The online holiday shopping season was a season of historic highs: $29 billion in online sales, the first $900M day in e-commerce history, 20% growth in Black Friday searches, and an even more impressive 60% growth in Cyber Monday searches.

How did this historic online growth translate at the consumer level? Throughout the holiday season we tracked consumer research and purchase behavior and the results revealed a trend to watch in 2010: Consumers start early and end late.

In fact, by the end of August 2009, almost half of holiday shoppers had begun shopping and over a third had started purchasing. That's a full 4 months prior to the holidays. On the other end of the spectrum, just 5 days prior to Christmas, many had yet to begin shopping or purchasing.

Though we ended up with plenty of presents under our tree despite the last minute push, this data reveals that the shopping cycle is longer than expected with a large portion of shoppers researching far in advance but remaining more comfortable waiting until the last minute to finish up.

The lengthy shopping cycle will be important to keep in mind when planning your online media for upcoming holidays, such as Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day.

Source: Google/OTX Consumer Pulse Check, 8/09-12/09. Base: Those who plan to shop/research or purchase this holiday season (Nearly 9 out of 10 plan to shop/research or purchase.) [1] Have you started your 2009 Holiday shopping/researching? [2] Have you started your 2009 Holiday purchasing?