(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, Holiday Planning Guide, February 2014.
5 Baynote Holiday Shopper Survey, January 2014.