Trends Worth Tracking: How Consumers Are Shopping for Holiday Gifts


Trends Worth Tracking: How Consumers Are Shopping for Holiday Gifts

Kelvin Estevez

The Truth

In 2017, 174 million Americans made purchases on Black Friday weekend. However, a recent study shows that only 15% of people waited in lines during Black Friday, reinforcing a continued need for digital brand presence and additional purchase incentives for consumers. In the past several years, there has been a notable shift in consumers’ expectations from retailers. For example, consumers look to retailers to help solve problems, create seamless online and in-store shopping experiences, and offer convenience. As brands head into the holiday season, we uncovered the latest purchasing trends and consumer shopping habits based on online search interest.

The Connection

Researching Online

  • In a world where information is literally at our fingertips, search is becoming an integral step for inspiration, consideration, and affirmation of new brands or products, as consumers increasingly look to search (& brands) to help them solve problems.
  • Searches for ‘gift ideas’ grew 8% and ‘best Black Friday deals” grew 33% YoY. Interestingly, in 2017, more than 50% of holiday shoppers said they were open to purchasing from new retailers, indicating how important it is for brands to become trusted consumer resources during the planning phase.
  • According to a “Think With Google” study, searches containing ‘near me’ coupled with phrases such as ‘can I buy’ increased 500% in the last two years. Consumers are using mobile searches to hone in on where to find a specific item near them and looking to online search to eliminate the need to drive to a store only to find out an item is not sold there, or out of stock.

Bridging Offline and Online

  • Two out of three consumers report that they don’t find the information they are seeking in-store. Instead, they rely on advertisers to provide a seamless journey from online to offline. This presents the opportunity for brands to provide the information these consumers seek through other methods - enter mobile and digital efforts to fuel foot traffic.
  • Businesses experienced significant growth for both in-store and online shopping during Black Friday 2017. In-store foot traffic increased 200% vs. the average weekend day in November.
  • Features such as displaying actual store inventory on their website, being present on retail intent keywords such as ‘near me’, and offering in-store pick up help bridge the gap for retailers and are all helping drive foot traffic through effective digital efforts.

Mobile Payments

  • In a world of instant gratification, having to wait in line or input credit card information online can be a deterrent when it comes to actually completing a purchase.
  • Interest for ‘Apple Pay’ grew double digits in both 2017 and 2018. New queries indicate consumers are now looking to utilize Apple Pay and similar mobile pay apps through queries such as ‘apple pay near me’, ‘ apple pay cvs’ and ‘android pay stores’ breaking out in 2018.
  • Mobile Payments are helping to combat purchase drop off by streamlining the online and in-store checkout process to offer convenience and speed.

Tech = Increased Spending

  • Thanks to the convenience of two-day free shipping and mobile payment methods, the consumer journey has become more seamless and effortless, contributing to an increase in consumer holiday spending.
  • Based on Google Trends, Interest in Shopping has grown every year since 2014, increasing nearly 6% in 2017. Not surprisingly, one third of that interest occurred in Q4 during holiday and Black Friday shopping days.
  • According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total 2017 holiday sales rose 3.9 percent, 11% higher than the 10-year average of 3.5 percent annual increase before the recession.

Official “Shopping Holidays”

  • Enter Travel Tuesday, which is a notable new holiday on the first Tuesday after Cyber Monday, specifically designed to promote travel deals.
  • Search queries for “Travel Tuesday” spiked in 2017, growing 78% YoY. This indicates that it’s time to dust off your passport, as 2018 is sure to bring a whole host of new affordable opportunities to break out the swimsuit purchased on Black Friday.
  • In a 2017 post-holiday study, 53% of consumers reported they do not rely on Black Friday as much as they used to. This is a signal that retailers don’t need to put all of their eggs in the proverbial Black Friday basket, and can spread the wealth across a number of shopping holidays.

The Wonder

Consumers are shopping smarter in today’s world, as information is available at their fingertips and within moments. Retailers are taking notice and investing in the way they interact with consumers to solve consumer problems. For example, Macy’s has a full site dedicated to trends and shopping ideas called ‘the Edit’, which launched late 2017. Additionally, Under Armour has a curated Gift Guide feature full of best sellers that can be sorted by price range. These types of initiatives help guide consumers as they navigate and ideate for the holidays. Digital solutions can also help brands address holiday shopping to make it easier for consumers; in short, reducing friction in the consumer journey pays dividends.


Sources: studies below:

Kelvin Estevez

Kelvin Estevez

Senior Analyst, Search Marketing


Unity’s Unite LA - Advertising Goes AR