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Microsoft Reports Holiday Searches Start Early This Year

Holiday shopping is starting early this year, and a new report from Microsoft aims to make marketers aware of changes to customer expectations.

Microsoft identifies four key shifts in the marketplace this holiday season:

  • Shoppers will start early this year.
  • Alternative payments and delivery methods will be in demand.
  • Sustainability will be a trend.
  • Advertising competition will be high.

Stephanie Worley, Global Brand Marketer for Microsoft Advertising, states:

“This holiday season, we anticipate growing e-commerce adoption and shopping that will begin earlier than ever. It used to be Black Friday that kicked off the U.S. shopping season, but not this year. Now, 32% of shoppers, bolstered by e-commerce, say they plan to start shopping in early fall.”


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The time is now to get into holiday shopping mode. Here’s how consumers are approaching things differently this year.

Holiday Searches & Shopping Start Early

Shoppers are making holiday purchases earlier this year, but even before then they’ll be hitting the search engines to research products.

  • 76% of consumers worldwide bought a product due to researching online.
  • 48% of consumers worldwide used search for products.
  • 25% of all global online orders came from shoppers who used the search bar.

Microsoft’s data shows that consumers are doing even more research on products before purchasing them. Now, the research phase can be 30 days or more.


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The research phase is now taking “longer than ever,” which means businesses need to be ready to meet customers where they’re at in their buying journey.

A longer research phase gives businesses more opportunity to reach customers before their minds are made up.

Customers Want Alternatives

There’s a real possibility businesses will face challenges maintaining adequate levels of in-store stock this year.

Avoid customer disappointment by being prepared with alternatives, such as gift cards.

Microsoft’s data indicates one in four customers would purchase a gift card if they can’t find the item they want.

When it comes to products that are in stock, customers want alternative ways to acquire them such as buying online and picking up in store.

If your business offers options like gift cards, in-store pickup, and buy now pay later, you should make that information clear to all shoppers.

Sustainability is Trendy

Customers are looking for businesses, brands, and products that align with their beliefs around environmental and social causes.

Microsoft says the average search volume for sustainability and sustainable products has grown 37% annually since 2019.

High Competition in Advertising

Microsoft predicts retail will see an exceedingly competitive holiday 2021 season.

Cost per click is up 15% over the previous quarter due to more clicks on competitive queries in the second quarter.

Advertisers should revisit their keyword and bidding strategies in order to win over competitors.


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Next Steps

Microsoft’s report brings to light several common themes around the 2021 holiday shopping season:

  • Earlier research & shopping
  • Increased competition
  • More online orders
  • Greater interest in alternative buying and pickup options
  • Changing consumer expectations

Take advantage of this unusually long holiday shopping window by being ready with the right message at the right time in the right places.

Source: Microsoft Advertising Blog

Featured Image: Stock Rocket

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