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Google’s Head of Retail on How to Win the 2020 Holiday Season

Ellen Harvey

Online shopping has grown more in the last six months than it has in the 10 previous years, which creates a unique set of challenges and opportunities for retailers. 54% of consumers purchased from new brands during the pandemic. 80% of consumers don’t plan to return to those new brands. 1 in 4 holiday shoppers started their holiday shopping in July. 80% of shoppers are planning to consolidate their holiday shopping to fewer stores. These are some of the key data points Patty Devlin shared during the latest Retail Uncharted podcast to help retailers prepare for an unprecedented holiday shopping season.

Sidecar’s Senior Product Manager Mike Perekupka spoke with Patty and Mike Farrell, Senior Director of Integrated Digital Strategy at Sidecar about what this data means for retailers and how they can use it to better prepare for an uncertain holiday shopping season. During the podcast we asked Patty:

  • What are the most important search trends Google has tracked since the start of the pandemic?
  • What strategies can retailers employ to capitalize on these trends, especially during the holiday shopping season?
  • What can retailers do to re-engage new customers they acquired during the pandemic?
  • How does Google anticipate the holiday shopping season to unfold in 2020?
  • How can retailers plan for uncertainty?
  • How should retailers distribute ad spend throughout the holiday season?
  • What are the biggest areas of opportunity for retailers this holiday?
  • What are the biggest challenges?
  • What should retailers do now to prepare for the holiday season?

Top Sound Bites

(edited for brevity and clarity)

On the most important Google search trends:

I think it’s important to mention for both our store-based retailers and e-commerce retailers, is this rise in curbside pick-up. I think because of the consumer desire to shop safely paired with retailers’ fulfillment issues, we saw a 3000% increase in searches related to curbside pickup. So, that has been one of the most interesting and novel consumer preferences that we see on Google.

One of the other things I’ll mention as we start to think about holiday is we do see an increase in the desire for holiday deals. That’s already up about 30% in the last couple months. But we also see confusion. People are wondering if stores are open for Black Friday, or if Black Friday is canceled. And I think it does speak to the uncertainty in the season, but also the need for retailers to clarify what is happening for their stores or for their promotions.

On Google’s predictions for 2020 holiday shopping:

We partner with Ipsos each year to run shopper panels. So from our partnership with Ipsos, we found that 72% of holiday shoppers say they will shop more online for the holidays this year. That’s not just lower funnel product investigation. I think it really is from discovery to check out. So, for retailers, I think it’s important to acknowledge that they need to own the full funnel online to have a successful holiday.

The second thing is we are definitely thinking that shoppers will start early. Retailers will respond to consumer demand and start promotions early. If nothing else, I hope that people take away that holiday starts in October this year.

And then finally, we predict the importance of omnichannel. 46% of our holiday shoppers say they plan to use BOPIS or curbside pick-up this year. So, if I am an online-only retailer, I’m going to think about how I can push messages of convenience and quick-turn fulfillment for as long as I can throughout this holiday period because consumers will look to get things done locally and look to accomplish their plan early in the season.

On the importance of audience segmentation to meet holiday goals:

This is a topic I’m particularly passionate about, having spent a lot of time in management consulting and doing a lot of customer segmentations for brands. I think that this still remains such an unrealized opportunity for retailers.

Many of the retailers that we work with are sitting on an incredible amounts of first party data. And I think they try to get it too right, try to get it too perfect. And we often tell them that even a basic RFM (recency, frequency, and monetary) model is going to get you much further in terms of marketing efficiency. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good. I think any retailer size can take advantage of the first party data that they have to drive efficiencies.

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