Think of search ads this holiday season the same way you would consider the three presidential political debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Each debate served up information to help undecided voters make a better choice. Search ads and organic content can do the same.
Shoppers searching for information on what to purchase for friends and family this holiday season will rely more heavily on the Internet to research products before making a purchase. In fact, 80% said they would use the Internet this year to research items versus 77% in 2011.
Research becomes the first step in looking for this year's holiday gifts for friends and family, making content top of mind for marketers. On average, consumers will spend $900 on holiday shopping this year -- up slightly from $854 last year, but researching potential purchases becomes the first step. Not just on desktops, but on mobile devices too. In fact, 46% plan to spend more time searching the Internet for gift ideas before spending the money, according to a study released Tuesday from Google and Ipsos OTX.
Where will consumers go to research and buy products? Some 56% said they will use store sites, followed by 49 who said they would use search engines and 49%, online-only retailers.
Aside from a shift in search activity, the study suggests the death of the linear marketing tunnel. While 80% of shoppers will research a potential purchase online before committing to the purchase, many will switch devices to suit their needs. Some 51% of shoppers will research online and then visit the store to purchase, while 17% will visit a store first and then purchase online.
Some 37% of consumers will search for gift ideas before making a purchase, and 51% plan to research online, but buy in the store. Similar to the debates, content and search ads become a means to sway consumers.
Cross-channel marketing will become necessary as more consumers begin the transaction on one device and finish it on another. And Google, Microsoft and Yahoo all have the means to follow a transaction across devices.
Google found that 85% shop for a gift on one device and then make their purchase on another. Some 45% will leave an item in the virtual shopping cart, 45% will send themselves an email or link, and 32% will conduct a new search on a new device. That means retailers have the opportunity to stimulate on one device and complete a sale on another.
What can marketers learn from the presidential debates? The window swings wide this holiday season, and linear paths to conversions are an antiquated strategy. While 54% of consumers will begin their shopping before Black Friday, 31% plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping in early to mid-December.
Clothing, TV, laptops and tablets still catch the interest of consumers, although somewhat less this year than in the past. Items mentioned during the survey include iPhone5, Kindle Fire, and Xbox. Some 83% said they would shop for apparel; 64%, toys; 57, electronics; 56% jewelry and watches; 49, cosmetics; and 35%, sporting goods.
Similar to casting a vote, Americans will use more than one tool to help find the information that will allow them to make the best decision. When it comes to shopping, four in five will use more than one device simultaneously to research and shop for items. Some 6% will use tablets and smartphone; and 8% will use tablet, computer and smartphone. And while 20% will use a tablet and computer, another 20% will not use devices at the same time.