The 2016 holiday shopping season is coming sooner than you think — and it’s going to be defined by mobile.
On July 12, Google announced tools designed to help retailers and consumers prepare for a mobile-first holiday shopping season. Noting that more than 40 percent of shopping-related searches on Google are for broad terms such as “women’s athletic clothing” or “living room furniture,” Google introduced Showcase Shopping ads. This format allows retailers to serve up a broad array of images to appear in search results based on search queries, however broadly defined they are. Google is also experimenting with a premium version through which retailers can customize how their brand and products appear. According to Google, 44 percent of shoppers say they use images to find ideas for things to buy. Showcase Shopping is clearly designed to appeal to a more visual experience, customized for mobile devices.
Google also announced updates to its TrueView ads on YouTube. TrueView makes it easier for consumers to click on and buy products on retailers’ ads in YouTube. Google announced that TrueView will soon include a new interactive banner appearing next to video content, which allows viewers to scroll through products while the video is playing next to it. And a new Product Picker will let advertisers prioritize more easily which products they want to be featured as cards in a TrueView. According to Google, the number of advertisers using TrueView is up 50 percent since January.
The announcements were made in context of a number of enhancements to both the retail and travel experience, which Google said were enacted in time to help the retailing and travel industries prepare for the holidays. As Jonathan Alferness, vice president of product management, wrote in a blog post, “October through December are traditionally the biggest months for both travel and shopping, and this year we expect mobile to play its biggest role ever. In fact, mobile and travel and shopping searches are already up nearly 30% year-over-year.”
These developments demonstrate why brands preparing for the holiday shopping season should plan for mobile-first experiences and for more complex, open ended, visually oriented searches. As SIM Partners noted in our 2015 Holiday Retail Guide, mobile is the battleground to win customers during the holiday shopping season. During the 2015 holiday season, Americans spent $12.7 billion online via mobile devices, up 59 percent year over year. Google understands this reality and continues to move the market in the direction of mobile-first experiences. Optimizing your content and location pages for mobile is no longer optional — doing so is table stakes.
But retailers also need to optimize their content for broader, less defined searches. Optimizing your merchandise for specific keywords is not enough. Retailers also need to ensure that their content is optimized for the more broadly defined discovery search that Google is gearing up for — searches that will occur, increasingly, via voice, as indicated by Google’s rollout of the smarter, voice-activated Google Assistant earlier this year.
Finally, retailers should create next moments with visual content. SIM Partners defines a next moment as the action that occurs after someone finds your brand via a search. We often think of next moments in terms of text-based content, such as mobile wallet offers and inventory finder tools that encourage consumers to visit your store to buy what they’re looking for. But at a time when consumers upload more than 1.8 billion images a day, next moments can and should include strong, compelling visuals that encourage purchase.
What does your next moment strategy look like for the 2016 holiday season? Contact us. We’d love to talk.