To some, late October means pumpkin spice lattes, sweater weather and Halloween. To retailers, it means less than two months left of prime holiday shopping. It’s an obvious statement to assert that the holidays are an important time for retailers looking to reach their business objectives for 2019. In 2018, $50 billion was spent by Canadians over the month of December – that’s $50 billion before even considering shopping activity over Black Friday/Cyber Monday. In this article, we review the latest Canadian holiday data and trends from Google and weigh in on how it can be leveraged to capitalize on this time and drive tangible business outcomes for retailers.

Use Your Data! 

The easiest place to start with respect to holiday promotions is to tap into your pool of existing customers. Use your customer email lists and order history to communicate with previous customers in a segmented and personalized way to give them access to relevant offers that you may not be offering to other customers; 76% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies who offer them discounts on items they have signaled an interest in. This is a sure-fire way to delight your customers and encourage them to make a purchase they may not have otherwise made.

Furthermore, past customer lists can be used to find new customers like your existing customer base. This tactic can be much more powerful than remarketing alone, since it looks to identify similar customers based on their online behaviors and intent signals.

Leverage Video & Display for Awareness

Display and video tactics are excellent tactics to deploy to drive awareness of your offering and help customers discover your products. 90% of Canadians say YouTube helps them discover new products or brands, and YouTube’s TrueView for Action has increased the effectiveness of YouTube from a performance marketing perspective. Furthermore, Discovery ads, are a new way to leverage visually rich assets to help consumers in market for your products discover your brand.

If you sell a broad range of products, focus your Display efforts on selling the products that your customer base is most interested in. Leverage your Search data to identify hot products and customize creative to correspond to what you know customers are searching for. If you’re not sure what the standout products are, or you’re new to Search, leveraging a Smart Display campaign is a great way to run a variety of product-focused images to see which consumers are engaging with the most.

Plan in Advance & Know Your Timing 

Your shoppers likely fall within different behavioral segments in terms of how they do their holiday shopping. Most shoppers think ahead about their gifts and start researching long before they start shopping, and more than a third (39%) of holiday shopping has been completed before the week of Black Friday/Cyber Monday. To capture these shoppers, start catering to their needs and behaviours well before the shopping season gears up. Make sure your product catalog is up to date and product descriptions and attributes informative and relevant. We would also recommend watching what your competitors are doing to ensure your offering is competitive in these early shopping days while consumers conduct their research.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is still a sizeable contingent of last-minute shoppers who are content to wait until the last minute. 21% of holiday shoppers say they leave most of their shopping to the last minute and 1 in 3 say they’re still shopping after the shipping cutoff. To capture these shoppers, use last-minute offers to capture their dollar (and if you have physical locations, make sure location and inventory information is up to date if shipping is not an option, as more customers will turn to local options).

Move Away from Offline vs. Online Thinking 

Canadian Shoppers spent 43% of their time shopping online and 57% offline but often the real picture is much more complex, as online research and information can lead to an in-store purchase and vice versa. For example, over half (54%) of those who started their shopping journey online also visited a store and 59% of shoppers either bought, or were planning to buy, in-store after starting the process online. 1 in 3 shoppers who used Search before going to the store said they searched for something in-store related – such as items in stock near them, store hours, wait times and contact information. The takeaway here is twofold: digital campaigns can be used to sell goods and services online, but also should be used to drive foot traffic to physical locations; and when you’re reporting on the success of your digital campaigns, looking at the impact to online sales in isolation will most likely lead to undervalue your digital marketing efforts.

The holiday shopping period should be seen as an opportunity for online retailers to find new customers and boost sales, but also as a time of intense competition. Planning well in advance, taking stock of your assets and what you know about your consumers and catering to different types of shopping behaviours are a few of the ways in which to take advantage of the season, and drive tangible business outcomes.