All signs point to an exceptional holiday retail season, with shopping activity starting early and Canadians’ holiday spending expected to rebound. But challenges loom this season, ranging from delivery delays to inventory scarcity to labour shortages — many of them driven by the supply-chain squeeze we’ve all heard so much about. These hurdles will disproportionately impact last-minute holiday shoppers.
And despite an earlier start to holiday shopping, as of the week ending December 8, 45% of holiday shopping is yet to be done by Canadians,1 and 67% still have decisions to make on their gifts.2 We’re also seeing search interest for “gift ideas” at its highest point in 2021. This is an important reminder that holiday shopping is still well under way, and retailers have the ability to reach and inspire new customers by maintaining their holiday strategies, and keeping their lights on.
To help you prepare for the rush and assist customers who worry they might miss out on that perfect gift, here are some essential shopping trends and tips.
Avoid inventory woes
As of December 8, Canadian holiday shoppers say they only have 55% of their shopping complete.3 With this in mind, it’s no surprise that product availability is one of the top factors influencing whether consumers make a purchase with a retailer.4
Thirty percent of Canadian holiday shoppers worry that things they want will be out of stock,5 and almost 60% of Canadian holiday shoppers say they will confirm online that an item is in stock before going to buy it.6 But they’re not always finding the information they need. Thirty-five percent of Canadian holiday shoppers agree they wish retail stores would do a better job of sharing inventory information.7
It’s easy to help shoppers on Google know which products are in-stock in your nearby store. You can list your available in-store products for free on Google, and promote items that are available for in-store or curbside pickup today using local inventory ads.
If items are out of stock, last-minute shoppers may look for other options — like gift cards or experiences. In previous years, search interest in “gift cards” consistently peaked the week before Christmas, and with increased inventory challenges this year we expect more of these queries.
Almost 60% of Canadian holiday shoppers say they will confirm online that an item is in stock before going to buy it.
Share shipping deadlines
Shipping is absolutely top-of-mind for shoppers, particularly the order cutoff dates that will ensure delivery before Christmas. Research showed 1 in 4 Canadians decided against buying something online or cancelled an online order because of long shipping times.8
Highlight “order by” information very prominently on your site or app to create both urgency and peace of mind for customers who need delivery in advance of Christmas. You can further help people who are looking for your products on Google by using shipping annotations like “Free delivery by Fri., Dec. 24” or “3-day shipping” across free and paid listings. The U.S. has already seen a 10% increase in click-through rate for free listings when the 3-day shipping annotation is used.9
Highlight in-store shopping options
As holiday shipping deadlines approach, more people will seek out gifts in person. For proof, searches for “gift shops near me” have increased by 60% compared with 2020.10
And according to Salesforce, U.S. retailers that offered curbside, drive-through, and in-store pickup last year saw their sales increase by 54% year over year in the five days leading up to Christmas, compared with 34% for retailers that did not offer those options.
Make sure your business hours are up to date and fulfillment options are highlighted on your Business Profile on Google. Reach additional nearby shoppers with helpful information about your local store with tools like Local campaigns that let you highlight products available in your store, pick-up options and more across Google.
Prepare for post-holiday shopping
While we see a flurry of last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve, it doesn’t stop there. In past years, search interest for “holiday returns” has been high on Christmas Day, and shopping interest tends to remain high in the following weeks.
For some product categories, holiday retail demand in December is highest on or after Christmas Day. For example, in December 2020, search interest for “jewelry” peaked after Christmas. Search interest for “furniture” also saw an increase well into January.
To capture continued consumer demand, extend your holiday strategy beyond New Year’s Day to reach shoppers who may be using gift cards or exchanging gifts they just received, or buying additional items related to gifts they received. Make sure you allocate budget to keep campaigns running after Christmas Day and look at historical performance to inform when to increase budget to capitalize on increased demand.
In any year, retailers must prepare carefully to capitalize on last-minute holiday shopping behaviours. It’s all the more crucial then, with this year’s combination of increased consumer demand and retailer headwinds, for marketers to lay the proper groundwork for a bell-ringing Yuletide season.