Moreover, this year’s buying cycle will be significantly longer than in the past, according to the survey: 50% of respondents said they would start shopping for holiday gifts in October or earlier.
In 2006, 44% of survey respondents said they would begin holiday shopping after Thanksgiving, while 15% said they wouldn’t begin shopping until the last two weeks of December.
However, many consumers will be waiting until November and December to make their actual purchases: 77% of respondents said they purchase the majority of their holiday gifts in November or December.
Data from the Advertising.com network supports the notion that consumers are making their purchases later, with conversion rates approaching 20% during the third week of December, up from around 10% a month earlier. The highest conversion day in 2006 was December 15, at 20%.
Other findings from the study:
- Financial incentives are popular: The top reason consumers go online during the holiday season is to find discounts and savings.
- Consumers leverage the internet as a research tool: Almost three quarters of survey respondents visit 2-5 websites on average before completing a holiday purchase. In addition, 18% spend as much as a week or two researching before buying.
- Search is a wise investment: 50% of online consumers use search engines when evaluating product options and features. According to Advertising.com 2006 performance data, the dates with the highest conversion rates for search advertising were December 9 (at 31%) and December 14 through 17, with rates of 25-32%.
- Tracking offline sales remains key: This year’s survey shows that many consumers still prefer to buy in retail stores after researching gifts online. A significant 57% of respondents said that after researching a product online, they are more likely to purchase it offline.
“The holiday season no longer starts in Q4, with consumers beginning their shopping earlier and earlier,” said Lynda Clarizio, president of Advertising.com. “To fully capitalize on this lengthy shopping season, advertisers should look to leverage marketing tactics for each stage of the consumer purchase cycle – such as online video to build awareness, search marketing to drive traffic, and behavioral retargeting and late-season incentives to close conversions.”
About the study: The study leveraged survey data acquired from a sample of 502 respondents over age 18 as well as advertising performance data generated from the Advertising.com network from November 23 through December 23, 2006. The survey was hosted by online market research company InsightExpress.