Google chief urges retailers to fire up Christmas online marketing by December 4

Retailers should have their online Christmas campaigns ready for December 4, when the window for international online retailers shipping to Australia starts to close and searches aimed a finding local retail starts to rise, Google retail chief Ross McDonald says.


In a bid to help retailers make the most of the Christmas season, Google has unveiled a report on consumer shopping habits, including the categories currently attracting the most online searches.


So far, the big winners include mass merchant retailers (with searches up 47% year over year), followed by food and drinks (up 31%) and toys (up 28%).


Google has also identified key dates retailers need to be aware of:

  • December 4. Shopping windows for international online retailers traditionally close, while searches for domestic online retailers rise.
  • December 11. Searches for store names, plus “trading hours” or “location” begin to rise. Last year, searches for trading hours grew nearly 250% in the two weeks before Christmas. This year, such searches are already up 37% year over year, with a third of these searches coming from a mobile device.
  • December 16. Searches spike for “store name”, “hours” and “location” on the last day that local online retailers can guarantee delivery before December 25, and the last in-store retail weekend before Christmas.

Ross McDonald, head of retail for Google Australia, says businesses need to take a strategic and long-term approach to their online Christmas campaign, claiming timing is everything.


However, he doesn’t believe retailers should focus solely on online marketing, saying good retailers tend to use offline channels initially and move online as Christmas draws closer.


“I do know a lot of retailers that do that actively in the lead-up to Christmas – they use print for the weekends leading up to Christmas, advertising their opening hours,” McDonald says.


“As they get closer, they flip all their marketing efforts into online search, especially mobile search, because people are using those platforms to get information as quickly as possible.”


Given the huge spike for certain search terms, McDonald says retailers should not be put off by the cost.


“Sometimes, people say a particular [search] word is expensive but that’s because a lot of people want to know about it,” he says.


“If [the search term is] something you haven’t used before, be cautious for the first week or so… But if it’s a core part of your offering, let it rip.”


Not surprisingly, McDonald says retailers also need to look beyond price, particularly from a marketing perspective.


“Price competition is not new. All sorts of retailers are offering ‘the lowest prices every day’ or ‘best prices guaranteed’ or whatever,” he says.


“Australian shoppers are smart – they want a good price but they’re also happy to consider service, convenience, etc.”


“It’s about what [retailers] offer as a total package and how they communicate that online. Spend a bit of time thinking about how yours is truly a unique offer.”


McDonald’s top tips for sparking sales this Christmas:

  1. Open up your budgets, especially with regard to online search. Use a pay-per-click model so that you only spend money if someone wants your information. “Last year, there were so many retailers whose budgets were finished by lunchtime [in the lead-up to Christmas], and people couldn’t find them,” McDonald says.
  2. Make sure you’re active across all the different online channels. Offer short-term motivation by clearly listing your trading hours, location/s, etc.
  3. The motivation of shoppers will peak closer to Christmas, so be more active with gift vouchers, last-minute offers, etc.


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