It's five minutes to Christmas and all through the house... every single creature is trying to figure out how to make the fourth quarter numbers shine. That's right sports fans, with only days to go, holiday shoppers are flocking to the web for those last-minute purchases.
Search is the conduit by which last-minute shoppers connect with a purchase destination, and they do it quickly. Search engine advertising within sponsored listings offers the best connection point between product and panic-stricken gift giver because listings can be changed each day.
So don't give up dear readers; it's not over until the fat search lady sings. With only minutes to go there is still a lot you can do to make the holidays a bit brighter for consumers everywhere.
Hitwise has been watching holiday shopping behavior for the last few years, and right about this time of year the same patterns start to emerge. For the week ending December 16, 2006, visits to the iTunes website were up 103 percent over last year.
While searches and shopping for music tends to spike immediately before and after the holidays, last-minute shoppers are also digging into brand-based gift card shopping. Top searches for gift cards included "Visa gift card" and "American Express gift card" in last week's Hitwise report for searches containing the words gift card.
Traditional thought would indicate that brand-based searchers are particularly loyal. While Visa, MasterCard and Discover are consistently in the top 10 for search activity, that doesn't mean your non-Visa or Discover gift card is completely out of consideration.
Rounding out the top 10 gift card searches was "Home Depot gift card." While Home Depot doesn't immediately come to mind as the gift destination that, say, Sharper Image might be, the search behavior in this category would indicate there are plenty of opportunities to capitalize on the last-minute gift card shopper.
Match that card with a buyer
Yours truly found plenty of reasons to load up on Home Depot gift cards this season, and there are plenty of other shoppers out there looking for any reason to not have to go to a store for those last-minute gift opportunities.
Presumably you have some experience with using match types in search engine advertising. Since the phrase "gift card" can mean almost anything, using this keyword set along with multiple variations can mean big bucks as the holiday season winds down.
Gift card shoppers typically do not have a specific product in mind, so this is also a great opportunity to motivate shoppers in your direction. Placing emphasis on purchase opportunities with your brand of gift card with sharp messaging about diverse product or purchase opportunities can be very effective this time of year.
Change your messaging…often
Last-minute shoppers love free shipping, but since offering gratis overnight shipping is a bit of a stretch for most retailers it is important to keep shoppers up to speed with precise "we can get it to you by" shipping dates every day. This tactic allows shoppers delicate insights into the where and when of gift giving.
Matching inventory to messaging is also critically important as the holidays approach. All too often, keyword programs left on autopilot are advertising products that no longer exist, and this leaves shoppers in the lurch. Be specific about your inventory or risk alienating the shopper.
Above all, keeping it simple in reaching out to harried searchers is paramount to achieving last-minute sales success. Reminding shoppers how many days they have left will let them know you are on top of your search listings-- and they will click on your ad more. Letting them know that you have your arms around shipping via search messaging is another great way to capture the shopper.
Shopping in the hereafter
One of the biggest mistakes a retailer can make is burning through a holiday budget up to and including the traditional end of the shopping season, December 25.
Traditional behavior in the post-season consumer-marketing game includes shopping for bargains and end of year sales, but there is a bit more to it than that.
Shoppers flock to the web on Christmas day and the days following the holidays. They download music in droves, but they are also looking for a place to use those gift cards. Card specific messaging post holiday can plant the idea and bring them to your shopping destination quickly and cost effectively since bid competition trails off immediately after the holiday.
In the end, thinking of the holiday season in its most essential terms will bring big dollars as the clock times out this season. Remembering the basics and addressing the consuming searching public on their own terms is a beautiful thing.
Kevin Ryan is the chief executive officer of Kinetic Results. .