Google Tracks Black Friday Trends

Consumer searches for 'Black Friday' and 'Black Friday sales' were up more than 20 and 50 percent, respectively, on a year-over-year basis, per Google.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The company, which is the market leader in search, released Black Friday search findings in its official Google blog. In a post dated Nov. 27 ( Black Friday), for instance, Google managing director for U.S. sales John McAteer (shown right) wrote that new toy introductions like Mattel's Mindflex and the Zhu Zhu Pets line of electronic hamsters were among the top searches. Though shoppers were interested in purchasing this holiday season's most coveted goods, consumers were also mindful of budgets: Searches for "printable coupons" and "sales" were up 50 and 25 percent as well, Google said.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> McAteer, who heads the retail industry team at Google, discussed these and other Black Friday-related findings, as well as what these trends may mean for retailers, in an e-mail interview with Brandweek.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Brandweek: What were some of the top online searches on Black Friday? How is it different from what consumers were searching for around this time last year? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> John McAteer: Some of the top searches on Black Friday were similar to those last year: Consumers in both 2008 and 2009 were interested in the new industry table stakes, such as free shipping, Black Friday deals and coupon codes. Additionally, some of the fastest-rising searches during both years included the names of specific retailers, as consumers have become accustomed to the availability of hot deals from some of their favorite stores, along with the ability to find those deals online.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The difference in searches, year to year, seems to be more related to the must-have purchases of this holiday season versus last year's. For instance, Zhu Zhu Pets are a relatively new, and extremely popular, search, while searches for consumer electronics remained popular and even grew.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Were search levels the highest on Friday or were consumers already hunting for deals both in the days preceding and after Black Friday? How would you describe the level of frenzy? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Shopping-related searches reached their seasonal peak -- so far -- on Friday. Overall, they've been growing steadily throughout the holiday shopping season, as consumers seeking value have started their research much earlier than in past years. Notably, search levels have started to spike way earlier than in the past. Searches for "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" upticked a full month earlier this year as compared to 2008.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Though the majority of consumers still prefer to do their Black Friday shopping in store, online/e-commerce is rapidly becoming a larger slice of the annual Thanksgiving weekend sale. (Online sales were up 11 percent to $595 million on Black Friday, per Internet market research firm comScore.) <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The role of search in e-commerce is simple: to facilitate the connection between consumers and the products they're looking for. It's also really important in informing consumers, at the moment of interest, which products have the attributes they're looking for, whether those attributes are related to value, type or color. With the advent of smartphones, mobile search also plays a key role in helping consumers on the go to find the information they're looking for.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> As for online and e-commerce becoming a larger slice of the annual Thanksgiving weekend sale, it makes a lot of sense to us. Consumers are increasingly comfortable online and they're distinguishing between online and offline purchases much less than in the past. To the new consumer, who is accustomed to things like buying online and free shipping, it's just plain commerce. Or, as many retailers think of it, multi-channel retailing.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Some of the hottest toys this season include Zhu Zhu Pets and Mattel's Mindflex game. Did searches for these "must-have" items trump consumers who were searching for household appliances or home furnishings, such as a new microwave or pillow set? (Consumers, after all, are in a penny-pinching mood.) <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> While the comparison isn't apples to apples, as greater consideration and a higher price tag are generally associated with home furnishings or appliances, it looks like searches for the über-hot Zhu Zhu Pets did outpace a number of household appliance and home-furnishing-relevant searches. That said, it looks like a lot of people are getting rugs for the holidays this year; searches for rugs are pacing quite well.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Some industry reports have predicted Cyber Monday to be an even bigger deal than Black Friday this year, as retailers beef up their holiday promotions. Are you finding that to be the case? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> It's a bit early to say whether or not Cyber Monday will be a bigger deal than Black Friday this year; we're eagerly awaiting the numbers, and keeping our fingers crossed, [along] with everyone else. That said, search interest in Cyber Monday has been rising rapidly for the past five years, as both e-commerce and the concept of Cyber Monday have become part of our cultural lexicon and particularly in the past two years, as consumers have been conditioned to look for deals associated with this big shopping weekend. So, we're hoping for great things today.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> It's Cyber Monday today. What are consumers searching for at moment? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The Super Bowl of savvy shopping continues today, as consumers continue to do the research needed to find the best deals for the items on their holiday shopping list.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Interest in and searches for coupons continue, and we're seeing a lot of searches containing the words "Cyber Monday" as a trigger to find deals in relation to a particular product or store. Some examples, which appear on today's Hot Trends list, include: Best Buy Cyber Monday 2009 deals, Zhu Zhu Pets Cyber Monday, American Girl Cyber Monday, Cyber sales, Cyber Monday iPod Touch, Nintendo DS Cyber Monday and Cyber Monday deals. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <a href="" target="_blank">&#x2014; Nielsen Business Media</a>