Getting Ready for Christmas

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 | 1:47 PM

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Christmas is 25 December every year, right? Yes. And, in an online sense, no.

Actually, the online users searching for Christmas items on Google start doing so in September. The chart below uses Google's free Insights for Search tool to compare searches for "Christmas" to searches for "gifts". Without fail, "Christmas" starts its meteoric search rise every September. In a year when retailers will be looking for growth, the Christmas starting in September 2009 is a bright star on the horizon.

Christmas 2008 was massive online. The annual growth in queries in key retail categories was enormous: "Gifts" queries were up 38% for December 2008 compared to December 2007, "Mass Merchants & Department Stores" queries increased by 42%, "Apparel & Footwear" queries were up 52%, and "Home Appliances" queries increased 57% year on year. There is ample opportunity to capture this growth and retailers need to be online now to take advantage of early-bird Christmas shoppers.

Christmas 2009 is shaping up to be even bigger online. Based on internal Google data in Australia, retail categories are currently growing 18-40% year on year -- depending on the specific retail categories -- and we project that there will be hundreds of millions of searches looking for solutions for their Christmas gift-giving needs.

Now is the time to prepare your clients advertising campaigns for the biggest retail season of the year. Did you run campaigns last year? If you did, revisit them and look at what did and didn't work. Use these learnings to set up new campaigns specifically for the Christmas period. Next, look through their product offerings and find items that would be in demand as gifts for Christmas. Refresh messaging for these products, geared towards people buying them as a Christmas gift.

Start holiday advertising early and set different messaging for the different shopping periods leading up to Christmas. Tailoring your messaging to the different types of shoppers (ie the early shopping, the peak season shopper and the last-minute shopper) will ensure that your clients' ads stay fresh and relevant. This also gives you means to test Christmas creative, and adjust it quickly according to interest they receive.

Remember that lots of people leave shopping until the last few days. Can your clients offer express post or courier delivery to these last-minute shoppers? It's a stressful time for shoppers, so any added extras they can throw in (such as gift-wrapping) will leave their customers remembering the great buying experience, making them both more likely to return themselves, and to recommend the site to their friends.

Some extra things to consider when running your Christmas campaigns:
* Keep an eye on your keyword positioning. Ensure your CPCs are competitive to keep you in the auction.
* Get your clients' conversion reports to make sure their money is being spent in the right areas.