Ushering in the first Nonline holiday shopping season

10/23/2012 09:00:00 AM

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How many times have you started searching for a new pair of shoes on your smartphone while waiting in line, continued your research on your laptop when you got home, and then searched online to find a local store that has those shoes in stock? Today, people no longer see a line between online and offline shopping, and neither do smart retailers. This year online and offline shopping experiences are more seamless than ever before - across pricing, functionality, and promotions - making this the first Nonline holiday season.

Not only is this the first Nonline holiday season, but it’s an important one for retailers as consumers prepare to spend more money -- and spend more time making sure they get the most value for every dollar spent. Our research released today with Ipsos shows that on average, shoppers plan to spend $900 on holiday shopping this year, up slightly from an average of $854 last year. Along with this bump in spending, we’re seeing an increase in research before purchasing by shoppers who are more judicious about their purchases- 46% plan to spend more time shopping around for gifts this year.

Here are the three main trends we see driving this year’s season, and some insights from our survey about how consumers plan to shop:

Online and offline shopping is blurring
We found that 80% of shoppers will research online before making a purchase this season, and they will switch devices to suit their needs. For example, 51% of shoppers will research online and then visit the store to purchase, while 17% will visit a store first and then purchase online. Another 32% will research online, visit store to view a product, then return online to purchase. In short, the shopper’s journey looks less like a funnel and more like a flight map, and the lines between online and offline shopping experiences are blurring.

People are shopping smarter
Shoppers are starting earlier and using more devices to inform their purchases:
  • Similar to last season, 54% of consumers will start holiday shopping before Black Friday.
  • By the end of Black Friday weekend, 77% of consumers will have started their holiday shopping.
To capture this interest, many retailers are actively promoting holiday deals well before Black Friday.

Mobile devices are now the concierge in every shopper’s pocket - comparing prices, finding a nearby store, looking for offers and coupons.
  • 85% of people shop for a gift on one device and then make their purchase on another.
  • To do so, 45% will leave an item in the virtual shopping cart, 45% will send themselves an email or link, and 32% will conduct a new search on a new device.
Savvy retailers are stimulating demand on one device and completing a sale on another.

Shopping searches spike on mobile devices on days when people are on the go - out at a Thanksgiving dinner or hunting bargains at the mall. The biggest days for holiday shopping searches on mobile devices last year were Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the day after Christmas, and the weekends in December.

Last year, 62% of shoppers used a smartphone in a store to help with shopping research (Google Ipsos Post Holiday Study, 2011) - this is enabling retailers to inform in-store purchase decisions with a mobile-optimized website or app.

Trusted connections are coming online
It used to be that shoppers and merchants formed connections offline - a salesperson could spark a conversation with a shopper in the store. Now these connections are happening both online and offline. With YouTube and social networks, people are sharing their opinion on products not just with a group of friends, but with millions of people. Retailers are advertising against terms like “reviews” and “haul videos” to promote their message. And for good reason - we found that 13% of shoppers plan to watch online videos to help with shopping research, and 48% will use tablets to read product reviews before purchasing.

Smaller retailers are also building trust with their customers through programs like Google Trusted Stores, which offers a badge for qualified merchants.

To download the full research on holiday shopper intent, visit Think With Google.

Posted by Todd Pollak, Industry Director, Retail, Google


Unknown said...

Very interesting! Have you been able to define the audience segments that are following different purchase paths (e.g., in-store vs. online)? I'm curious what commonalities those segments may have.

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Emma Searle said...

I agree with @Brooke Hovey, it would be very interesting to identify which segments of consumers are participating in the differing behaviours.

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