Commentary

Competing For Online vs. Offline Holiday Dollars

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Top search terms on Google Insights in the United States reflect that consumers have moved into the holiday spirit. The top search keywords include christmas tree, christmas lyrics, christmas songs, christmas cards, and merry christmas ... Fa, la, la, la, la.

Search engine marketers should continually optimize Web sites and paid search campaigns, monitoring trending words to tie into content on Web sites and in PPC ads. It become increasingly important as the countdown toward Christmas draws nearer.

Amazon's last day of free standard shipping to get gifts delivered before Christmas came and went last Sunday, but people will continue to buy online and pay for shipping. No fear. Consumers have search engines to look for those last minute items.

In fact, those looking for last minute items in a local store can go online to giftsnearby.ebay.com, which launched Tuesday. The site, powered by Milo.com, its latest search acquisition, lets consumers put in their ZIP code and keyword to search for nearby stores that still have products they seek in stock.

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A Piper Jaffray research note released Tuesday aggregated stats on eCommerce growth reveals that online retail sales rose 12% year on year this holiday season, up from 3% year-on-year growth in 2009. The stats from comScore reflect Nov. 11 through Dec. 12. The Chase Paymentech Index of sales rose 22% year on year, compared with more than18% growth during the 2009 holiday season.

Online retail sales grew 50% year on year the weekend of Dec. 18, and grew 21% year on year the week ending Sunday, Dec.19, according to Pier Jaffray, citing the Chase Paymentech Index, which skews toward larger retailers, including 50 of the top 250 online retailers.

As of two weeks ago, 12% of shoppers still hadn't begun holiday shopping, according to Debra Miller Arbesman, senior associate of retail and consumer products at Compete. For those who had, shoes, games, and clothes dominated the holiday must have list, according to the latest Compete Holiday Insights report.

Gift cards remain popular items to buy, demonstrating a 21% growth in purchase rate early in December. Wal-Mart experienced a rise in shopping, with a fewer than 60% of respondents purchasing a holiday item from a Wal-Mart store. Target ranked as the second most shopped store and Kohl's came in at No. 3.

About 17% of consumers participating in the survey, up from 12% last year, said they would spend more this holiday season, Miller Arbesman says. We'll see how the numbers add up-online vs. offline-next week.

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