NEW YORK — Retail stores are notorious for jumping on the holiday-season bandwagon at the beginning of fall, and this year, shoppers are, too. While some people haven't even chosen their Halloween costume yet, 26 percent of consumers have already begun their holiday shopping, and half plan to start their research before Thanksgiving, according to a recent Google and Ipsos MediaCT study.
Based on retail and e-commerce trends in recent years, these statistics shouldn't be too surprising: Black Friday — once a one-day event notorious for cutthroat, animalistic competition to get the best in-store deals — has slowly evolved into a month-long season of holiday shopping promotions, beginning in early November and wrapping up shortly after Thanksgiving with Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
Here at the Nomad Hotel yesterday (Oct. 9), three Google retail experts presented the findings of the study, along with their insights and predictions for the 2014 holiday shopping season. Julie Krueger, industry director of retail for Google, attributed the ever-expanding "season" to today's search and e-commerce capabilities. [How to Market to Holiday Shoppers]
"Black Friday is no longer just a single day," Kreuger said. "So much happens outside the store. Consumers are more informed and shopping ahead of time."
As one might expect, most of what happens "outside the store" happens on a mobile device, and at all hours of the day. Krueger said that one-third of all Google shopping searches occur between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., and that one of every seven orders on Google's emerging same-day local delivery service, Google Shopping Express, is also placed during those hours. But ordering items online isn't the only way consumers are using their smartphones to help them with holiday shopping: Google data from the 2013 holiday season indicated that the biggest in-store sale days coincided with high spikes in mobile searches.
"Seventy-five percent of consumers use their smartphones in-store," Krueger said. "They'd rather use their phone than talk to an associate [to get product information]."
While showrooming — looking at a product in-store and using a mobile device to compare prices on the spot — may have some retailers concerned about losing sales to online competitors, Krueger noted that many brick-and-mortar stores are embracing this practice and encouraging consumers to do further research. In fact, 46 percent of showrooming shoppers last holiday season ended up making an in-store purchase anyway. That's why it's so crucial for retailers to have rich, detailed information available to consumers online, said Vineet Buch, director of Google Shopping.
"[In-store traffic] has declined 55 percent from 2010 to 2013, but same-store sales are up by 13 percent," said Buch, citing Shoppertrak and MasterCard research that found consumers purchase twice as much per visit when they do go into stores. "Visits are precious, but if you haven't prepped [consumers] online [beforehand], you've lost the sale."
Part of that online preparation increasingly means providing informational video content about products. A recent Google consumer survey said that a quarter of shoppers have used YouTube to search for videos about the products they're considering while in a store. Lisa Green, Google's head of industry for luxury and fashion, said that how-to content, product reviews, "haul" videos (consumers posting videos of their latest shopping purchases) and branded content featuring celebrities like Martha Stewart or popular YouTube stars like Elle Walker (188,000 subscribers) and Bethany Mota (7 million subscribers) are the most effective.
At the event, Buch demonstrated several new and upcoming Google product-search features that will help consumers find more information about the products they want, all in one place. These features will help holiday shoppers who are looking for nearby locations to purchase specific products, and rank best-in-category items based on consumer and media reviews from around the Web.
Since Google already rules the Internet when it comes to search, the lesson for retailers that want to be found this holiday season is to brush up on your SEO and product information, and make sure you're listed through Google's local business products. For more information, check out Business News Daily's SEO basics guide.
Originally published on Business News Daily.