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Gifting done differently: 5 tips to reach the new consumer

May 24, 2021

When a holiday or any important event for a family or loved one approaches, my first thought is to plan out the perfect gift for the occasion. With graduation and Father’s Day right around the corner, I’m already doing research on what to buy the dads and grads in my life! What will shopping and gifting look like for events in the next few months?

With shopping rapidly shifting to e-commerce, how are people beginning their gift shopping? We surveyed over one thousand gift givers, asking them how their overall shopping has changed, as well as how they’re thinking about gift shopping this year. 52% of these gift givers use search more when shopping online than they typically had prior to COVID-19.1 They’re also starting on search and converting online. 68% of gift givers prefer to shop online more than they did prior to COVID-19, and the majority plan to continue shopping online even after stores are fully open.1

Consumers expect more from their digital experiences

An increase in online shopping also means an increase in expectations for digital experiences from retailers. According to our 2021 Consumer Trends Report, “during the pandemic, retail had to rise to the occasion and meet consumer needs in new ways. This led to some brands standing out from the crowd and excelling in the new retail landscape through superior digital experiences.” Better digital experiences need to include personalization. In our blog about consumer expectations on personalization, we noted that Accenture reports that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them.

Retail advertiser tip #1:

Reach your ideal customers with audience targeting. Learn how L.L. Bean used audience targeting to drive strong campaign results.

It’s time to celebrate dads and grads, but shoppers often don’t have a brand in mind

So, consumers are online and shopping. How do they shop for upcoming events like graduations and Father’s Day? 33% of gift givers are shopping for graduation gifts this year and 37% will shop for Father’s Day gifts.1 These shoppers are starting with non-branded searches — grads and dads queries have more non-brand term searches (79% of searches) than brand term searches.2 Both categories also grew drastically this year, with graduation click volume increasing by 61% for top advertisers and Father’s Day click volume up 52%.2

A list of top non-brand search queries for ‘graduation’ and ‘Father’s Day’, all including the word ‘gift’.

Retail advertiser tip #2:

Be sure to increase your keyword coverage within top categories and for queries containing graduation and Father’s Day terms. Use Keyword Planner to find powerful new keywords.

Since we’re still in a pandemic and nice summer weather is on the horizon, consumers are increasingly searching in Outdoors, Fitness, and Sports categories; they’ll also think about these types of gifts for summer celebrations. Camping & Outdoor Recreation has seen a boom in the past year and clicks on the Microsoft Search Network grew 22% during COVID-19 in 2020!3 Cycling gained popularity, leading to a nationwide shortage of bikes, and 65% of new cyclists plan to continue riding after the pandemic.3

Retail advertiser tip #3:

If you’re a retailer with sports, fitness, and outdoor equipment or services, be sure to highlight that in your advertising. Attract more attention with a photograph in your ad with Image Extensions, which can help promote your products, raise brand awareness, and improve the quality of your clicks.

COVID-19 sparked do-it-yourself (DIY) inspiration, and sentimental value matters to gift givers

DIY projects were another trend we saw pop up in the 2021 Consumer Trends Report. “During the pandemic, sectors of society had time to fill. This led to an uptick in consumers experimenting with do-it-yourself projects and life hacks. Whether that manifested in personal joy, home improvement, crafts, or up-cycling, this trend is here to stay in 2021. Consumers see the value in doing it themselves and now know they can. And it all starts with a search.”

We see DIY trends in gifting as well. Nearly one-third of shoppers in our survey created DIY gifts because of COVID-19.1 Jewelry, candles, marble ring dish, cards, and ornaments were some of the gifts they created for loved ones.1 Most DIY gift givers will continue to create DIY gifts in the future; 67% of them cite they will do so because they believe it holds more sentimentality.1 Sentimental value matters to most shoppers regardless of DIY or store-bought gifts. 70% of gift givers agree they invest a lot of time to plan their gifts and that they want to give gifts with sentimental value.1

Retail advertiser tip #4:

Expand your reach and uncover new search queries with broad match. Expose new search trends and themes to reach the changing consumer.

A look ahead: The festive holiday season will not quite be back to normal

Looking ahead to the festive holiday season, consumers don’t expect to jump right back into pre-pandemic celebrations. Online shopping trends we saw last holiday season will remain this year as well. The majority (54%) of gift givers will still have in-person celebrations, but they will be smaller groups than usual.1 Virtual gatherings will still be popular with 36% planning to have holiday gatherings online.1 Many people are still hesitant to travel, and there is uncertainty around holiday travel: 42% of respondents are still debating on whether to travel.1 Even among those traveling there’s a split between traveling by ground (51%) versus air (49%).1 Since holidays will still have virtual components and less travel than normal, being online to reach gift givers is crucial.

Retail advertiser tip #5:

Drive more customers to your products this holiday season with engaging retail experiences through Shopping Campaigns.

[1] Microsoft internal survey, 2021.
[2] Microsoft Advertising Internal data Jan 2021- Mar 2021.
[3] Microsoft Advertising, 2021 Sports, Fitness, & Outdoor trends, 2021.


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