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Your Holiday Search Checklist

Kevin M. Ryan
Your Holiday Search Checklist Kevin M. Ryan

The big holiday season is only minutes away. You have every campaign planned, every inch of the potential purchase cycle covered and all systems are go. There is nothing left to worry about, and you can breathe a sigh of relief… right?

Perhaps not. Planning is important, and -- even though your launch has been scheduled -- taking a deeper look and constantly monitoring consumer behavior can be helpful. Unexpected shifts in consumer behavior occur. Outside forces change the way we think, act and search.

For example, just last week a hopeful shopper got shot while waiting to purchase a PlayStation 3. The Tickle Me Elmo Extreme hype and subsequent eBay style pricing from retailers killed any excitement I had for handing it over to my niece this Christmas. One quart zip close bags aren't just for frozen peas anymore: they are the difference between having toothpaste and hair gel on your next trip or not.

Retail buying lunacy
While searching for the PlayStation 3 gunfire video didn't top the list of most frequently searched terms for this pre-holiday season, searches increased 112 percent from the previous week. According to Hitwise, terms relating to the new Sony console and Nintendo Wii were four of the top 10 searches for products in the shopping and classifieds category. 

The ramp up of holiday shopping behavior online is moving along quite nicely. Hitwise also reported that overall traffic in the pre-black Friday time frame was up seven percent over last year's visits to the retail category.

This year is going to be big. The numbers reported start at about $32 billion and go from there. Top research firms are also saying that consumers will spend about half of their gift buying dollars online. Can you blame them?

A bizarre phenomenon occurs when groups of people come together to shop-- they begin to act like lunatics. Rationality goes out the window, and they exhibit such behavior as exchanging hot lead for a place in line to buy a game console. Nutty behavior contributes directly to the long term viability of the online shopping experience, and creates opportunity for marketers.

How fast can you change?
There is no better example of how to shift gears quickly to meet your audience than the case of Hefty OneZip bags. Casual browsing reveals the bags depicted as "clear security" in graphic ad placements.

For the unindoctrinated, the National Transportation Safety Administration now allows liquids on board the aircraft, but only inside a clear plastic one quart zip close bag.

As fast as airport security requirements change, so do the impressions consumers have of products or services. Consider the TMX Elmo launch and subsequent plethora of negative feedback in Amazon product reviews. Fisher-Price suggested retail for the wonder-doll is $40.00, yet prices soared after the release, and buyers didn't hold back when it came to offering negative opinions about price gouging.

Speed is of the utmost importance this holiday season; a recent Harris Interactive study indicated that consumers will leave a website if it is either slow or experiencing technical difficulties. The report also indicated that a retailer has about eight seconds to engage a consumer. 

Small sites, big money
Last week, Yahoo released a study that included some exciting news for small businesses this season. Commissioned by Yahoo and executed by Harris Interactive, a poll of over 2,700 American adults indicated that nearly 30 percent of buyers planning to complete half of their shopping online planned to do so at small business retailers.

Specifically, consumers indicated that smaller, boutique retailers were the best place to locate gifts that were "hard to find" or "unusual."

Yahoo provides the technology for over 40,000 such small business sites. Many shoppers detailed what is most important to them in a retail destination. In spite of where most budgets are focused in large retailers, an attractive, well-designed site was number six on the list of needs for small business shoppers. The most important requirements were trusted secure payment methods and ease of navigation. 

Last minute checklist
Getting creative with your holiday search initiative and moving quickly to meet the demands of fickle consumers this season can translate immediately into exceeding your fourth quarter sales goals.

There are, however, a few things you should do to keep up: 

  1. Watch the ebb and flow of terms people use to search: Holiday shopping trends move at lightening speed; simply by modifying your language you can keep up with them.

  2. Watch your bandwidth: You can expect up to 60 percent spikes in traffic for the holidays, make sure you can accommodate users

  3. Free shipping: It still tops the list of what's important to buyers.

  4. Watch your timeline: Updating content to make sure buyers know exactly when they get their gifts is a beautiful thing.

  5. Service with a smile: Annoying pop-up interrogatories aside, make sure there is someone there.

Of course, creative doesn't have to mean offering a TMX Elmo at actual retail price, a free bullet proof vest with each PlayStation 3 purchase or a big box of Hefty quart size bags to carry your favorite cologne home for the holidays.

However, keeping an eye on the who, what and where should be painfully obvious.

Kevin Ryan is the chief executive officer of Kinetic Results. .


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