Households spent on average an estimated £800 on Christmas last year. They start thinking about Christmas early - Google research on Christmas trees begins in early November and there were 169 million Christmas-related searches last year. These queries are increasingly made via mobile, with a 34% growth in festive mobile searches year on year.

Martijn Bertisen

Retailers can use these signals of intent to identify the right moment to activate flagship promotional and marketing activity. The arrival of the eagerly anticipated Christmas ads from supermarkets and department stores usually acts as the starting pistol for consumers to start festive planning. As Christmas Day approaches, the hunt for guidance ramps up. There were 55 million Christmas-based searches on YouTube last December with ‘Xmas Recipes’ and ‘Xmas Food’ in the most popular related search categories.

Supermarkets and grocers can use search data to capture and capitalise on consumer interest by aligning marketing content and stocking strategies with popular search terms. It’s worth looking at historic data for clues - last year saw rising searches for ‘how to cook red cabbage’, ‘cooking turkey upside down’ and ‘vegan Yorkshire pudding’.

Christmas is the peak time for pre-ordered online groceries and offers a great opportunity to bolster online sales. There will be plenty of customers who will be trying out this channel for the first time during the festive run up, so it’s essential to provide a good customer experience for ordering and fulfilment.

But more than two thirds of UK shoppers buy their groceries in-store, so it’s important that all the digital activity drives footfall and sales at the till. Tools can now track the customer journey from online engagement to the store, and a recent Bensons for Beds campaign provides an example of the impact of digital investment on physical sales.

Store visitors who had clicked on a search or shopping ad served by the furniture retailer were 90% more likely to make a purchase than the average shopper [Google case study data]. Localised ads were also effective for Bensons and it’s worth digging into data to find out what’s top of mind in various regions. Last year, the greatest interest for ‘mulled wine gammon’ came from the south east and for chocolate log from South Wales.

Ultimately, retailers must plan for a big ‘flash’ moment when the surge of interest comes and have an ‘always on’ plan for the whole peak period to Christmas Day. Note the day falls on a Monday this year, so the weekend beforehand can be a potential goldmine if you can target the right message at the moment that matters to time-pressed shoppers.

Martijn Bertisen is UK sales director at Google