

-Jacalyn Stolt, Google Retail Team

Earlier this month we announced the U.S. launch of Product Listing Ads, which lets advertisers easily promote products from their Merchant Center account on In the past few weeks we’ve seen advertisers promote over 100 million unique products using Product Listing Ads.

Given all that inventory, we were curious to see what people were clicking on during one of the busiest online shopping weekends of the year.

We thought that this was a fairly interesting sneak peak into what you might expect to see under the tree this season. So, with that, here are the most clicked searches for Product Listing Ads over the holiday weekend:

To learn more about Product Ads, check out the video below or visit the AdWords help center.

Posted by Dan Friedman, Inside AdWords crew

Most the year is spent following a healthy diet but when the holidays approach, many people indulge themselves in otherwise forbidden treats. The same is true for Holiday shoppers. They save all year to splurge on gifts for their loved ones during the Holiday season. Online is a key purchase channel for Holiday shoppers looking to exercise their wallets, with 2010 comScore e-commerce forecasts predicting a record-breaking sales year ($32.4 billion, a staggering 11% growth from last year).

How are advertisers capturing online Holiday shoppers?

Focusing on Awareness
Consumers looking for the perfect gift who don’t have a specific gift in mind are great targets for awareness messaging. Ensure you are reaching these consumers by advertising on general gifting terms such as “gifts for him”, “gifts for dad” and “gift ideas”.

Retailer Holiday sales, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, promote purchase with limited offers. Although several major retail shopping days have passed, daily or weekly specials are great advertising tactics to spur urgency around purchases. Trends support that consumers are looking for daily deals more than ever before.

Shoppers also respond to incentives such as free or discounted shipping. Position your offers prominently in your advertising creative to lure in deal-seeking consumers.

Offering Crowd Control
Although deals are often top of mind, the convenience of in-store pickup is also attractive to consumers looking to avoid a crowded shopping experience with lengthy lines. Google Insights for Search documents the rising popularity of in-store pickup over the years.

Retailers that offer in-store should capitalize on this trend with creative messaging and coverage on key in-store pickup terms.

With consumers ready to exercise their wallets this Holiday online, don’t miss out on the online shopping surge. Be present on broad and specific gift terms with various incentive-based messages to ensure maximum market share.

Posted by Keri Overman, Google Retail Team

Consumers have long known the term “Black Friday,” in reference to the massive shopping day after Thanksgiving. Then came “Cyber Monday” in 2005 to mark the following Monday, and in 2007 eBay coined “Green Monday” to describe the second Monday in December as the heaviest online spending day of the season.

This year, a new term is sprouting up that will surely gain momentum in the holiday seasons to come- “Cyber Week.” While major retailers continued to promote Cyber Monday deals this year, they’ve extended the promotions to Cyber Week and given the new term prime real estate on their website home pages.

Consumer search interest for the term started gaining momentum over the 2008 holiday season and has continued to grow:

While we can’t predict what the next hot holiday phrase will be, it appears that Cyber Week is catching on as another way for retailers to extend their best deals and discounts, and for consumers to spread out their prime shopping days over a longer period of time. According to comScore, Cyber Monday 2010 online sales increased 16% and topped $1 billion for the first time, and we’ll be monitoring the next few days to compare this year’s “Cyber Week” sales with last year’s. However, if 2009 is any indication, the largest online shopping date is still to come on another catch phrase day- “Green Tuesday.”

Posted by Jen Anderson Glare, Google Retail Team

To paraphrase an old adage, ‘tis the season to go shopping—and this year, ‘tis the season for shopping smart. Beginning en masse on Thanksgiving, when a significant number of major retailers opened their doors to allow bargain detectives to take advantage of early deals, people have been showing their shopping savvy, with no signs of stopping.

Using Insights for Search and research data from a Google/OTX study, we took a look at some trends we’re seeing from consumers in the U.S.—a new kind of shopper, the rise of mobile and a near-seamless online-to-store connection—and then satisfied our inner cool-seeker by taking a look at some of the most searched-for holiday gifts.

The new shopper
This year’s holiday shoppers are the smartest searchers in history. They’re searching for more specific terms and looking for more information than ever—from printable coupons to take into their local store, to the location of said stores; some people are even scanning barcodes to get more information about a product.

For example, searches for [black friday ads], [thanksgiving coupons], [black friday shipping code] and [buy one get one free] skyrocketed this year, as super-smart shoppers did their research before heading online or to the stores. They also made sure to get ahead of the Cyber Monday game: searches for things like [cyber monday deals] and [cyber monday sales] rose much quicker and earlier than last year.

Shoppers didn’t stop looking for information once Cyber Monday arrived: [best cyber monday deals 2010] was the second-fastest rising search in the U.S. yesterday. Other top searches related to Cyber Monday included:

Mobile matters

For years, we’ve heard that it’s “the year of mobile.” This year it’s actually true, and people are embracing access to information on the go. Anyone who has a smartphone has a personal assistant now—and in their pocket, no less! People are using their mobile phones to compare prices, look for store locations and inventory in stock locally, and find deals.

According to research we conducted with OTX, 52% of U.S. smartphone users plan to use their phone to compare prices during the holiday shopping season and 40% plan to use their phones to read product reviews. We’ve seen evidence of this trend through the increased use of Google Shopper, a mobile shopping app that helps shoppers on the go research items and find the best place to buy them—whether online or in a nearby store.

Online meets offline
This year, both consumers and retailers are thinking about shopping differently. Gone is the wall between online and offline research and purchasing; consumers think about online and offline behavior relatively seamlessly these days—and retailers do too. Retailers are integrating things like inventory data across channels so that people can find what they’re looking for easily, online and off. Search queries show this crystal clear connection between information-hunting online and purchasing offline.

Searches for [black friday store hours], [printable coupons], and specific store names and hours have risen dramatically in the last year, as consumers do their homework prior to leaving home to shop.

Hot holiday gifts

Each holiday shopping season brings with it a number of buzzworthy toys. While we can’t be sure which toys will be on that list this year, searches for a number of items have risen significantly in recent weeks and months.

Those looking for toys for all ages have recently looked for information related to [squinkies], [lalaloopsy], [educational toys] and [ereaders]; searches for all of the above have risen dramatically in the past 30 days, as have searches for classic toys such as [legos] and [cabbage patch kids].

For lovers of a different kind of gift, a royal engagement may have prompted a rush on sapphire rings; searches for the same have risen dramatically in the past 30 days.

If you’d like to learn more about this year’s holiday shopping season, including some tidbits on what retailers are thinking, check out the ThinkHoliday site for useful information.

In the meantime, happy (smart) shopping—and we hope you had a fruitful Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday!

- Posted by Dan Schock, Google Retail Industry Director

We’ve all been there--navigating a site, filling up our shopping cart with holiday presents, clicking “checkout” in excitement, and then it hits us--a big shipping fee. Suddenly, Grandpa’s new slippers don’t seem like such a bargain. For some, the hassle of paying to get their holiday goodies shipped makes braving the lines at retailers worth it. This holiday season is no different, and the interest for free shipping among shoppers heats up every year on Google search.

Consumer interest for free shipping has been increasing for the past few years, as shown in the above graph from Insights for Search. These searches begin to rise in the fall, with interest peaking on the 19th of December. The uptick in the past few years in search of free shipping could be related to the increased popularity of online shopping coupled with smaller amounts of discretionary income for many consumers as a result of the recession.

Different online retailers have tried to combat the shipping stigma with various programs and promotions. Amazon Prime, which has members pay a $79 annual fee, allows for free 2 day shipping on anything they buy from the retailer. recently announced free shipping on over 60,000 products through Dec. 20th. There is also Free Shipping Day on December 17th, which boasts over 1,000 retailers promising free shipping in time for Christmas on this date.

In the past, consumers have been used to seeing free shipping for amounts ranging from $50 to $100 dollars, but the aforementioned promotions are charting relatively new territory by giving no minimum spends for free shipping. It remains to be seen if this new focus on free shipping will become an annual holiday trend or, eventually, an industry norm for all online retailers. Either way, consumers this holiday season will benefit as more retailers fight to keep consumer’s dollars in the digital shopping cart.

In our latest Google/Ipsos OTX research from September 2010, we learned that almost 9 out of 10 consumers will research online during their holiday shopping. Consumers are using online in their purchase process in a variety of ways. They might do research online, go to a store, research products more on their mobile phone in the store, then go back home and buy online. Over 40% of consumers plan to research online and buy online, and an even bigger group, plan to research online then buy in a store.

There is no such thing as an “online shopper” anymore or an offline vs. online marketing strategy. In consumers' minds, all channels are created equal, and the same shopper buys online and in-store. Make sure you are getting your holiday messages to consumers where they’re doing their research: online!

Consider the Canadian market when you plan for the holiday season:
• Canada’s population is roughly the size of California
• 86% of Canadians speak English, 31% speak French and 18% are fluent in both languages
• We have a Prime Minister, a Queen and more donut shops per capita than anywhere else in the world!

Posted by the Google Canada Retail Team

Tis officially the season! With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, to be followed immediately by Black Friday, the traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season is here and it should be a great one for savvy shoppers and retailers alike. But it’s not about one day standing-in-line-for-deals anymore. It’s a full five-day “Black-Cyber Weekend” of shopping deals and buying sprees.

The term “Black Friday” has come to be synonymous with retail pricing deals (fun side note: the term “Black Friday” was first used in Philadelphia by police officers, as a descriptor for the intense traffic which occurred on the big shopping day after Thanksgiving) and now extends beyond the single day after Thanksgiving. Beginning on Thursday -- Thanksgiving Day -- and continuing through the following (Cyber) Monday, retailers now offer shoppers incredible pricing deals and shopping steals around the clock for five straight days. In fact, retailers have now co-opted the term “Black Friday” for Summer sales events, as witnessed by Google Search queries this past July:

Also, look at how queries stay at a peak throughout the holiday weekend -- now starting on Thanksgiving Day -- for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, coupons, shopping deals and more…

The great news for retailers this week? It’s not too late to ensure that your online campaigns are ready for the “Black Friday - Cyber Monday” rush and beyond. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

Keep Your Budgets Open Starting On Thanksgiving Day. Google queries related to shopping are going to start increasing on Thanksgiving Day this year. Make sure your Search plans are ready to handle the volume and convert those queries to sales. All day.

Think beyond Black Friday. Make sure you’re ready for shoppers looking for deals beyond Black Friday--tout your specials and deals from Thursday through Monday. As people get back to the office on Monday and look to buy the gifts they couldn’t snag over the weekend, make sure you’re offering new incentives to drive them to purchase from you.

Remember that Mobile matters. Today’s research cycle doesn’t stop when shoppers leave their homes. People are searching, using Google Shopper and Near me Now to comparison shop and find what they are looking for while on the go. Make sure your online campaigns are opted in to show on mobile devices, and that your mobile website is ready for prime time.

Make the Online to Store connection seamless. Shoppers don’t make the same distinction between online shopping and in-store shopping that existed 10 years ago -- so make sure that you are encouraging shoppers on your website to visit your store, and shoppers in your store to visit your website. The multi-channel connection is relatively seamless and you need to be sure that your message and incentives are consistent across channels, and that shoppers can find what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it.

Buckle Up and get ready to start the Holiday Shopping season in full this week! But make sure to spend time with family and friends this holiday season. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Super-Cyber-Black- Friday- Holiday- Monday- Weekend!

Holiday 2010: eReader fever is sweeping the nation… again. With Kindle securing the title of “most gifted item” in Amazon’s history during holiday 2009, it’s no surprise that eReaders are topping wish lists again this year. As we head into the holiday season, eReaders are ever more appealing - whether you’re planning to give or hoping to receive. New features, lower price points and vibrant color screens are just some of the things enticing shoppers to spring for their first eReader. Or maybe even an upgrade.

While device enhancements and competitive pricing may be piquing the interest of consumers, consider consumer interest far from peaked. A look at search trends shows that searches for eReader devices are growing at an astounding rate. The combination of new device launches and holiday popularity has truly propelled the category upward. “What kind of growth are we talking?” you ask. The simple answer: nearly 150% year over year. To put that in context, eReaders searches are greater now than they were the week before Christmas 2009.

The below graph shows the scale at which eReaders queries have grown since the original Kindle launched in 2007. As the holidays approach and new models are announced, curious consumers increasingly turn to Google to research these devices.

Exactly three years after the release of the original Kindle, the question plaguing consumers isn’t necessarily “Should I buy an eReader?” but “Which eReader should I buy?” A recent study conducted by Google and OTX reveals that 70% of eReader shoppers are uncertain about which brand of eReader they are going to purchase. Now, more than ever, consumers are turning to ratings and reviews to help guide their decisions. Looking at Google Insights for Search, we can see how the influx of new models has had an impact on shopping behavior. Search terms such as “eReader reviews” and “best eReader” are on the rise.

New models of eReaders are creating consumer excitement, awareness and curiosity. Consumers are searching to learn more about reviews, product features and user experiences. This type of consumer engagement is what drives the “top holiday gifts” to the top. So, with so many options, which eReader will you choose this holiday season?

The way we shop for fashion is different from how we buy cameras—especially online. With fashion, reviews and specs are less important; fashion shopping is about discovering something that fits your taste and feels right. The web works well for buying cameras and other hard goods but for soft goods, such as clothing and accessories, it’s not the same as shopping in a store.

What’s more, the market for soft goods online is growing tremendously. A year and half ago, our team (which at the time was part of started to wonder if we could create a better experience for people to shop online. Our team consists of PhDs in computer science with an emphasis on machine learning and computer vision, along with fashion designers and stylists—we jokingly called ourselves the computer nerds and fashion nerds (and a few of us were both). So, we set out to create a new way to browse, discover and shop for soft goods online.

Today, we’re excited to share with you our first step towards realizing this goal. It’s called a personalized shopping experience that lets you find and discover fashion goods, by creating your own curated boutique or through a collection of boutiques curated by taste-makers—celebrities, stylists, designers and fashion bloggers. Boutiques uses computer vision and machine learning technology to visually analyze your taste and match it to items you would like.

In fashion, there are lots of choices. If there are, say, 500,000 items in a store, that means there are literally billions of different combinations of outfits you can make with those items. How do you sort through all of this? This site had to be a collaboration.

First we partnered with taste-makers of all types. We asked them not just to curate 10-50 great items they loved, but also to teach our site their style and taste. They did this by telling us what colors, patterns, brands and silhouettes they loved and they hated. They took a visual quiz that taught the site to understand their style genre: Classic, Boho, Edgy, etc. Our machine learning algorithms use this information to enable you to shop all of the inventory in the style of that taste-maker, on top of the 50 items they’ve hand-curated.

These days, bloggers, stylists and everyday fashionistas are expressing their sense of style online. We invited them to create boutiques so people could shop their diverse styles. But you have a unique and independent style too, so Boutiques also lets you build your own personalized boutique and get recommendations of products that match your taste.

In addition to all this, Boutiques offers a variety of features to search and discover merchandise including:

Advanced search filters - Filter by genre, silhouette, pattern, color families and sizes.

Inspiration photos - Try a search for [yellow pumps] and you’ll see matching outfit ideas to the right of the search results. We feature images from streetstyle sites, and collage and styling sites to provide you with the online equivalent of styled mannequins to give you inspiration.

Complete the Look - Ever wonder what to pair with that dress? Our fashion designers wrote hundreds of style rules—like “heavily patterned handbags don’t tend to go with heavily patterned dresses”—that we used to develop a tool to suggest items that match.

Visual search - Sometimes you love an item but not in a particular color. We analyze the photograph of an item for its color, shape and pattern and try to help you find visually similar items.

Boutiques on your tablet - Download our iPad application, lean back and move through inventory as if you were flipping through clothes on a rack at the store.

You can start shopping now at At this time, Boutiques is only available in the U.S. and only for women’s fashion, but we plan to expand in the future. Tell us what you think on our feedback form. And if you’re a designer, stylist, celebrity or retailer and want to participate on, drop us a line.

Cross-posted from Official Google Blog: Munjal Shah, Product Management Director

In recent years, shoppers have been conditioned to look for deals when shopping. We've asked consumers three years in a row about what promotions and offers they want for holiday, and it hasn’t changed much over time. Consumers are focused on sales, discounts and free shipping. And as consumers are more focused on immediate gratification rebates have decreased in importance.

Source: Google/Ipsos OTX Consumer Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, September 2010

This is reinforced by what we see people searching for. Searches for 'printable coupons' are currently up by 20% over last year, Searches for ‘bogo’ (short for ‘buy one get one free’) are currently up by 10% over last year.

Offering consumers some sort of value or discount is expected. Make sure to message your offers, free shipping and other value to your consumers through your advertising and your websites. Let the consumer know they are getting a good deal!

Check out Google's Holiday Marketing Central,, where you’ll be privy to a wealth of exclusive information on consumer shopping behavior, hot products and the latest holiday insights from Google!

When we announced Google’s local shopping mobile alpha this past March, we started with a simple goal of making it as easy to search for products in nearby stores as it is to shop online. Our vision was simple: partner with retailers to organize all of the world’s local product information. The mobile alpha began with a small group of innovative retail partners. Over the past six months, we have been excited with the reception of local availability on mobile and in product extension ads.

Today, we are pleased to announce the launch of local availability results in Google Product Search on desktop. Search for a product and click on the “nearby stores” label, and you can easily find a list of stores to call to check availability, and in many cases, information about whether the product is in stock nearby.

We have partnered with over 70 retail brands and launched over 35, including Williams-Sonoma, Guitar Center, and Office Depot. Through these partnerships, shoppers can now easily and quickly check on the local availability of 4 billion items in local stores. John Koryl, Senior Vice-President of eCommerce Marketing & Analytics at Williams-Sonoma, Inc., describes the value of this partnership to their customers:

"We want our customers to be able to shop whenever and wherever they choose. As a large multi-channel retailer, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., partnered with Google to show our customers the breadth and depth of our in-store product assortment in addition to the online inventory we have been sharing with Google for years. Local availability provides exceptional, local-level product inventory data, store directions and phone numbers. The key is providing our customers with options and Google local availability does exactly that.”

In addition to partnering directly with retailers, we’re also excited to announce that we have partnered with several leading retail software vendors – including JDA, Epicor, and Oracle – to create special adapters that make it even easier for interested retailers to participate. Wayne Usie, Senior Vice-President for Retail at JDA, describes the impact of this feature for retailers:

“JDA is pleased to be among the first companies to implement a tool that allows our customers to share with Google their individual store, product and inventory availability as a part of Google’s ‘local availability’ feature. When shoppers can quickly identify specific product information by store location, it not only leads to a simpler, more productive shopping experience, but can also deliver increased foot traffic and sales for retailers.”

If you’re interested in learning more, please visit our information page. If you use retail software from JDA, Epicor, or Oracle, you can work directly with your company representative to easily and securely submit your local product data to Google. For smaller retailers, watch this space; we’re exploring simple, easy-to-use solutions and look forward to updating you soon.

Event Date: November 16, 2010 at 02:00 PM East/12:00PM Central/11AM Pacific.

Register here.

How do you use online video to market your products online? If you’re Orabrush, a company founded by a dentist to sell a bad-breath fighting tongue brush, you might hire Jeffrey Harmon to build a campaign around a YouTube video. Orabrush’s first video cost $500 and has since earned the company over 13 million views, setting it on the path as an innovator in online video marketing. In addition to its online store, the company now has retail presence in bricks-and-mortar stores and recently hired a chief executive from P&G.

Join this live Webcast with AdAge to hear Jeffrey Harmon and Abe Neiderhauser share their thoughts about what works and what doesn’t with online video advertising.

If you talk to most search engine marketers about how to most effectively control performance, they are likely to talk about 4 main levers of control. These levers most likely are (in no particular order of importance):
  • Keywords
  • Cost per Click (CPC)
  • Ad Text
  • Landing Pages
Marketers can evaluate each of these variables over time (using data) to figure out the most effective combination that will provide the most efficient (and scalable) results. Some sophisticated marketers also tinker with “day-parting” but I wouldn’t put this in the mainstream of variables as this often limits scale in the goal for effiicency.

It’s also true that a number of retailers use geo-targeting in Adwords - but largely for “Online to Store” testing, in-store promotions, new store openings, or something similar. And while I’m probably most passionate about Retailers under-valuing their SEM efforts from the lack of inclusion of brick-and-mortar store benefit -- I also think that traditional retail SEM can be enhanced through the use of geo-targeting.

It’s for these two reasons that I think a key trend in 2011 Retail SEM is going to be geo-targeting. Why not get a head start on this and begin implementing some levers during your Holiday 2010 initiatives?

Recently, we’ve worked with retailers who are looking to grow top-line e-commerce sales but keep marketing efficiency constant. We recommended taking a more local approach (City or State) to SEM rather than their traditional “nation-wide” view. While this definitely takes a bit more elbow-grease to execute, we’ve seen great results.

As an example, when analyzing conversion rate and average order value, we saw that one particular retailer was perfoming 40% better in one city (say, Washington DC) over the national average, yet their MAX CPC’s were set at the same value nationwide. While the actual CPC may vary in each city - the max CPC set by the advertiser, theoretically should be 40% higher than the national average. By bidding more aggressively in areas where we knew conversion rates (or average order values) were higher - we could meet the objective of growing volume but keeping ROI the same.

After seeing this data, we picked a small group of markets (5-10) to test the theory out. We created separate bids and budgets for these high-performing areas and ran campaigns for two weeks to see if the increased bids did in fact grow volume while keeping ROI the same. We were not surprised when our hypothesis came true as we grew revenue a similar ROI. We could simultaneously lower MAX CPCs in poor converting areas (or low AOV) - but decided to wait to do this for the next round of testing.

A few tips on this type of testing based on our experience:
  • Identify good geographic areas of testing: look at Conversion Tracking and/or sales data broken out by state of city and identify top performing areas; cross reference that with Google Insights for Search to see which states or cities index high for specific categories or keywords and look at front-end metrics such as clicks or CTR to see which categories or important products resonate best with consumers.
  • Choose a category / top volume keywords that historically convert well - and be sure to break this out with it’s own budget and bids.
  • Make sure to compare similar products/keywords nationally vs market, rather than looking at the account in aggregate.
  • Be sure to mirror settings from the national campaigns in your newly formed campaigns (e.g. include site-links, product extensions etc. in your geo-targeted campaigns)
  • Be aware of any budget caps that may limit the potential of the test.
  • Start small (5-10 markets) - Iterate, test, and expand.
  • Try testing call-outs of city names in the ad copy to see how CTR is effected.
  • In our experience it’s probably better not to exclude test markets from the national campaign - especially if you are increasing max CPC of the locally targeted ones.
  • Try expanding local reach by geo-targeting with Display to add in another layer/medium for relevant presence.

We would like to invite you to 3 upcoming webinars targeted towards retail clients and the agencies that support them -- YouTube Holiday Planning, Intro to Mobile Ads and Mobile Best Practices. These sessions are designed to help you incorporate video and mobile ad strategies into holiday campaigns and beyond.

YouTube Holiday Webinar
Thursday, November 11, 2010, 10amPST / 12pmCST / 1pmEST
During this session you'll learn how to capitalize on holiday shoppers browsing video content, including customization tips for your YouTube Channel, innovative strategies for sales focused YouTube campaigns and more.
Register here

Introduction to Mobile Ads
Friday, November 12, 2010, 11amPST / 1pmCST / 2pmEST
Learn about the opportunity mobile presents to your business, the mobile advertising products offered by Google and how you can get started.
Register here

Mobile Best Practices
Thursday, November 18, 2010, 11amPST / 1pmCST / 2pmEST
Learn how to measure and optimize your mobile campaigns to increase your mobile ROI.
Register here

Posted by Heidi Spector, Google Retail Team

There is a lot of consumer excitement around new tech products this holiday season. According to our latest research, 56% of shoppers are planning to buy computer related gifts, 50% plan to purchase electronics and 13% of them plan to purchase electronics online (Google/Ipsos OTX Consumer Holiday Shopping Intentions, September 2010).

We looked at Google Insights for Search to see the query volume of a few hot products from three different tech categories: Consumer Electronics & Accessories, Computers & Accessories, and Mobile Phones & Accessories. As you'll see through rising search volumes, consumers are interested in many new electronic devices such as the Kindle, netbooks and smart phones.

Consumer Electronics & Accessories/Kindle
On this graph you see the growth of "Kindle" as a search term, relative to the Computer & Electronics category. The Kindle search term is growing much faster than the overall category and will likely be a hot product this holiday season.

Computers & Accessories

Netbooks and tablets are the hot trending products in this category, as you can see by the growth of searches for Archos 101 and the Android tablet.

Archos 101

Android tablet

Mobile Phones & Accessories

According to our latest Google/Ipsos OTX research, only 1/3 of all consumers in the US use a smartphone, so this presents a large gifting opportunity this holiday season. HTC's search volume peaked in June this year after lauching the HTC Hero, while Nokia peaked in October with the launch of Nokia N8.



To see more of the latest holiday trends in electronics, visit our ThinkHoliday site:

Posted by Anne Beuttenmüller, Google Tech Team