Holiday Shopping Trends 2015: Three Predictions for Retailers

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Micro-moments are changing how we shop. As people increasingly turn to mobile devices, search, and YouTube to inform purchases, Matt Lawson, Google’s director of performance ads marketing, makes three predictions for retailers to take note of this coming holiday season.

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Shopping will happen in moments, not marathons, this holiday season. Rather than relying on daylong trips to the mall or camping out overnight during Black Friday, shoppers will be turning to their mobile phones in hundreds of micro-moments, every day, all season long.

In fact, 54% of all holiday shoppers say that they plan to shop on their smartphones in spare moments throughout the day, like walking or commuting.1 These shorter mobile sessions that occur throughout the day are visible in the data: shoppers now spend 7% less time in each mobile session, yet smartphones’ share of online purchases has gone up 64% over the last year. The days of “look on mobile but buy on the laptop” are changing: 30% of all online shopping purchases now happen on mobile phones.2

Holiday Shopping Trends 2015: Three Predictions for Retailers

As we head into this year’s holiday shopping season, we’ve taken a closer look at how the rise of micro-moments and mobile video will affect retail trends. If you’re looking for holiday insights, here are three retail predictions for the 2015 shopping season, based on Google data and a survey from Ipsos MediaCT:

1. Mobile will make the prominence of big shopping days smaller

Holiday shopping is already well underway. Sixty-one percent of shoppers will start researching their purchases before Thanksgiving weekend, up 17% from last year.3 But while research starts early, the majority of actual buying will still take place later into the holiday season.4 Why? There’s no rush—every day is a shopping day.

Shopping-related searches on mobile have grown more than 120% year-over-year.

People used to plan holiday shopping marathons for days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. But the days of setting an alarm clock to hit stores in the wee hours may be dwindling. Now shopping happens in micro-moments in between everything else.

Rather than seeing the most prominent search spikes on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, last year we saw steady interest in “gifts and presents” all season.

Holiday Shopping Trends 2015: Three Predictions for Retailers

2. Mobile shopping will influence more purchases than ever

Shopping-related searches on mobile have grown more than 120% year-over-year.5 Consumers are using their smartphones in all parts of the shopping process―starting with inspiration, then on through research and purchase.

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More and more retailers are finding that their shoppers are using their phones for research before hitting a store. For instance, Target found that three-quarters of their customers start their experience on a mobile device. In fact, Casey Carl, chief strategy and innovation officer, considers mobile their new front door to the store.

And it’s not just before the store when shoppers turn to their phone. This year a whopping 82% of smartphone users will consult their phone while in a store.6 And people are searching 37% more inside department stores than they were last year.7

32% of shoppers say they plan to use online video more this year for holiday purchases.

All this activity is good news for retailers, if they’re prepared to meet omni-channel shoppers in these micro-moments. Take Macy’s for example. Its team has found that its omni-channel customers are 8X more valuable than those who shop in one channel only. To succeed with omni-channel shoppers, retailers have to enable shoppers to engage on all channels seamlessly, however, and whenever it suits them.

So when do I-want-to-buy moments happen? Google data shows that Sunday is the biggest day of the week for mobile shopping. Shopping searches on mobile are 18% higher on Sundays, on average, than during the rest of the week.8

Holiday Shopping Trends 2015: Three Predictions for Retailers

3. YouTube videos will be a popular gift guide and owner’s manual

There’s no shortage of micro-moments happening on YouTube, where consumers are turning to find shopping advice, inspiration, and product reviews. In fact, one in every four shoppers say online videos are their go-to source for gift ideas, and 32% of shoppers say they plan to use online video more this year for holiday purchases.9 Americans are spending nearly twice as much time watching fashion and apparel shopping videos this year than last.10

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Unboxing videos have become a real phenomenon for people in those I-want-to-know, I-want-to-watch-what-I’m-into, or I-want-to-buy moments. In 2015 alone, Americans have watched 60 million hours of unboxing videos on YouTube, totaling 1.1 billion views.11

YouTube has become such a vital part of the purchase process that 64% of smartphone video viewers would prefer to watch a YouTube video when they have a question (rather than pick up a phone, read a user manual, etc.).12

As shopping decisions are made faster, and consumer expectations grow higher, retailers today have to keep a close watch on how customers find, research, and buy their products. Marketers who understand these new shopper patterns and focus on micro-moments of intent―on both mobile and video―will be more successful with customers this holiday season.

Sources:
1 Google / Ipsos MediaCT, Consumer Holiday Intentions Study 2015; Shoppers defined as people who intend to shop this holiday season with smartphones. n=778
2 Google Analytics data, September 2014 v. September 2015, United States
3-4 Google / Ipsos MediaCT, Consumer Holiday Intentions Study 2015. Base: Holiday shoppers n=2004
5 Google Global search data, November 2014–October 2015, as defined by searches that trigger Shopping ads.
6 Google / Ipsos MediaCT, Consumer Holiday Intentions Study 2015
7 Aggregated anonymized internal Google data from a sample of U.S. users that have turned on Location History. Queries were considered as being “from” a location if they occurred within one hour of a user visit to the department store. September 2015 vs. September 2014.
8 Google search data, Global, Q3 2015, mobile shopping searches as defined by clicks on Shopping ads.
9 Google / Ipsos MediaCT, Consumer Holiday Intentions Study 2015
10 YouTube data, September 2014 vs. September 2015, United States. Classification as a shopping video was based on public data such as headlines, titles, tags, etc., and may not represent all apparel shopping videos on YouTube.
11 YouTube data, January–October 2015, United States. Classification as a “haul” video was based on public data such as headlines, tags, etc., and may not account for every “haul” video available on YouTube.
12 Google / Ipsos Brand Building on Mobile Survey, February 2015. Base: 3,505 respondents age 18-54 video viewers across devices (TV, desktop, smartphone, tablet).

 

ThinkWithGoogle: Building a YouTube Content Strategy: Lessons From Google BrandLab

Mobile, video, and programmatic. These are all top of mind for brands. But where does content development fit in? Kim Larson, global director of Google BrandLab, shares how her team helps marketers improve and streamline their YouTube marketing strategies and feed the proverbial content monster.

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As the director of Google BrandLab, where we help marketers think digital-first, there are three words that rule my day, every day: mobile, video, and programmatic. With Mary Meeker predicting that, by 2017, 74% of all internet traffic will be video, and with mobile watch time on YouTube already surpassing desktop in 2015,1 the time for brands to make sense of what mobile means for their video content strategy is now.

At Google BrandLab, we get two primary questions from marketers about how they can keep up with the ever-increasing demand for video in this mobile revolution: “What video content should I make to best engage my audience while staying true to my brand?” and “How can I create that video content at scale?” In Part 1 of our “Lessons from Google BrandLab” series, I’ll answer both of these questions by taking you through two frameworks we use every day at the Lab.

What types of YouTube videos should I make?

To answer this question, we start with a Venn diagram. The first circle represents what the brand’s target audience cares about; the second represents what the brand stands for. To get to this kind of thinking, we ask folks in BrandLab to think about:

  • “What’s truly unique and different about our brand?”
  • “What’s truly ownable for our brand?”
  • “What right does our brand have to play (and win) in this content space versus our competition?”

Once the answers are in the Venn diagram, the overlapping circles provide a window into the sweet spot for developing a video content strategy:

Sweet Spot: Where Brands and Their Audiences Intersect

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As you consider what your audience cares about, think about the micro-moments they might be experiencing. Micro-moments are the I-want-to-goI-want-to-doI-want-to-buy, or I-want-to-know moments when people are turning to devices to find answers, discover new things, or make decisions. Johnson & Johnson Consumer, for example, took these kinds of moments into consideration as it built its video content strategy for CLEAN & CLEAR®. The brand had always been about teen friendships, and the team’s research showed that teen girls were turning to YouTube in moments when they needed inspiration, community, and support, so CLEAN & CLEAR® built a channelaround the confidence-boosting mission SEE THE REAL ME®.

How can I create online video and other branded content at scale?

Here’s the hard truth: There’s no way a brand can create all the content needed to feed consumers’ voracious appetite for video, especially on mobile devices. There isn’t enough time, money, or resources. The trick is to create content gradually and build an engaging library over time. That might sound daunting with a traditional production mind-set as a reference point. But to produce at scale requires rethinking that production process, and getting a little help while you’re at it.

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That’s where the Create, Collaborate, Curate—or what we like to call “CCC”—content framework comes in. The idea is to use this framework to “feed the content monster,” so that content creation—video production, specifically—no longer feels like a barrier to entry into the video marketplace. As we take you through each “C” in the framework, we’ll share examples of how one brand, Mountain Dew, is using CCC to streamline its video creation and engage the mobile audience.

Create

The first type of content in the CCC framework is created by the brand. It feels like the brand, captures the brand’s tone, and offers a more traditional creative polish. It tells a story about the brand that’s entertaining, educational, or inspiring. “Create” content might simply be entertaining video that gets people’s attention, or it might deliver on the specific micro-moments we talked about earlier, such as how-to content in an I-want-to-do moment.

Mountain Dew®, for example, released an extended version of the team’s Kickstart™ “Come Alive” spot on YouTube, entertaining audiences with a longer, more interactive story than television allowed. But the brand team didn’t stop there. They worked with our Art, Copy & Code team on the firstUnskippable Labs experiment to figure out how to improve the video for mobile viewers and make it undeniably “unskippable” content people would choose to watch.

“Rather than using video exclusively as a storytelling mechanism, think of it as a tool for storymaking, in which consumers get to take part.”

Collaborate

This content is the product of the brand’s collaboration with digital influencers. It’s often content that features a YouTube creator and is produced and promoted in partnership with the creator’s channel. Ultimately, the goal of “Collaborate” content is to help brands broaden their relevance and connect with a uniquely engaged fan base while leveraging the expertise of experienced creators.

Devinsupertramp, for example, has more than 3 million subscribers on YouTube. Mountain Dew partnered with him to create a series of stunt videosfor #DEWroadtrip. They cross-posted the videos on both Devin’s channel and Mountain Dew’s channel to engage Devin’s audience.

Curate

The third and final content type is crafted by consumers and is the product of an audience call-to-action. Rather than using video exclusively as a storytellingmechanism, think of it as a tool for storymaking, in which consumers get to take part.

Audience participation keeps your message authentic and relatable and can be gathered across social channels. And consumers want to interact with brands: According to brandshare 2014, 87% of people feel they should be able to communicate, share opinions, and interact with brands in real time. Mountain Dew got the message and made fan stories a critical part of its content strategy with the “Art of Dew” video series.

Don’t overthink your YouTube content marketing strategy

You already know why you should be prioritizing online video: because consumers are. As Mary Meeker pointed out in May, more than half of mobile data traffic is already from video.2 Consumers turn to devices in all kinds of micro-moments; they’re flipping to YouTube to help them feel entertained, complete tasks, and make purchase decisions. And yet, Meeker also says advertisers aren’t putting their money where consumers are. Even though mobile commands about a quarter of media time, it only accounts for about 8% of ad dollars.2

Where’s the disconnect? I suspect it’s twofold, actually. First, I don’t think brand marketers are sure what content to make. And second, they aren’t sure how to make it. Don’t waste time overcomplicating it: Video is what consumers want on mobile. Make more of it with a little help from the Venn diagram exercise and the CCC framework.

The Path to Better Measurement: Analytics and Attribution

THE RUNDOWN

Analytics help you understand your customers’ experience. Attribution informs your marketing mix. For brands with multiple digital and offline marketing channels as well as cross-device campaigns and purchase paths, it’s not about choosing one capability over the other; it’s about both working together.

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Data is a game changer. But at face value, it’s just data. It becomes powerful when it’s used not just to support decisions, but to drive actions. And marketers know that to take action on their data, they need to collect and analyze it. Because ultimately, it’s about uncovering how your customers engage with your brand.

Many marketers believe that strategic marketing measurement is solely about the implementation of customer analytics (technology that can help you measure how your audience interacts with your online properties—or doesn’t). But analytics might not be enough. To truly make the most of your data, you need to combine your analytics insights with robust attribution insights.

At a high level, customer analytics provide an understanding of your customers’ experience—primarily across sites, apps, and other customer engagement points (call centers, for instance). These insights can then be used to inform targeting, marketing, and product decisions. Although these insights are critical, customer analytics alone do not tell the full story. The truth is that brands using more than one or two channels to reach their target markets may be missing vital details about the many touchpoints across the full customer journey and throughout their marketing mix. Data-driven attribution tracks and values all touchpoints that lead to a desired outcome (regardless of whether the customer ended up on a brand’s website).

“Think of attribution as the peanut butter to analytics’ jelly. Yes, each is great on its own, but for many, they’re even better together.”

Another misconception is that the use of one of these types of measurement capabilities negates the other. Not true. Think of attribution as the peanut butter to analytics’ jelly. Yes, each is great on its own, but for many, they’re even better together. With both analytics and attribution in place, you can establish a holistic measurement plan with unified key performance indicators (KPIs). In doing so, you can manage your marketing spend so that you can best reach, influence, motivate, and drive your audience to those places where they can engage and convert.

Here we’ll show how the strategic use of both can lead to better measurement.

HOW BETTER MEASUREMENT WORKS

To gain a better understanding of why and how a company would use bothanalytics and attribution, let’s take a look at the following hypothetical scenario:

Ms. Smith is the vice president of marketing for a retail shoe business (let’s call it ABC). ABC sells its shoes both online at its website and offline in its brick-and-mortar stores. Its marketing campaigns span a variety of media channels and devices. This year, ABC’s goal is to sell more shoes to working women ages 18 to 24 in the U.S. Let’s call ABC’s target customers “young professional women.”

It’s Ms. Smith’s job to figure out how to sell more shoes to these young professional women. First, though, she needs to understand how this consumer group ended up at ABC’s website and what they do once they get there. Do they click on paid search ads after a specific query (say, a search for “cute wedge heels for spring”)? Which parts of the website do they visit? Do they spend a lot of time looking for seasonal items (boots in the winter and flip-flops in the summer, for example)? Are they visitors to the monthly trend posts on the site? Analytics can provide Ms. Smith with the answers to all of these questions. She can then use these insights to optimize her target customers’ experience on her company’s website and improve their path to entry. The result? Young professional women are able to find exactly what they’re looking for at exactly the moment they need it. In turn, ABC has happy, loyal customers who will continue to return.

Now, let’s suppose some of these young professional women haven’t been to ABC’s website in a while (or ever), and Ms. Smith wants to find a way to encourage more of them to come back. She’ll need more information about their overall media journey. What kind of media channels do they engage with? Do they purchase online or in-store? Which devices do they use while shopping for shoes? Ms. Smith starts by looking at ABC’s marketing mix—digital display ads, paid and organic search ads, social media, TV ads, and print ads—and all of the various touchpoints (any interaction she may have had with these channels). Attribution helps Ms. Smith identify patterns and trends across all marketing channels (e.g., after seeing an ad on a specific TV channel, a prospective buyer’s search takes her to ABC’s website). What’s more, Ms. Smith can see that social media is resulting in a positive lift for ABC’s email campaigns and increasing sales. The analysis also shows that buyers sometimes research products online and then make their final purchase at the local ABC store. That leads Ms. Smith to adjust her marketing budget accordingly so she’s properly reaching her omni-channel shoppers—and ABC ensures that it has even more happy customers.

ASSESSING YOUR ATTRIBUTION NEEDS

Now that you understand how analytics and attribution complement each other, let’s assume you’re already using some form of customer analytics, and you want to investigate supplementing your current measurement strategy. Before you implement more robust attribution, ask yourself these four important questions:

1. Am I seeing all of my marketing touchpoints? While it’s true that your current measurement strategy may offer some baseline attribution capabilities (tracking the end-of-funnel events that led a consumer to your website and providing conversion credit to those touchpoints, for example), your organization may require more robust attribution functionality. It really depends on the complexity of your data. How many data sources can your attribution solution support? If your digital marketing mix is simple (only a couple of channels) and you have no challenges in importing or interpreting your data, analytics may suffice. If, however, you’re working with a large number of marketing channels, media platforms, and offline channels (radio and TV, for example), you may want to consider incorporating more attribution features.

2. What added value will attribution provide? Specialized attribution capabilities use sophisticated algorithms that help you get to the robust, statistically sound insights that can help drive impact. For example, data-driven attribution can sniff out which consumer touchpoints are the most influential for your business. When comparing each conversion path, things like the number of touchpoints in the sequence, the order of exposure, and the creative assets used are all factored into results.

3. Does my team have the expertise needed to choose and implement attribution and then interpret and act on its insights? If you’re counting on attribution to unlock insights that will help you drive business value, make sure your team has the training and support it needs. This expertise may reside within your organization or in a third-party provider. The right resource will be able to ask the right questions and provide the answers needed about implementation, integration, optimization, methodology, type, technology, support, and more.

4. Am I duplicating my investment by paying for two different solutions?One product may provide an adequate solution for both your analytics and attribution needs as long as the reporting is sufficient. However, if you’re a large advertiser, with a complex marketing ecosystem, investing in deep analytics and attribution functionality is likely to drive the best results.

Many challenges face today’s marketers—and there are more than enough ways to help you optimize your efforts to deal with them. The key is to begin with an understanding of the customer journey and the many micro-moments, or opportunities, for your brand to connect with your customers. Better, strategic measurement doesn’t mean choosing between analytics and attribution. It means recognizing the power of using both—and to what degree you should use them.

Score a Touchdown With Football Fans: What You Need to Know This NFL Season

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THE RUNDOWN

As the NFL season starts, brands from insurance companies to fast food chains are kicking off campaigns to reach football fans. It’s a huge marketing opportunity, and it’s bigger than ever. Worldwide, the NFL’s popularity is at an all-time high. New audiences are tuning in, especially women and Hispanics, and fans are getting their fix across screens and platforms. Here, we tackle the trends that marketers should know to score with fans all season—and all year—long.

Searches for HDTVstailgating and buffalo wings are up. That can only mean one thing: America is ready for some football. This year, the NFL is more popular than ever. It’s now the most popular sports league worldwide—bigger than the NBA, MLB and any other international leagues.

  • U.S. interest in the NFL is 65% higher than in the NBA and 152% higher than in the MLB, and it’s on the rise (Chart 1).
  • Even preseason events drew massive interest. The NFL Draft had 3x as many searches as the Emmy Awards at their respective peaks.
  • In 2012, the NFL overtook the NBA in global popularity, becoming the top American league in the world.
  • It’s also the top sports league globally, surpassing F1, Premier League and the India Premier League in searches on Google.

Chart 1: U.S. Searches for Top 3 American Sports Leagues

Source: Google Data, July 2011–September 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Football is winning over new audiences

The most watched TV event among women this year was the Super Bowl, according to AdWeek. It’s a sign of the NFL’s increasingly diverse fanbase, now made up of more women and Hispanics than ever.

  • During the 2013 season, searches for women’s NFL apparel were 35% higher than the year before (Chart 2).
  • Women make up nearly half of all NFL fans, and 63% of women 12 and older classify themselves as fans, per AdWeek.
  • In August, searches for “futbol americano” were 39% higher than they were the year before, outpacing the growth of overall football searches by 5x.
  • Nearly half of Hispanics said they were interested or very interested in football (Google Consumer Survey, August 2014).

Chart 2: Google Searches for Women’s NFL Apparel

Source: Google Data, January 2012–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Despite this, most marketing campaigns still cater to the (stereo)typical football fan. But there’s massive opportunity to reach these new audiences. For its part, the NFL has answered and fueled demand among both of these demographics. Its Hispanic Heritage campaign celebrates Hispanic players in the league. Among efforts to reach female fans are a line of women’s appareland a campaign to raise breast cancer awareness. The needle is moving:

  • In August, searches for women’s NFL apparel grew 20% over the same period last year (Chart 2).
  • At their respective highs, “NFL breast cancer” was searched more than “NFL concussions,” a massively popular and controversial topic.
  • People searched for the NFL and breast cancer twice as much as for any other major American sports league (Google Data).

Fans are glued to the second screen

On any given Sunday, fans all over the country are glued to their screen—the screen in their hand, that is. Smartphone use surges during the games as fans share the rush, talk trash and gather facts in the moment. Throughout the season, more people than ever are using mobile devices to find scores and schedules, even to stream games.

  • Mobile queries related to football were up 33% in this year’s preseason as compared with last year (Google Data).
  • Top mobile searches include players, teams, schedules and scores, and they are all growing annually (Google Data).
  • During games, there’s a big surge in mobile searches. During last Thursday’s Seahawks versus Packers game, for example, 74% of game-related searches came from smartphones (Chart 3).
  • Searches are spiking for “NFL Now,” the league’s new mobile app that features highlights, clips and original programming.
  • One in three searches about streaming the games comes from a mobile device (Google Data).

Chart 3: Game-Related Searches During NFL Kickoff Game (Seahawks vs. Packers, 9/4/14)

Source: Google Data, September 4, 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

The implications are obvious: To reach fans, brands need to make mobile a key part of their playbook. Those that don’t are putting themselves on the sidelines.

Searching for highlights, smack talking with GIFs

To catch up on “did you see that?!” moments, fans hop on YouTube immediately after the games end. For example, right after the Seahawks won this year’s kickoff game, searches for “highlights” spiked (Chart 4). In addition to video clips, people look for memes to share in the form of annotated GIFs. Just look at the sharp rise in searches for “NFL GIF” in the past few years.

Chart 4: YouTube Searches Related to “Highlights” After the NFL Kickoff Game (Seahawks vs. Packers, 9/4/14)

Source: Google Data, September 4, 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Video game content is also hugely popular on YouTube, and when it comes to sports games, EA Sports’ Madden NFL 15 is the reigning champ. The official ad for Madden NFL 15 topped the August YouTube Ads Leaderboard—it currently has over 10M views—beating out a new spot for FIFA 15.

To promote the game this season, EA Sports is reaching second-screening, meme-loving fans with the Madden GIFERATOR. For every NFL game, the Madden GIFERATOR’s live stream of animated GIF’s, which uses Madden NFL 15 imagery, updates in real-time based on actual NFL game action. With each big play, the GIFERATOR will generate a tailor-made set of GIFs to be customized and shared with friends. The GIFs will also appear in ads on sites and apps across the Google Display Network. Fans can even make and share their own.

More reasons for fans (and marketers) to cheer

The football season is longer than ever. While it peaks during the regular season, interest in football doesn’t stop after the Super Bowl. There’s now fan engagement (and marketer opportunity) in the off-season with the rise of “tentpole” events. The NFL Draft, Pro Bowl, NFL Preseason and NFL Combine all had their biggest year yet in searches on Google (Chart 5). Marketers can ride this rising tide of interest through year-round campaigns aimed at fans.

Chart 5: Google Searches for NFL Events During the Off Season

Source: Google Data, January 2012–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Meanwhile, CBS is doing a big push around Thursday Night Football, looking to make the game a primetime event. “I don’t think the CBS Corporation has ever mounted a larger promotional campaign,” says Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, in the New York Times. “We’re determined to work with the NFL to make sure this is a success.” It certainly seems to be driving interest online; Google searches for “Thursday Night Football” were up 116% year-over-year in August.

Then there’s fantasy football, which creates a whole new layer of engagement during the season itself. The once-niche pastime has become mainstream—searches for “fantasy football” are at an all-time high, and one in three people say they play, according to an August Google Consumer Survey. The typical fantasy player is a marketer’s dream: a middle-aged, college-educated professional with an average household income over $90,000, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Fantasy players don’t just care about local teams; they’re obsessively tracking players across the league. This has essentially expanded players’ popularity beyond their home turf. For example, while the most-searched-for team around Kansas City is the Chiefs, searches for their star player, Jamaal Charles, are happening across the country.

In business terms, fantasy football attracts new audiences for many NFL “products” (players). No wonder it’s changed the NFL’s marketing. The league runs fantasy ads that appeal to non-experts with a proposition that “it’s fast and easy, and you can do it on a mobile phone”—a winning play in today’s constantly connected world.

A Report Card on Back to School: The Season’s Trends and What They Mean for Holiday

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THE RUNDOWN

As summer draws to a close, we took a look at back-to-school shopping trends across Google and YouTube to see how this year compared to past years. Not only have searches grown over the last year, but the season is lasting longer than ever, becoming the unofficial start to holiday shopping. It’s also the start of potentially lifelong brand affinities for millennials. As the college-bound leave the nest for the first time, they’re making all-important purchases that will set the tone for years to come. They have more choices than ever and are turning to the web—especially video and mobile—to discover and shop. This year, they sought out products that save them time, space and money. And if they can’t find exactly what they want, they’ll make it (hello, washi tape). Study up on the trends—they’ll help you this holiday season.

Back-to-school season is longer than ever

Taking a look at searches on Google, we found that the start of summer is actually the start of the back to school shopping season. Back-to-school is the second-largest retail event of the year, and it’s growing.

  • Almost as soon as school’s out, back-to-school shopping begins. Searches started as early as May and peaked in August (chart 1).
  • That peak lasted 1-2 weeks longer than it did last year, and interest is still high, indicating that shoppers are still in the market (chart 1).
  • Back-to-school searches on Google are higher than ever. Overall, searches grew 45% YoY (through August 15) (chart 1).

Chart 1: Searches for “Back to School”

Source: Google Data, January 2013–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

Retailers are likely spurring this early interest with mid-summer deals like those offered by Walmart and Staples. Indeed, searches for “back to school sales” also spiked sooner and are trending higher than they did in previous years.

Another big factor: the web. According to Deloitte Vice Chairman Alison Paul, “24/7 online convenience allows parents—and students—to shop any time, not just during the traditional mid- to late-summer back-to-school period. Consumers are more precise about what they buy and may no longer feel the need to stock up as they did in the days before the internet.”

Not only is the web open 24/7, but people are using it to shop throughout the day (and even more at night) on smartphones. According to Google data, so far this month, 40% of back-to-school searches were done on mobile. That’s a 25% increase from last year.

As back to school stretches into fall, it’s being met by early holiday demand. Fifteen percent of consumers have already started shopping for the holiday season and 5% more will start before Labor Day, according to a July Google consumer survey. Looking at last year’s Google Search trends, we see that apparel searches started rising in July and continued an upward climb through December (chart 2). Marketers now have an earlier look at what consumers might be interested in this holiday season, and that means more chances to capture interest with ads, promotions, discounts and more.

Chart 2: Apparel Category Searches

Source: Google Data, January 2012–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

YouTube creators are the new influencers for college-bound millennials

More marketers are focusing specific back-to-school efforts on the college set, and for good reason. These students and their parents drive the biggest back-to-school spending, and the NRF found that it’s up 10% from last year. Young adults headed off to college are about to make a lot of purchasing decisions that they’ve never made before—these are big opportunities for brands to win new and loyal customers.

To decide what to bring, college students are turning to haul videos on YouTube. These videos, featuring shoppers with their latest finds, started trending a few years back and are gaining in popularity. According to Google/YouTube data:

  • Searches for “back to school haul” on YouTube are up 70% this year.
  • Searches for “dorm hauls” on YouTube increase more than 2x in the first 10 days of August YoY.
  • YouTube creators are getting ahead of the game. Compared to 2013, twice as many back-to-school haul videos were posted in the first seven months of the year (chart 3).

Chart 3: “Dorm Haul” Video Uploads to YouTube by Month

Source: YouTube Data, January 2013–August 2014, Indexed Video Uploads, United States

Another source of inspiration for students is dorm tour videos. In these, students show how they turned a small, impersonal space into a place they’re proud to call home.

  • “Dorm tour” searches on YouTube are rapidly trending with searches up 1.7x this August as compared to last year (chart 4).
  • “Dorm tour” has some interesting correlations that hint at consumer interests, including brand affinities (“covergirl and olay”), beauty tips (“eyeliner on top lid”) and evasion techniques (“ways to look sick”).

Chart 4: “Dorm Tour” Searches on YouTube

Source: YouTube Data, August 2013 and August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

Brands are getting in on this action, too. Target launched a YouTube video series called Best Year Ever that gives tips for designing dorm or off-campus spaces. Hosted by four YouTube stars, Todrick HallMikey BoltsTiffany Garciaand Ann Le, it’s running on both Target’s YouTube channel and the stars’ own pages. So far, there have been over 3.2M views combined. Aeropostale recently worked with another YouTube creator, Bethany Mota, on a room design line.

Smart move. Mota is an influencer for millennials—her YouTube fans often ask about her style—and her back-to-school videos are among her most popular. Three of her 15 most-watched videos of all time cover back to school (totaling 15.7M views), and her latest got 2.5x more likes per view than the average for her regular August videos.

Young DIYers are looking for cheap, clever ways to decorate their dorms

No longer do students need to have the same futon and mini fridge as everyone else. The web offers infinite ideas and options for one-of-a-kind dorm decor, and people are using Search to find them.

  • “Dorm decor” searches on Google are up 37% YoY.
  • We’ve seen a 30% YoY growth in dorm-related Google searches for Dormify, Apartment Therapy, Buzzfeed, HGTV, Seventeen and Pinterest.

Products that help provide customization are on the rise. For example, dorm dwellers are looking for cheap, easy-to-use items, such as washi tape and wall decals, to “hack” mass market items.

  • Washi tape is a growing trend in general, and it’s becoming more popular around back-to-school time (chart 5).
  • Consumers searching for dorm room-related topics are about 100x more likely to be searching for washi tape than the average Google user and about 150x more likely to be searching for wall decals. (Google Data)
  • Publishers like HGTVDazzleDIY and AwesomenessTV are sharing washi tape decorating ideas to capture this interest.

Chart 5: Searches for “Washi Tape”

Source: Google Data, January 2012–August 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

On campus, smartphones are more essential than TVs

The period when students are heading to college is a critical time for brands to earn loyalty, and no one knows this more than consumer electronics manufacturers. “When shopping for electronics, students decide what they want before searching for the lowest price,” comments Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer of The Intelligence Group, in eMarketer. Even if millennials are not spending their own money (though many are), they have a lot of influence over the purchase. “A parent is not going to buy their kid a Samsung if they’re saying, ‘I want an Apple,’” Gutfreund says.

The must-have tech for students? Smartphones. They’re as essential to college kids as the snooze button.

  • Smartphones rank as the most popular electronic device owned by college students (Deloitte).
  • People searching for “dorm” are also searching for “mobile” more than either “computer” or “tablet.” This is a big shift from four years ago (Google Data).
  • Back-to-school searches in the mobile and wireless category are up 32% (Google Data).

Mobile devices are even becoming the new TVs on college campuses. According to a Google Consumer Survey conducted in August, college students are 30x more likely to list a phone as their favorite device than a TV. Looking to save space and money, students are using their mobile phones for networked gaming, streaming videos and more. We can see this trend in views of those dorm haul videos on YouTube.

  • So far in August, 43% of views of haul videos on YouTube happened on mobile devices. That’s 1.5x the mobile share of views in January (Google Data).
  • Mobile trails only TV as the platform that has the longest view time per view of haul videos, exceeding computer totals by 15% (Google Data).

Students are looking for products that save space, time and money

Going to college is a very different experience for today’s constantly connected millennials than it was for previous generations. But one thing hasn’t changed much: the size (or lack thereof) of dorm rooms. When it comes to tech products they’re looking for those that save space as well as time and money. For example:

  • Wireless chargers for smartphones and laptops prevent tangled messes and—worst of all—mi ssed texts. They’ve been trending over the past months—up 72% since June, and 14% YoY (Google Data).
  • Individual coffee makers provide quick caffeine hits. Keurig released acollege-branded product line late last year, and “Keurig college” searches were up 48% YoY in August (Google Data).

Now that we’ve gone back to school, here’s a cheat sheet for the holiday season

As the season gets longer, back to school can be seen as the unofficial start to the holidays and a great bellwether of trends.

  • To capture interest throughout this time, keep your campaigns going strong.
  • Adapt your holiday plans based on what you’ve learned from back-to-school campaigns.
  • Make sure you’re thinking about mobile constantly (take a page from our playbook).
  • See what’s big on YouTube and look to popular creators as potential spokespeople.
  • Position your products for the DIYer. Share tips and tricks on using your products in creative ways.
  • Gear promotions and sales to capture interest in products that save space, time and money.

YouTube Insights, Q2 2014

Presented by:

Think with Google

 

 

 

THE RUNDOWN

Passions and interests drive people’s lives and, of course, their purchases. In this issue of YouTube Insights, see how brands like Turkish Airlines and Unilever have leveraged this behavior to create even bigger fans. Then check out how Nike and Samsung have connected with consumers on one particular passion—soccer—in some of the most popular ads this quarter. And see how your brand can turn insights into results with compelling content that speaks to consumers’ passions.

View YouTube Insights, Q2 2014: How Passions Drive Interests .

View Full Article “YouTube Insights, Q2 2014.”

From BBQ to Burns: 5 Hot Summer Trends to Plan For

Presented by:

Think with Google

 

 

 

THE RUNDOWN

As the weather changes, so does digital behavior. People are out of their houses and on their smartphones, looking for places to go and things to grill. What they’re searching for (and how) provides a window into consumer interests this season and beyond. We looked at Google data to see what’s on the rise for summer (besides the temperature, that is). From the best BBQ to the most sunburned states, here’s what’s trending and what it might mean for your business.

1. Mobile: So hot right now

People are more likely to use a mobile device to go online in the summer months than in other seasons. Whether they’re traveling on vacation, lounging on the beach or grilling in their backyards, U.S. consumers are constantly connected.

As they fire up their outdoor grills, more people are searching for “recipes” on a mobile device—the new cookbook. Mobile’s share of searches is up 44% year-over-year.

Mobile Share of “Recipes” Searches

Source: Google Data, 2013–2014, Mobile Share Query Volume, United States.

Mobile Share of “Hotel” Searches

Source: Google Data, 2012–2014, Mobile Share of Search Query Volume, United States.

During summer travel season, searches for hotels go up. While we’re seeing a general shift to mobile, this shift grew 86% faster in the summer months than any other time last year. People are looking for everything from deals to directions.

Are you capturing demand across screens? Are you showing consumers the type of content they’re looking for? Is your marketing contextually relevant?

2. Burnt out on summer, people are looking for relief

What are people looking for when it’s warm out? A nice tan, of course. At the start of summer, we see a bump in searches for “suntan.” But as the weather heats up, so do searches for “sunscreen,” followed closely by a big spike in “sunburn” searches. Now consumers are in the market for “aloe vera” to soothe those burns.

The ways the consumer journey so clearly plays out on search are fascinating. So are the regional differences. Google searches for “suntan” are most popular in Kentucky, while Hawaii is tops for “sunburn” and “sunscreen.” Californians appear to look after their skin the most, searching for “sunscreen” and “aloe vera” more than people in most other states.

Searches for Suntan, Sunburn, Sunscreen and Aloe Vera

Source: Google Data, January 2011–June 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

How is weather affecting demand for your products? What can you learn about the consumer journey based on search patterns? How are you using this information to shape your messaging and distribution strategies?

3. Kansas City wins the BBQ battle

Summer is BBQ season, and it’s a hotly contested cuisine. Which town is most popular this summer? If we look at searches, Kansas City is the clear winner, with Memphis and Austin vying for second place. Interestingly, Buffalo, New York (home ofOinktoberfest) makes the top five.

Top Cities for “BBQ” Searches

Source: Google Data, May–July 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

Can you nuance your messaging or tailor your product offering based on location?

4. A taste of summer throughout the year

Grilling is certainly seasonal, but it’s becoming less so. More people are looking to get a taste of summer in the colder months. Meat lovers seek out the top BBQ destinations year-round, especially during events such as the World Series of BBQ and SXSW.

“BBQ” Searches by City

Source: Google Data, January 2013–July 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

They’re also grilling more during non-summer holidays, including on Thanksgiving, President’s Day and even Christmas.

Searches for “Grilling”

Source: Google Data, 2012–2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States

This opens the door for marketers to promote these traditional “summer” activities during new moments of consumer interest.

Similar patterns occur across products, and finding them can help you extend the life of a seasonal product. Look at ski towns. During summer travel season, searches for hotels go up. While we’re seeing a general shift to mobile, this shift grew 86% faster in the summer months than any other time last year. People are looking for everything from deals to directions.

Searches for Major Ski Towns in the U.S.

Source: Google Data, January 2010–July 2014, Indexed Search Volume, United States

If your product is seasonal, can you make it relevant during other times of the year? Are there new moments of consumer interest that you can explore?

5. Gaming becomes a daily habit

Views of video game content on YouTube, such as trailers and walk-throughs, go up a bit in the summer—no surprise there. What’s more interesting is when. During the school year, views of gaming content spike on weekends. But when kids are home from school, gaming content is watched much more consistently throughout the week.

Average Views of Video Game Content on YouTube

Source: YouTube Data, January 2013–June 2014, Indexed Video Views, United States

Has your media strategy shifted with consumer behavior? Are you accounting for seasonal changes in media consumption?

Each season brings interesting, nuanced market dynamics that businesses need to consider. The key is to plan accordingly. Dig into the data to uncover seasonal trends in your category while keeping your eye on broader shifts in behavior. Develop a strategy based on what you’re seeing, but allow some flexibility to adapt as new opportunities arise.

The Creative Shortlist: Connecting the Global Community

presented by:

Think with Google

 

 

THE RUNDOWN

The Creative Shortlist is a new series that looks at the trends and themes informing innovative digital campaigns. This month we spotlight truly global campaigns—creative ideas that are so big, so fundamentally human, that they inspire people around the world to share, connect and come together.

VOICE OF THE MONTH

See what Creative Sandbox campaigns we’re talking about.
This edition’s guest curator is Ben Malbon, director of creative partnerships, Google.

Language barriers. Vastly different time zones. The pain of managing multiple agencies. Egos. Control. Cultural nuances. Brands have plenty of reasons to shy away from big “global” campaigns, but if you’re able to find the right ideas and execute them well, they can be worth the slog.

Global moments like the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil—which it’s safe to say will be the most connected sporting event in history (it’s currently the fourth most searched event on Google Trends)—offer tantalizing opportunities for brands willing to take the plunge. The world won’t just be watching and partying and shouting at the screen. They’ll be on their smartphones and tablets, creating massive digital and social energy spikes. Smart brands will both fuel and harness that energy.

Take Coca-Cola. It kicked off its “The World’s Cup” campaign back in April. The centerpiece, “One World, One Game,” developed by Wieden + Kennedy, uses a new roll-over Engagement Ad to showcase five digital films about football players from very different parts of the world. In featuring these deeply personal, yet universally relevant stories in one place, Coca-Cola benefits from both the power of an individual story and the connective tissue: the triumphs and ambitions that make us human.

These kind of global campaigns are about more than brands exercising their creative and media muscles. They’re tapping a world itching to connect, to be part of something bigger and more meaningful. They’re on the forefront of something big—connecting people by building on human truths that can cross geographic boundaries (joy, peace, understanding, justice, love, loss, and so much more).

Some ideas have life beyond their own backyard, and brands can use the web to spread their big creative ideas across borders. Here are four strong examples from the Creative Sandbox gallery of brands that are reaching the world through their digital campaigns:

#1 Coca-Cola: The Happiness Flag

A crowd-sourced mosaic flag unites football fans around the world

#2 Manchester United/Google+: Front Row

A Hangout to bring faraway football fans to Old Trafford

#3 Burberry: Burberry Kisses

A letter sent to loved ones around the world, sealed with your digital kiss

#4 Embratur – Brazilian Tourism Board: The World Meets in Brazil

An interactive tour introducing World Cup fans to Brazil