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Research: Optimize your holiday campaigns now

“This holiday season will be unlike any other.” You’ve likely heard this common phrase, but what exactly does it mean? We’ll look to answer this and more as we analyze upcoming holiday trends, and how you can get the most of your digital marketing campaigns this season.

We recently conducted a survey with online shoppers which, let’s be honest, are just about everyone these days. Of the 1,542 respondents across the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (U.K.), and Australia (AU), we asked them what their plans are for the holiday season. More specifically, we asked them about what they intend to buy, from where, and—most importantly–how they will go about researching items and making the final purchase. Based on the findings, here are three things you can expect this holiday shopping season:

1. The holiday shopping season will start earlier and be heavily focused online.

For gift givers, the holiday shopping season has already kicked off with 23% of our respondents saying they have already started shopping, and 79% planning to start before Black Friday. As individuals begin their holiday shopping, most will be shifting their focus online for both research and purchasing gifts. In fact, 89% of gift givers intend to buy gifts online, and 39% plan to shop exclusively online. It is also worth noting that more than one third of shoppers turn to search now, more than they did pre-COVID-19, to research products before they make a purchase. That’s why it’s more important than ever to maintain your online presence through the entire holiday season; to ensure your search campaigns don’t pause during this crucial period, we recommend setting up Shared Budgets through the rest of the year.

Chart depicting how gift givers intend to purchase gifts this year. 39%25 say online only, 12%25 say in store only, and 50%25 say a mixture of online and in-store shopping.

2. In the U.S., people are planning to shop more heavily on Cyber Monday over Black Friday this year, however, in the U.K. and AU, Black Friday will still be the main sales event.

Overall, we can expect 65% of online shoppers to take advantage of a sales event this year, and over half of them are open to purchasing from new brands this season. This is good news for newer brands or those trying to capture market share. Even still, competition will be high for these major sales days with 40% of U.S. consumers planning to shop on Black Friday and 45% planning to do the same on Cyber Monday. In the U.K. and AU, Black Friday will still be the main shopping event, with far fewer people planning to shop on Cyber Monday.
Chart depicting expected sales event participation this year all up and in the US, UK, and Australia. 40%25 total plan to shop on Black Friday, 37%25 on Cyber Monday, and 21%25 plan not to participate in any sales events.
We can expect most online shoppers to be between ages 26-45, so don’t forget to harness the power of demographic bid modifiers along with other audience targeting options.
Chart depicting how various age groups plan to participate in shopping events. 14%25 of ages 18-25 said yes, as did 28%25 of 26-35, 27%25 of 36-45, 16%25 of 46-55, and 15%25 of ages 56+.
Unsurprisingly, the primary reason shoppers turn to sales events is because they are looking for the best prices on products for which they are shopping, followed by the second reason of wanting to buy multiple gifts in one place. Hint hint, price and convenience are key, so be sure to highlight your sales and purchasing options in your ad copy and ad extensions. For those with a brick-and-mortar presence, it is also important to highlight your BOPIS, which is the acronym for ”Buy Online, Pickup In Store,” options. An easy way to do this is to add a curbside pickup badge to your Local Inventory Ads.

3. Half of all gift givers intend to purchase gift cards this season, making it the most highly anticipated gift purchase, followed by apparel and toys & games.

With 40% of respondents saying they are cancelling their holiday get-togethers this year and the remainder likely shifting to smaller get-togethers or virtual gatherings, gift cards will be a hot-ticket item this holiday season. Interestingly, those in the 46+ age categories are significantly more likely to purchase gift cards than other age groups. Apparel and Toys & Games are the second and third most popular gift purchases this holiday season in all markets except for the U.K., where skincare and makeup will also be popular gift purchases.
We hope you enjoyed learning about upcoming holiday trends, and that you feel empowered to make the most of this shopping season. For more retail-related content, check out our dedicated retail hub at

Source: "Holiday shopping in 2020,” Microsoft Advertising, September 2020.