PPC – Gift-giving shopping behavior from religious holidays to relationships and beyond

PPC - Gift-giving shopping behavior from religious holidays to relationships and beyond

Remember the struggle of finding the perfect gift for all the different people in your life? So. Much. Pressure. 

As PPC marketers, we have the added responsibility of promoting the giftable products our clients sell and making sure we’re pushing the right products to the right audience. It’s almost double the pressure. 

Microsoft Advertising (my employer) has analyzed all the data and trends from last year to bring you key insights to help you optimize your campaigns. Bonus: This also serves as a handy, data-backed gift guide, for double the win! 

Grab yourself a comforting cup of hot chocolate, it’s time to dig in. 

Step 1: Understand the differences in gift-shopping patterns between Hanukkah and Christmas 

Buying gifts is buying gifts, right? Not quite. The research revealed that gift-giving behavior differs significantly between Hanukkah and Christmas.

It starts with the length of the decision journeys.

Hanukkah shoppers are instant converters as ~70% of users began and ended on the same day. Conversely, ~70% of Christmas shoppers took multiple days to complete their journeyi

While Christmas and Hanukkah shoppers took 23 and 5 days on average respectively to convert, if we dive deeper into the overall journey lengths, we see a marked difference. 

With Christmas shoppers, we see multiple spikes spread out over a longer period:

Act on it: For Christmas shoppers, increase the conversion windows for your remarketing campaigns. Also ensure you serve cross-promotional ads to converters, to increase the odds of repeat purchases.

In contrast, the majority of Hanukkah shoppers were decisive converters:

Act on it: Since most conversions happen on the same day, you can boost visibility via in-market audiences for these instant converters. 

Now a likely follow up question would be if they were buying similar things from similar sites. 

While the top sites visited were similar (i.e. Amazon and Walmart) there were a couple of clear differences:

  • Christmas shopping skewed more towards Electronics sites while Hanukkah shopping skewed more towards Home Goods-focused sites. 
  • Christmas shoppers engaged more deeply with each site, with 16+ page views on average across each of the top five websites: Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and Apple. 
  • Hanukkah shopper engagement was shallower, with fewer page views per site than Christmas, but these views were consistently spread across a broader variety of sites:

What about cross-shopping sites?

One big thing that Christmas and Hanukkah had in common was that Amazon and Walmart were the most cross-shopped sites for both holidays, likely due to their diverse product offerings. 

Act on it: Study competitor ads from the most popular sites to see how you can tailor your ad copy to stand out against them.

Step 2: Plan what to promote (and buy!) for the different relationship types 

What kinds of gifts are most popular for the key people in your life? Let’s break it down. 

Regardless of the holiday, kids are the easiest to shop for. 

The research showed that the majority of shoppers visited multiple retailers during their gifting journey unless they were shopping for kids. In fact, 58% of shoppers buying gifts for their kids are more likely to convert after visiting just one site. 

Act on it:  Be sure to target these shoppers early in the Holiday research journey before they are ready to make a purchase.

Activity-focused gifts were very popular for kids last year, with the most popular categories being Smart toys and video games, crafts and activity kits as well as collectibles like sports memorabilia and jewelry.

Here’s a breakdown of the top searched products for kids:

When shopping for parents, however, searchers appeared to want more direction. 

Shopping for Parents can prove difficult for many – in fact, shoppers were 1.98 times more likely to browse through a gift guide for inspiration. We see an emergence of creative gift idea reseller sites as a result. These tend to range from quirky novelties to practical-yet-unnecessary gadgets. 

Shoppers were also 1.84 times more likely to purchase from gender-curated sites, while seeking inspiration and ideas from sites such as Esquire and Men’s Health since they offer gift ideas plus product reviews. 

Users were more inclined to multi-task while shopping for their Parents as they typically have a less clearly defined shopping goal. As a result, they also over-index on idea sites relative to other relationships. 

Act on it:  Include gift guides and personalization in site links and ad copy. Additionally, consider bidding on upper funnel keywords and have the ads sending shoppers to gift-guides specifically for parents, to set yourself apart from the competition.

Here’s a breakdown of the top searched products for parents:

When shopping for your significant other, why not treat yourself as well?

The most popular gift among couples were shared experiences. Shoppers were 1.92 times more likely to purchase an experience gift like cooking classes or helicopter rides, as many of these activities could be done together. Aww.

Nearly as popular was the classic gift of jewelry, followed by genealogy kits. 

Interestingly, 2018 was the second holiday season where ancestry and DNA kits proved to be a popular holiday gift between couples. In alignment with the shared experiences, this is another activity-focused gift that the couple can do together.  

Act on it:  Reinforce the joys and benefits of shared experiences within your ad copy.

 Here’s a breakdown of the top searched products for couples:

When it comes to gifts for coworkers, Secret Santa and White Elephant-related searches were popular and quite different. 

Although both Secret Santa and White Elephant gifting is relatively lower risk than gifts for family, the journey is still relatively long. It begins with research when the gift exchanges are announced and moves into the buying stage later.

Here’s how they differ. 

Secret Santa shoppers were focused on price-points, likely driven by limits set for the activity. In contrast, White Elephant shoppers were focused on ideas. They were looking to have the “best” or “cool” gift at the party. 

Act on it:  For White Elephant gifts, create additional content and landing-pages focused on giving searchers ideas.

The top searched queries were:

Feeling less pressured and more inspired? Great! Let’s recap our key takeaways:

  1. Hanukkah shoppers are instant converters compared to Christmas shoppers who took multiple days to complete their journey. Consider in-market audiences for the instant converters and increase the conversion windows for Christmas shoppers.
  2. Gift guides emerged as a popular category for all shoppers showing an appetite for ideas and inspiration. Remember to include gift guides and personalization in site links and ad copy. 
  3. Secret Santa shoppers are price conscious and White Elephant shoppers are looking for “cool” and “best” gifts. Leverage landing page recommendations to keep and guide shoppers to convert.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Purna Virji is Senior Manager, PPC Training at Microsoft. Named by PPC Hero as the most influential PPC expert of 2016, Purna specializes in SEM, SEO and Voice Search. With over a decade in search, she is a regular keynote speaker at conferences across the globe such as MozCon and SMX Advanced and is a popular industry columnist. An award-winning former journalist, Purna was the CEO of Purview Marketing prior to joining the Bing Ads team. In her spare time, she’s an avid traveler, aspiring top chef and amateur knitter. Say hello @purnavirji.

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