Gifting Online & Offline: Shopping and Behavioral Search

In recent weeks, we’ve looked at a number of trends related to holiday shopping, as well as other seasonal gifting occasions occurring at other points during the year.  Still relying on Google Insights data and some statistical analysis, let’s look at some of the nuances within Google’s defined Shopping category of search query activity.

Note: With the smaller data set inherent in a subcategory, we’re going to move away from the ASVI metric identified in earlier research (defined here). We can still look at patterns over time, but aggregating the indices for these smaller data sets could potentially lead us down the path of erroneous inferences.

Also, we’ll be looking at trended data for both the “gift” and “gifts” keywords (acknowledging that there is likely to be a substantially grey area where the top overlap, in terms of Google’s delivery of search results to the user).

When we look at the singular keyword “gift,” this generally reflects interest in Gifting Applications – that is, vehicles of gifting behavior such as gift baskets, gift cards, gift certificates, or even just gift ideas. The plural keyword “gifts,” meanwhile, is more commonly tied to Gifting Occasions, such as Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, or anniversary gifts.

Enough caveats; let’s get into the data.

Apparel & Clothing

[Includes watches, accessories, clothing designers, footwear, lingerie, undergarments, clothing retailers.]

Apparel Clothing Google Insights

Here we have the expected holiday shopping surge, but more importantly, look at what’s happening in April and May. What used to be a spike in search activity as recently as 2009 has flattened out a bit.

Flowers, Gifts & Greetings

[Includes party supplies.]

Flowers Gifts Greetings Google Insights

The holiday season is watching its dominance slowly erode. February appears to be the most important non-holiday month for flowers, gifts and greetings – though here too we’re seeing a steady decline. This could reflect a need for more display advertising, or earned media via social channels, to stimulate search activity and convert customers in the future.

Luxury Goods

Luxury Goods Google Insights

This category reached its peak around 2005, but since has seen nothing but downward momentum in relative search activity. Even interest in Mother’s Day gifts (presumably skewing high toward jewelry purchases) is tanking. It would be interesting to see the trend in performance of loyalty programs relative to this trend – maybe the big brands are simply doing a better job in other channels like email or offline?

Collectibles & Antiques

Collectibles Antiques Google Insights

Looks like it’s holidays or bust for these folks.  Note, however, that the drop in the red line (“gifts”) is far sharper than the blue line (“gift”). If Gifting Applications has fended off most of the decline, it could simply mean that people searching & shopping for Collectibles & Antiques online are a relatively sophisticated, motivated lot.

Product Reviews

Product Reviews Google Insights

Here’s where our analysis starts to get very granular. There’s virtually nothing we can extract from this data, except one insight: the relatively prominence of “gift” as opposed to “gifts.”  Clearly shoppers’ interest in reviews is more intimately connected to the gift itself than the occasion.

Coupons & Rebates

Coupons Rebates Google Insights

Here’s an even more pronounced effect of what we saw above with Product Reviews. And, for once, we’re actually seeing a slight upswing in search activity.  The economic environment, the rise of deals sites like Groupon & Living Social, and the average consumer’s still-rising sophistication in ecommerce environments – these are all perfectly good explanations for this trend.

Price Comparisons

Insufficient data  to draw conclusions – quite shocking when you consider that a keyword like “compare price” is queried 368,000 times per month in the United States.

Customer Service

[Includes warranties & service contracts.]

Customer Service Google Insights

Much like Coupons & Rebates, we see a huge bias toward the “gift” keyword, and again this effect is intuitive.  Note, however, that this upward climb is actually quite sharp over the last two years.  This could be an indication that in 2011, manufacturers and retailers have a golden opportunity to tap into a new source of demand: people who search for gifts based on quality of service, not price.

To Be Continued…

Now that we know all about holiday shopping, other non-holiday gifting occasions, and all the subsets of shopping-related search activity, what’s a search marketer to do?  We’ll let you know in the last post of this series, “Gifting Online & Offline: a Search Marketer’s Checklist.”

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