According to the folks at Google, 15 percent of consumers started shopping for the holiday season back in July. So, it looks like internet marketers and video content producers should have started way back in the first half on the year to prepare for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah, Festivus, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, Hogmanay, and New Year’s Day.

But for those of us to do last-minute marketing the way some consumers do last-minute shopping, some new research about the holiday shopping season is on the brink of the verge of the edge of being posted to the Think with Google website.

Unlike the Mall, YouTube Never, Ever Sleeps

Beth Thomas, Industry Development Manager at Google, says:

This holiday shopping season will be our most connected ever, with devices at our fingertips helping us hunt for deals in short moments – whether it’s on a laptop at work or on a smartphone right before bed.

According to Google Shopping search data for July through September 2014, one third of all shopping searches on Google happen between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. So, shopping doesn’t stop once the mall closes. Thomas adds:

Today’s shopper spends more time than ever researching purchases online at all hours of the day; we’ve gone from midnight snacking to midnight shopping.

To understand how digital trends will impact this year’s shopping season, Google conducted its annual Holiday Shopper Intentions research with Ipsos MediaCT. They surveyed 2,000 people in September 2014 and found that people are shopping earlier, using online video to help with research, and turning to smartphones as personal shopping assistants.

youtube shopping research

Black Friday is a Month-long Event

According to the Google / Ipsos MediaCT 2014 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, people are starting their research early and retailers are stretching Black Friday promotions across November, changing the focus from just one day to a month-long event. In fact, more than half of consumers surveyed said they’ll start their research before Thanksgiving, with 26% of shoppers starting before Halloween.

Shoppers are also spending more time consulting more sources before making a decision. According to a study by Google and Inmar in 2013, shoppers used five sources of information on average before purchasing in 2010, but that has more than doubled with shoppers consulting at least 12 sources last year. This means that October through November has become a crucial period for retailers to reach shoppers online, being present with offers, information, how-to videos and other content.


Online Shopping is the New Window Shopping

Shoppers are going online for inspiration at all points of their day, not just to research specific products but to see what their friends and favorite influencers are wearing. Sites like YouTube and Pinterest have become the new window displays, and a new generation of fashion influencers like Bethany Mota are influencing shopping decisions.

Shopping-related content on YouTube, from unboxing videos to product reviews, is becoming an important part of the holiday research process and is trending up year over year. Haul videos – or the YouTube equivalent of telling your best friend about your latest shopping purchases – spike during key shopping events and hit their peak during Black Friday weekend. According to Google data for January 2013 through September 2014, videos with “haul” in the title have been watched more than 1.1B times on YouTube, and views are up 1.7x this year compared to last year.


And shoppers aren’t just using YouTube for research ahead of time; they’re also looking up videos while they’re in stores to help them make decisions. According to a Google Consumer Survey in September 2014, one in four shoppers say they’ve used YouTube to search for a video related to a product they’re considering while in a store.

Your Smartphone is Your Personal Shopping Assistant

One of the biggest enablers for shopping throughout the day is our mobile devices. According to the Google / Ipsos MediaCT 2014 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, 75% of smartphone shoppers plan to use their phones in-store this holiday season. It used to be that shoppers came to the store with little knowledge, and the sales associate educated them on products. Now shoppers are coming into stores teeming with information, and are turning to their phones as personal shopping assistants. And according to a Google Mobile In-Stores study in May 2013, one in three shoppers use their smartphones to find info instead of asking store employees.

Thomas concludes, “We’ve found that when retailers understand mobile behavior in stores, they can meet shoppers online with helpful information.” According to Google Nielsen study in November 2013, 46% of shoppers who use their phone in a store still end up making a purchase, an 11 point increase from 2011. Consumers are coming into stores more purposeful and informed than before, and savvy retailers are turning this into an opportunity.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that I didn’t prepare for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah, Festivus, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, Hogmanay, and New Year’s Day in the first half on the year. Why? I know more about how digital trends will impact this year’s shopping season now than I did way back then. At least that’s my justification for doing my marketing at the last minute the way some consumers do their shopping at the last minute. (Have you already guessed that I’m a last-minute shopper, too?)