Valentine’s Day, a day of expressing love and affection for your significant other, is quickly approaching. Retailers are likely hoping consumers are using the old “How much does he love me? Let me count the ways.” saying as motivation for earning brownie points with their loved one by purchasing Valentine’s Day gifts this year.

Show how much you care by spending big bucks on the perfect gift(s), online or off -- although perhaps more of you will be going on the web this year! confirms in a recent research study that spending online is the top strategy this year with online shoppers having a 67% higher order value ($172) than in-store purchasers ($135).

Whatever shall I give my Valentine?
Queries for Valentine’s Day & Valentine’s Day gifts have been on the rise since late December, with people looking for gift ideas and traditional items such as flowers, perfume and jewelry, etc.

Resent category searches include the following:

How are consumers shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts?
Mobile shopping-related searches for Valentine’s Day were up 230% from 2009 to 2010 according to Google internal data. Top products searched are diverse ranging from small to big ticket items.

How do I capture consumers looking for Valentine’s Day gifts?
Be in front of consumers as they research gift ideas and specific purchases for their loved ones with exciting creative featuring discounts that navigate directly to the product landing page. Offer bundling and gift suggestions for less directed shoppers to aid purchase consideration online and in-store. If you have store events, make consumers aware of the benefits of attending.

Posted by Keri Overman, Google Retail Team

For most e-retailers, the 2010 holiday season was a welcome beam of sunshine after quite a few cloudy months. Our Holiday Shopping Recap showed more than 15% growth in online retail, a positive sign of both economic improvement and consumer confidence

Yet, the question remains: is the improvement here to stay? Is this forecast reliable?

Taking a look at three major categories - US Economic Growth, Consumer Spending, and E-Commerce Penetration - the signs are positive.

On January 14th, the Wall Street Journal reported that major bank economists had raised their 2011 U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) outlook from 3% to 3.3%. This adjustment echoed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s forecast the day prior that recovery was on pace and GDP growth would likely pace between 3% and 4% for the year.

To compliment optimism about macro-economic growth, other industry sources are indicating that the holiday sales spike was the first step in a return of consumer spending habits. The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker data for January indicates that more than 54% of adult American consumers plan to spend the same or more than they did in 2010. The report cited improved consumer saving & financial flexibility as a a major catalyst for a rise in purchases, with “health & fitness” and “clothing” as two of the top three projected spending categories.

Finally, e-commerce sales are poised for accelerated post-2010 growth as a major part of the economic improvement expected for 2011. A JP Morgan study released earlier this month calls for double-digit growth - see below - in the e-commerce market from 2010 to 2013. In addition, consumers continue to buy online with more frequency, with nearly 90% of the population using the web at some point to purchase.


As the 2011 economic forecast calls for optimism, it will be increasingly important for retailers and e-commerce businesses to continue to meet consumer needs online. For December, comScore indicated that aggregate search volume across the major U.S. search engines was up more than 12% from the year prior.

All of the indicators are aligned, pointing to a far better atmosphere than what most retailers have experienced for many months. With a brighter forecast on the horizon, it’s time to enjoy the “weather” and make your presence known to the world around.

Posted by Jon Sadow, Google Retail Team

Hindsight is 20/20. At least that is what I think Northeastern retailers were thinking when record snowstorms hit this holiday season. Retailers of all sizes were unable to meet the customer demand for snow blowers this year; query trends indicate that purchase intent for snow blowers has been increasing steadily year over year.

Applying this year over year increase toward the future, retailers may consult consumer trends on Insights for Search to guide inventory selection of seasonal tools. Last year, there was an additional surge in snow blower demand in mid to late January. If history repeats itself, it is likely that a second wave of snow blower shoppers who missed the opportunity to grab the hot item the first time around will be knocking on retailers’ doors in the near future this year. Be prepared to direct consumers to your stores and your website by reaching top ad position when awareness is key.

Posted by Keri Overman, Google Retail Team

We all know that moms are amazing multi-taskers, the savviest of shoppers, and maintain order in the most hectic of households. But today’s mom is also hip to adopt the latest and greatest gadgets.

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas highlighted this trend by showing off gadgets for moms in the first-ever “Mommy tech” lifestyle exhibit. Device manufacturers and retailers recognize this and are increasingly reaching out to this segment, which makes 80% of household purchases and spends $1.7 trillion annually.

Gadget-makers are appealing to the time-constrained mom who wants to do it all with tablets, smartphone apps, fitness gadgets, and even high-tech baby monitors. All this “Mommy Tech” created some serious buzz and interest at CES.

What manufacturers and retailers may also know is that this is only the start of the conversation…moms tend to talk. In fact, moms mention on average 73 brands during the course of a week, and 56% of moms are likely to pass along what they hear to others.

CE manufacturers are off to a great start in recognizing the purchasing power of this audience; they need to continue to give Moms something to talk about by to delivering relevant messaging and products.

Posted by Allison Berger, Google Technology Team

Did you receive gifts this year from your family and friends that weren’t exactly your taste? Were you frustrated with the hassle of returning the items for what you really wanted? What if you could return a bad gift before it got to you?

Interest in gift returns are at a record high according to Insights for Search, and typically peek the day after Christmas each year. This year is indicating a different trend with searches continuing to surge into the new year. Does this mean that gift givers are missing the mark when choosing presents for their loved ones?

Amazon has patented a “gift conversion” process that allows gift recipients to choose an alternate gift once they are alerted of a gift purchased for them without notifying the sender of the “gift swap”. Gift conversion is Amazon’s approach to minimizing unnecessary shipping costs and saving hours of misdirected labor. Additionally, the process is aimed to alleviate consumer frustration with return policies.

Even if the idea of trading one gift for another doesn’t appeal to you, it is apparent that gift returns are at the forefront of consumer minds. Take advantage of the post holiday rush to return gifts by advertising easy exchanges and return policies in your creative.

Posted by Keri Overman, Google Retail Team

The New Year has started off with a bang, with a renewed commitment by many to achieve health and fitness goals. January is traditionally the month that consumers seek out new fitness equipment/programs and nutrition tips, according to Insights for Search. Each year however, consumer interest tends to shift in relation to various types of fitness products.

What will fitness lovers seek this year? Over the last seven days, general fitness terms, P90x and treadclimbers are the top and rising search terms. Consumers also are looking to assess their healthy weight and find a local gym. If you have motivational content to keep health seekers focused on their health goals, advertise and engage consumers to ensure they think of you for their fitness needs.

Popular nutritional vitamins and supplements terms in the last week included general vitamin and supplements, as well as specific vitamins and vitamin brands. If you offer the listed brands and products, it is paramount to notify consumers of your inventory and vast brand selection. Offer any incentive to encourage people to buy from your store or ecommerce channel. Nutritional tips are also helpful to consumers that are looking to boost their health.

Now that you have scored a touchdown with fitness and nutritional advertising, add a two-point conversion and a standing ovation from roaring fitness-focused consumers everywhere by advertising on key apparel brands. Highlight the benefits of athletic footwear and active sportswear in addition to selection and value.

Posted by Keri Overman, Google Retail Team

Yesterday we launched a new version of Google Goggles that’s faster and smarter than ever before. The new Goggles 1.3 client for Android can scan barcodes almost instantly. All versions of Goggles can now recognize print ads in popular magazines and newspapers. Finally, Goggles has also learned a fun new trick for Sudoku fans.

When shopping offline, it’s helpful to be able to learn more about a product by scanning its barcode. With the new Android version of Google Goggles, scanning barcodes is much faster. Open Goggles and hover over the barcode or QR code. Within a second the phone gently vibrates and presents results, without requiring a button press. Simply tap on the result to read product reviews, check in-store availability and compare prices.

Print ads in magazines and newspapers

We’re excited to take another step in our vision of connecting offline media to online media. The next time you're flipping through the pages of your favorite magazine, try taking a picture of an ad with Goggles. Goggles will recognize print ad and return web search results about the product or brand. This new feature of Goggles is enabled for print ads appearing in major U.S. magazines and newspapers from August 2010 onwards.

This feature is different from the marketing experiment that we announced in November. We're now recognizing a much broader range of ads than we initially included in our marketing experiment. And when we recognize a print ad, we return web search results. While in the experiment, we return a specific link to an external website.

Our favorite weekend distraction is a quiet 15 minutes spent solving a Sudoku puzzle. But even that can be an frustrating experience if (like us) you make a mistake and are unable to solve the puzzle. Now, Goggles on Android and iPhone can recognize puzzles and provide answers to help make you faster than a Sudoku champ. So if you ever get stuck, take a clear picture of the entire puzzle with Goggles and we’ll tell you the correct solution. Check out this video to see how it works.

Google Goggles 1.3 with improved barcode scanning is available for download in Android Market. Recognition of print ads and Sudoku solver is now enabled for the Google Goggles app on Android, as well as the Goggles component of the Google Mobile App on iPhone.

Posted by Leon Palm and Jiayong Zhang, Software Engineers

The tree has been put away and all the lights have been taken down, but gift card redemption is skyrocketing. Google Insights reveals that gift card usage is top of mind this year, and has risen in comparison to prior years.

Many people have received vendor agnostic cards from major credit card companies and are eager to make post-holiday purchases. Some gift card holders know exactly what they want to spend their gift card on, but aren't sure which retailer will give them the most value for their gifted dollars. The other portion of the gift card holder population doesn’t know how or where to spend their money.

How do you capture these two types of gift card spenders? Offer rewards for redeeming gift cards at your retail and e-tail stores. If you offer a unique value proposition for consumers purchasing items with gift cards, be sure to prominently display offers in your ad copy and run ads against product and general gift/gift card terms in top position.

Posted by Keri Overman, Google Retail Team

If your company runs an ecommerce website, you’re probably taking a well deserved break with the end of the holiday rush. But as we move into a new year, it’s also a great time to start thinking about how to give your customers an even better online shopping experience.

We’re also looking forward to an exciting 2011 and to kick things off, we’re heading to New York next week to be part of the National Retail Federation's BIG Show. Visit us at Booth #3239 from January 10-13 where you’ll be able to speak with the Google Commerce Search and Google Product Search teams, and learn how our commerce offerings can help bring visitors to your site, optimize their experience, and convert them into loyal customers.

On Monday, join our afternoon session where we discuss ‘In Stock Nearby: The Next Step in Shopping’. Paul Lee, Senior Product Manager, will set out how to serve today’s cross-channel shopper, regardless of platform or location.

On Tuesday morning, don’t miss our session on ‘Search Insights’, where Nitin Magintini, Group Product Manager on Google Commerce Search, will explain how increasingly sophisticated online shoppers are driving innovations in search.

We’re looking forward to a ‘big’ few days and hope to see you in New York next week.

Posted by Derek Niddery, Google Commerce Team

Day 147/365- Pumped for the Holidays :D

2010 has come to a close with a big holiday bang. Not only were holiday retail sales up big5.5% over 2009 for the 50 day period from November 5 to December 24 — but online retail was up some 15.4%. After a couple of years of lackluster holiday retail sales, it seems Santa finally deemed retailers "nice" — enough to get something more than a lump of coal in 2010.

Here a few highlights of the 2010 holiday retail shopping season:
  • "There were 6 days in the 2010 season that surpassed $1 billion in sales compared with 3 days in 2009. Top days included Tuesday November 30, which registered $1.16 billion in sales, and Wednesday December 1, registering $1.13 billion. The Monday after Thanksgiving generated $999.3 million in sales, a 25.3% increase compared to the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2009." [MasterCard SpendingPulse]

  • Apparel was up 11.2% over 2009 (Note: 2009 holiday season sales for Apparel were down 0.4%, so this is quite a turnaround) [MasterCard SpendingPulse]

  • Jewelry/Luxury was up 8.4% year over year for the holiday season. [MasterCard SpendingPulse]

  • Market share of visits to the Retail 500 were up 16% and 13% for Cyber Monday and Black Friday, respectively. Specifically, the Apparel and Accessories category of retailers saw tremendous growth in share of visits for key holidays like Thanksgiving (25% growth), Black Friday (over 30% growth), Cyber Monday (over 25% growth), and the day after Christmas traffic up over 25%. [Hitwise]

  • Retail eCommerce on Free Shipping Day, which fell on a Friday this year, was up huge over last year — up a whopping 61%! The retail spend on Free Shipping Day (estimated at $942 million) was almost as high as on Green Monday ($954 million) [comScore]
The massive growth in retail spending on Free Shipping Day* is interesting in light of online spending historically peaking earlier in the week and tailing off as the weekend approaches (The reverse is true for in-store spend, which typically ramps up as the week progresses peaking on Saturday and Sunday). Then again, there were 29 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in 2010 (compared to 28 in 2009 and 27 in 2008) and Christmas Day fell on a Saturday, meaning online orders placed on Friday December 17th (Free Shipping Day) and the following Saturday and Sunday, as well, had a very good chance of being delivered in time for Christmas Day. Perhaps this reduced the urgency to order earlier in the week on what would have been Green Monday or Tuesday. Your guess is as good as mine.

Even as the impressive retail growth figures are cause for celebration, an unusual holiday twist was experienced by many on the East Coast: a white Christmas. The storm that began on Christmas Day in the form of light snow in Atlanta (the first white Christmas in Atlanta since 1882) turned into a blizzard in the Northeast. The heavy snowfall put a temporary freeze on a lot of post-Christmas bargain shopping; indeed, ShopperTrak has estimated the blizzard may have postponed as much as a billion dollars in holiday retail sales.

All in all, retailers must be rejoicing at a merry close to 2010. Here's to an even better 2011!

* Free Shipping Day is a coordinated effort whereby a huge swath of online retailers offer free shipping on one of the last days to order online and get your goods delivered by Christmas Eve.

Posted by Justin Owings, Google Retail Team