Be honest. Have you carried out all of your Christmas shopping yet? If you have, you’re probably not alone. Early gift buying may have once been seen as ‘organisation overkill’ by some but it is becoming the norm, especially when it comes to online shopping in 2020.

At Space & Time, we have been busy crunching the numbers and studying the trends of the past year, looking to provide a pathway to profit for advertisers during this holiday season. Let’s take a deep dive into what’s shaping our online behaviour and buying habits over the coming six weeks.

Unpacking 2019

During Q4, we’re ambushed, tactically followed and sometimes downright peppered with the opportunity to purchase more than any other time of the year. There’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and what about if a family or friend’s birthday sits in between any of these? All of these provide opportunites for online retailers to take advantage of this increase in online activity and increase sales.
Let’s review Black Friday 2019 for a second. There was a 7.1% increase in sales volume and a 16.5% increase in sales value, compared to 2018. Being appropriately geared up for this year’s peak (and it’s nearly here) should hopefully mean more sales and happier clients.

One key takeaway from last year is duration of interest. 7 days before Black Friday, we saw a 20.2% increase in retail interest around the event, along with a 10.9% increase in interest 7 days after. While the latter could be argued as more of a natural increase in interest leading up to Christmas-related purchasing, the window of opportunity continues to grow during this period.

Speaking of Christmas, last year 55% of UK Christmas shoppers watched YouTube videos that were related to their purchases. Over half. We also saw a huge 13x increase in “holiday haul” video views, as influencers, celebrities and your average Joe helped to guide us along the way. This all adds up to a 22% growth in searches on YouTube in the Occassions and Gifts category and highlights the importance of having YouTube as part of your online advertising portfolio.

In the UK we all love a bargain. Google Trends showed us that some 30% of search terms last Christmas included phrases such as “deals”, “sale” and “offers”. We also know that nearly half of us will start shopping earlier than usual if there is a promotion or a price reduction associated with the purchase.

What may be more surprising, and something that looks set to continue in 2020 is buying for ourselves. 35% of UK shoppers #selfgifted for Christmas in 2019, with 21% of us doing the same for Black Friday. We earned it, right?

Expectations this year

Retail can now be considered digital first as of 2020. 30% of all retail sales are now estimated to be online, aided by the explosion of shopping demand on Google. Where this comes into its own though is at Christmas, when two in three people plan to do most of their shopping online, while 30% will actively avoid going to stores where possible.
The age profile of online shoppers is also evolving over time. There has been a 30-percentage point increase, year on year, from online consumers who are 45 years old or over. Given that 40-49 years are statistically the most affluent age group in the UK, catering to this audience may provide previously untapped potential in some markets. Crucially, these users now not only have a greater ability to spend their money, but now they appear to be more willing to do so, just as other age ranges.

Implications for brands:

If you are an online advertiser and intend to run campaigns for this holiday season, carefully consider these key trends and how they might impact any current planned activity.

  • An earlier and sustained peak of interest
  • Rise in online traffic
  • Increased competitor activity
  • Customers are value driven
  • Decrease in brand loyalty

 

Sources of growth:

Similarly, if expansion is a key objective for your business in 2020/21, perhaps tweak your strategy to include some of the following ideas to grow sales and increase revenue this year.

  • Cater to an emerging online demographic
  • Self-gifting is a new trend
  • International expansion
  • Analyse the full consumer journey online

 

Plan for success:

Our analysis points towards an acceleration of ecommerce over the coming weeks, so advertisers need to ensure all their ducks are in a row to fully capitalise on all the opportunities available. The thinking needs to shift towards running longer campaigns with increased budgets. Many retailers are looking to ameliorate logistical issues and an over-burdened delivery chain by smoothing the peak and running incentives, and marketing campaigns, over a longer period. We understand this has an impact on internal processes, so plan for additional stock headroom, highlighting delivery timeframes within your campaigns and ensuring your product inventory is always up to date.

Final nugget from us. Incredibly, 56% of online shoppers will buy their last Christmas gift in the week leading up to December 25th, so why not keep campaigns running that little bit longer and hoover up those last remaining purchasers?

If you need help wading through the minefield of online shopping and creating a suitable strategy, get in touch with our award-winning digital specialists.

Dominic Hart, Senior PPC Specialist