The last few years have been nothing short of tumultuous for retailer brands. Unexpected closures, confusion around health safety best practices, and a sweeping shift to ecommerce all presented new hurdles. Now that the holiday season is approaching, marketers are wondering, what will holiday shopping look like this season? This year, retailers are set to contend with not only the lingering effects of the pandemic (and all of the consumer behavior changes that came with it) but also a looming recession.
Experts predict that the holiday shopping season ahead will begin early (if not already). They also predict that the inflationary pressure effects of higher prices and fewer orders will persist. And, that inflation rates will outpace U.S. retail sales growth by far.
In this post, we’ll explore several of the most impactful holiday marketing insights released to date. And, what they may mean for your brand’s holiday 2022 local marketing strategy.
Expect Shopping Season to Start Early
For 40% of U.S. holiday shoppers, last year’s holiday shopping experience has made them consider shopping much earlier this year. This trend of longer shopping periods with fewer peaks in demand has been building for a few years now. Google research shows that as of June 2021, 31% of U.S. shoppers had already started their holiday shopping. Thirty seven percent of shoppers who shopped last holiday season wished they had started earlier.
Concerns over shipping and inventory issues are one factor driving this trend. Google found in June 2021 that 50% of U.S. shoppers said they planned to start holiday shopping earlier to avoid an item being out of stock.
Launching deals, offers, and sales in the months leading up to the holiday season can help encourage pre-holiday shopping. Retailers can share these promotions directly on their Google Business Profile with a Post or store-specific banner ads on each store’s local landing page.
A cross-channel strategy is a key for tapping into an early holiday shopping crowd. Customers will continue to combine online and in-store shopping. It’s essential that your locations are discoverable and equipped with relevant holiday promotions to share well in advance.
How to prepare:
- Plan your holiday promotions earlier than you anticipate necessary. Design offers to drive foot traffic and online orders at off-peak times.
- Add information about deals, offers, returns, shipping and other common questions to product listings, local pages, and individual store Google Business Profiles.
- Conduct a local audit all location Google Business Profiles now to ensure each one makes the best possible use of retail attributes so customers searching for specific service options, payment types, offerings and more see that information displayed prominently in search results.
Differentiation is Becoming Increasingly Important
Today’s customer is a savvy comparison shopper. Sixty-one percent of consumers worldwide said in a recent survey that they visit multiple websites before deciding what to buy and who to buy it from.
How can you stand out in this environment where customers are determined to evaluate their options and seek out multiple brands?
The value you offer in each searcher interaction is imperative. Ask yourself:
- Are you creating content for the sake of creating content? Does your content deliver relevant information to the end-user?
- Is it unique and does it speak directly to users of that platform?
- Does your content educate, entertain, or engage those who discover it online?
- Are you providing clear, logical next steps for those who want to dig deeper and continue that interaction?
How to prepare:
- Map out your customer’s journey from search to sale. Every step of the customer experience should be frictionless and seamless in the path to purchase.
- Consider the opportunities to connect and engage with your target demographic and which channels they use most frequently. How can you increase your brand’s visibility in those channels? Getting a local search audit now can help you identify those opportunities and plan your campaigns ahead of the holiday.
- Craft immersive, rich content using video and imagery wherever possible to catch searchers’ eyes and tell them a compelling story about your brand. Video is an essential content format today, given that 87% of U.S. shoppers say they feel like they get the highest-quality information about products when shopping or browsing on YouTube. You can repurpose these videos by adding them to location profiles, embedding in local pages, sharing on social, and turning them into Google Posts, as well.
- Don’t forget about technical SEO. You can use schema markup on the brand website and local pages to trigger rich results and provide more varied, useful information to customers directly inside the search experience so your listings can really stand out. See Advanced Schema Strategies for Local SEO to learn more.
Holiday Shoppers Often Start with Search & Use Multiple Channels
Omnichannel is more than a marketing buzzword – it’s a way of life for local shoppers. The lines between online and off are increasingly blurred and this past holiday, only 4% of U.S. holiday shoppers did not use digital channels for their shopping.
Often, omnichannel experiences begin with Google Search. People are shopping across Google more than a billion times a day but they aren’t always looking for specific products; they need inspiration. In fact, 43% of U.S. holiday shoppers that used Google said they did so to get gift ideas.
Having a robust presence in search is a start. What experience do you offer local shoppers on their journey from there?
How to prepare:
- Put your first-party data to work. Brands using first-party data for key marketing functions achieved up to a 2.9X revenue lift and a 1.5X increase in cost savings, according to Google. Where are your target customers online and how can you meet them in their discovery and decision-making moments?
- Drive search traffic to the closest location’s local page versus a generic destination on the corporate website. Local searchers are overwhelmingly looking for product availability, hours of operation, nearby stores, etc.; it’s far less likely they’re looking to learn about the brand’s values or management organization.
- Use integrated local reviews to provide compelling social proof on local pages and convert searchers to the next step: an in-store visit or online order.
Inventory & Shipping Concerns are Influencing Purchasing Decisions
Stock, inventory, and shipping challenges are a major concern for consumers, with 31% saying they are researching online more before purchasing to avoid these issues.
Local searchers are exploring Google Maps results for queries such as “shopping near me,” which has grown globally by over 100% year-over-year. Whether a location is open at that moment is of interest, too, as searches for “open now near me” have grown globally by over 400%. Customers are looking at Google Business Listings to see which locations are open, whether products are available for pickup, and more. These insights indicate a high level of purchase intent while customers are searching – when they find the right product and store, they’re ready to convert and get the deal done.
The Shopping tab is another area of opportunity for local visibility and as Google states, 49% of consumers expect to be able to buy from any store online. Having these options available when and where prospective customers are searching is imperative.
Undoubtedfully, the shopping season will come early this year. Brands with a robust search presence across all regions they serve will be best positioned to capitalize on the opportunity. As are the brands who personalize the customer experience, tailoring their content and promotions at each of its locations.
Today’s customer is looking for a lot more than a link a corporate site. They’re looking for rich descriptions, photos and video, real customer reviews with brand responses, key business information such as hours of operation and other attributes, product availability, and more. Economic uncertainty will make deals, offers, and promotions more attractive this shopping season, as well.
Perform a local search audit today to lay the foundation for successful holiday 2022 marketing campaigns. You’ll learn how each of your locations is ranking on top search engines, what local searchers see when they’re looking for products like yours, how sentiment around your brand is trending based on local reviews, and other essential insights to inform your holiday marketing plan going forward.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics in this article were sourced from Google Consumer Insights’ 2022 Retail Marketing Guide.