January 27, 2020

Search Marketing a Key Factor in 2019’s Holiday Sales

By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.

Is yours a small business that buttresses its brick-and-mortar presence with search marketing, through which you target ads to potential customers who have simply glanced at your website while pondering a purchase?

And perhaps, through those targeting and retargeting efforts, you’ve caused those customers to traverse even farther into the sales funnel, where they make an actual purchase of your products or services?

You should take heart then in a survey recently released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics, which says a record 189.6 million people in the U.S. shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this past holiday season — a hike of 14 percent over last year’s 165.8 million.

Of those shoppers, the survey said, 124 million made purchases in-store while 142.2 million shopped on retailers’ websites.

And, “demonstrating today’s seamless shopping world,” 75.7 million did both.

“The growth in online retail sales is a tide that lifts everybody,” noted Phil Rist, Prosper’s executive vice president of strategy, when releasing the survey.

“When consumers are buying from retailers online but picking up or making returns in-store, it is more and more difficult to distinguish between the sales retailers make in their stores and the ones they make on their websites.”

The survey also found that, for the first time, Black Friday topped Cyber Monday as the busiest day for online shoppers at 93.2 million and 83.3 million shoppers, respectively.

Small Business Saturday, meanwhile, drew 58.2 million shoppers online, followed by Thanksgiving Day at 49.7 million and Sunday at 43.1 million.

Search Not the Only Tool Marketers Used

If you use a combination of search and other forms of marketing to make your business visible, the NRF-Prosper survey indicates you’re on track by taking such a versatile approach, too.

Online search marketing proved helpful in drawing nearly as many customers as other marketing techniques during the Thanksgiving-to-Cyber Monday period, the survey found, with retailers using several other marketing tools, in addition to search, to lure shoppers.

“Thirty-nine percent of consumers looked to emails from retailers for information on deals and promotions, edging out conventional advertising circulars, which were tied with online search at 38 percent,” the pollsters said.

“Mobile devices played a significant role, used by 75 percent to research products, compare prices or make purchases, up from 66 percent last year.”

If your business tried to find newer approaches to online/in-store experiences for the holidays, you should note, then, that newer approaches helped boost 2019’s record holiday numbers as well. Free shipping, for example, led the way.

“With online and in-store shopping increasingly intermingled, free shipping was the biggest reason for shoppers to make a purchase they were otherwise hesitant about, cited by 49 percent, up from 42 percent last year,” the survey said.

“And the ability to order online and pick up in-store was cited by 20 percent, up from 15 percent last year. Other top factors included limited-time sales or promotions (36 percent) and an easy-to-use website or app (21 percent).”

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