The great Christmas gift hunt – how marketers can get in on the action


The Christmas shopping spree means big business for online retailers, but how can they stand out from the crowd? Giles Longhurst, General Manager, Consumer Insight – Experian Marketing Services, looks at how ecommerce companies are battling for online visibility on Christmas gift search rankings.

Sometimes you know exactly what to buy your loved ones for Christmas, but other times it just feels impossible to find the right gift. We`ve all been there and it can be quite a stressful quest. Some people are very happy to tell you what they want, but for the ones that you are not sure about, you might need to do some digging around and ultimately you’ll end up searching online for inspiration.

For retail marketers, there is no other time of year as busy as the period leading up to Christmas and the competition gets pretty intense for marketers to get their products in front of the right people. While looking for ideas and inspiration, people usually search for generic gift ideas, knowing that will most likely help them find the right one. Last year in November and December, over seven million searches were made using search terms such as ‘Christmas gift ideas’ in Google alone*.

The graph below shows – using data from Experian’s Hitwise platform – the volume of searches for ‘Christmas ideas’, ‘Christmas wishlist’, ‘Christmas gifts’ and other relevant keywords in the run up to Christmas in 2011, 2012 and 2013. These volumes are displayed compared to ALL searches on the internet, and so even the slightest percentage uplift represents a very high number of users.


Searches for gift inspiration have traditionally peaked the first weekend in December

As you can see, historically the search volume has peaked in the run up to Christmas after the first week of December following a steady increase over the weeks from the end of October and the beginning of November.

When you take a close look at search volumes last year, the graph below shows in more detail how people searching for inspiration started to pick up at the end of October in 2013 and it peaked on 7th December.


A closer look at 2013 searches for Christmas gift ideas

Why is this so important to know for retail marketers?

Having insights such as the graphs above gives marketers an additional level of insight that they can build their Christmas planning around in order to create the best tailored and timed campaigns. The list below gives retail marketers some tips on how to get in on the action:
Putting together Christmas wish lists – Depending on your target audience and product range, you can put together tailored lists for specific or even niche groups of people. If you have a wide range of products, your job is easy to create quite a few lists but even if you have a more limited product line, you can still get creative and find the right targets. Try Dad’s Christmas list or Christmas lists for Mums or young adults, boys, girls, gardeners – the list goes on…

Use pay per click (PPC) – Creating a Christmas list landing page is always a good idea to direct your traffic to, and combine it with your wish list activity. Bidding on the above identified search terms and other variations will improve your chances of getting a bigger slice of the traffic. You need to plan ahead though and use the insight from the graphs above to know when the largest search volumes are expected because you know the competition will be high and PPC will get quite expensive.

Social media advertising – Using promoted posts to promote your wish lists or running social media advertising campaigns to target your audience will further improve your chances of finding the right people and make the most of those searchwords.

Work together with other brands to create a more thorough wish list and promote that between you.

Go organic – if you have a particularly strong website with a strong presence in the search results it may be worth making a concerted effort to get certain pieces of content ranking highly in organic search listings for the keywords in and around the times of the top search volumes. Planning and timing is crucial for this activity however, as search engines take a number of weeks to fully index new content, especially if your site is large and complex. Personalisation will further help you as search history plays an important role in the content your customers see.

As the data makes it very clear, the best, but also the busiest and noisiest time for Christmas campaigns are the weeks from the end of October, through November and peaks in early December. Campaigns need to be planned carefully and timely to ensure you get the biggest share of traffic and sales from the Christmas gift searches.

Having the right data and insight is key, and will allow marketers to know their audience in order to create the campaigns that give you the best visibility and that caters to customers. PPC can be a great approach to target Christmas shoppers, but retailers need to personalise their content based on understanding of the individuals who fit their customer profiles. Competition will be high and clicks might get expensive but if you have the right strategy in place, the returns will be great as well. Having a better understanding of customers will allow retailers to refine Christmas marketing campaigns to maximise returns and bolster customer loyalty.

ByGiles Longhurst
General Manager Consumer Insight
Experian Marketing Services

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