Cyber Monday And Current Search Trends

Last year, I finally succeeded in emerging from my post-Turkey-Day tryptophan stupor to take advantage of the sales surrounding Thanksgiving, and it was decadent. Seems I wasn’t the only one rejoining the holiday shopping kickoff. According to Experian's "Magical Insights for the Savvy Holiday Marketer" report, there was significant year-over-year growth in online traffic on Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. Some shoppers may go direct from one retailer website to another, but search gets the biggest half of the wishbone: it’s the number one form of navigation for transactions and research, with the usual suspects (G, Y and Bing) driving the greatest amount of traffic.  

Anticipation for these shopping holidays continues to grow, especially as Black Friday websites like bfads leak the Black Friday promotions of Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, and retailers without a physical location extend their Cyber Monday sales into Sunday and even earlier, attempting to claim more of their customer’s holiday budgets. Similarly, the marketing surrounding these days should represent a large part of any marketer's budget.



Total visits on each of the holiday milestone days improved YOY: Thanksgiving Day increased 6%, Black Friday increased 7% and Cyber Monday 11%.  All top-level retail categories (department stores, apparel & accessories, appliances & electronics, house & garden, video & games, toys & hobbies) experienced higher traffic on Cyber Monday 2012 than 2011 and the majority also experienced higher traffic on Thanksgiving Day 2012. The video & games category had the highest increase on Cyber Monday, partially driven by a higher number of websites in the category and growth of DVD stores and video game retailers.

2012 was also the first holiday season where Cyber Monday was the top trafficked day for the department store category with a 16% increase in visits. Prior to last year, this category peaked on Thanksgiving Day as shoppers drew up game plans for in-store visits, suggesting that more dollars are shifting online and away from the 4 a.m. crowds. The appliances & electronics and video & games categories still peaked on Thanksgiving Day, given the relative parity of shopping these retailers online versus in-store.

For the first time since 2008, this year’s Cyber Monday will fall in December and could garner even more shopping dollars when there are fewer days before Santa comes to town. “This short holiday season will make Cyber Monday more important than ever as shoppers rush to ensure that their online purchases will arrive on time,” said Heather Dougherty, Research Director, Experian Marketing Services. “Shipping deadlines will be a major message to communicate this year to avoid disappointment come Christmas Day.”

In reviewing the visitation patterns of holiday shoppers across the Top 20 retailers and websites, visits on PCs are strong across the entire holiday weekend, especially Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Not surprisingly, in-store visits are at their lowest on Thanksgiving Day when most retail locations are closed, but then increase when stores reopen on Black Friday and throughout the weekend.  Visits to mobile websites also experienced an increase throughout that weekend, as shoppers hit the streets to cure their food comas with some retail therapy.

Additionally, consumers have become increasingly aware of"Free Shipping Day" just prior to the arrive-in-time-for-Christmas shipping deadlines, with traffic to retailers increasing 18% on that day.  Marketers should accordingly take aim at potential procrastinators!

Speaking of narrowing focus, hot product search terms leading up to this holiday season (July 13-October 13) include fitness gadgets, phones and game consoles.  Search terms including, "fitbit," "iphone 5s," and "xbox one," are growing in popularity for the holidays. Apparel searches are on the rise as the weather gets colder, but electronics are the real story in Q3-Q4.

Email and Mobile Complement Search Marketing

Email is an excellent complement to search in the holiday season, with numerous opportunities to reach customers with customized messages in advance of milestone shopping days.  Marketers are encouraged to use emails with offers (e.g. “free shipping” and "percentage off"), as last year they had a 22% higher transaction rates than those without offers.

Email offers a significantly higher engagement on mobile devices during the holiday season.  January to October 2013, mobile email open-rates were 49% to 50%, while multichannel retailers saw a much higher percentage of their opens (62%) on a mobile device as the holiday season begins.  The majority of clicks (52%), however, still occur on desktops. In addition to the email shift, mobile needs to be a key ingredient of your holiday mix, as 52% of users will use a device to research products, redeem coupons and rely on apps for purchases.

The holidays provide an incredible opportunity for highly targeted and relevant advertising. Using a multichannel approach, Christmas can come early this year.

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