Google Christmas

Holiday shopping can account for up to 40% of annual store sales for companies that have physical retail locations, and more of those seasonal sales are coming from online stores and retail options.

When people want to shop online, Google has become the go-to research service to help find good deals, product information and places to buy, whether that’s online or in-store. Amazon.com was one of the major services to first expand digital sales to a multitude of retailers, from Wal-Mart and Target through small businesses all around the world.

Amazon’s success forced Google to change how it helps you shop. In 2012, Google redesigned its search page to focus on goods that you’re searching for when you want to learn more or buy. For instance, if you search for a vacuum or a crock pot on Google, above the results that list websites and news articles, you’ll see a scrollable marquee of product images, prices and store names. These let you look at what you want to buy, without any big reviews or comparisons, just pictures to make a visual check and pique your interest.

They’re also ads designed specifically to mirror what Amazon shows searchers – they go above and beyond the typical Google text ad.

This carousel is actually more prominent on mobile devices, such as Android smartphones and the iPhone, where it can be expanded to take up the entire screen and allows for quick swiping, with just a tap to learn more information.

This ad type was specifically designed for large holiday seasons, such as “Cyber Monday” that follows Thanksgiving. Adobe has found that users are 34% more likely to click on these ads than normal ads, and around 40% of customers report that these ads have made holiday shopping easier.

These ads also help customers find goods that aren’t mainstays. If you’re on the hunt for a “unique pair of cowboy boots,” Google will show you some of the big names in retail as well as smaller brands including CountryOutfitter.com, part of Acumen Brands. Acumen is a company that buys space on these product ads and says they’ve provided a large increase to overall sales.

Helping Holiday Research

For people not sure how to compare all of their options, Google’s product search ads also help by allowing them to sort items based on cost, parts or other things.

For example, if you simply search for “computers” on Google, you’ll get a normal page with the picture ads up top. Clicking near any product or on the “Sponsored” link will take you to a product page where you can dig deeper.

A “computers” search page will return options such as the most popular computers – also noting their price, manufacturer and what online and nearby stores that sell them. You have the option to use Google’s other filters such as shopping by brand, processor, operating system or related categories (for our example that would be things like laptops and tablet computers).

All of these filters get their own section that’s filled with images and a little bit of text, plus there’s a sidebar that allows you to enable any combination of these filters as well as other options, such as setting a price range or only seeing computers that are in stock at stores nearby.

As you refine your search, Google will show you more information about products and include items such as links to reviews, the overall sales ranking for the item, products that people who searched for something similar ending up looking at or buying, and the ability to save a list of the final items you’re considering. This “shortlist” can help you create a shopping list – you can even note the stores you want to buy a product from or where Google says it is currently in stock, so you can print the list and head straight to your destination with little worry.

Google’s Great Online Shopping Festival

While it’s easy to think of online and Christmas-related shopping events such as “Cyber Monday” as a U.S. event, or one even tied to countries where Christmas is celebrated by a large part of the population, Google has helped the digital shopping frenzy to other countries through other promotions.

One such promotion, created in 2012, happens on December 12 in India and is called the Great Online Shopping Festival. This new holiday was created by Google’s India division and a coalition of large online shopping websites. Websites and digital companies offer significant savings on December 12, with some retailers seeing their sales volume increase by a factor of four. The 2012 was the first time more than 50% of participants had ever bought something online.

This year, Google expanded GOSF to 240 different digital stores and the holiday itself was turned into a four-day event, having one million people buy goods within the first 24 hours.

The digital landscape is changing and Google is using its presence to increase gift buying and giving in December.