Gifting Online & Offline: Not Just Holidays Anymore

Last time, we began our look at behavioral search query insights around gift giving from a search marketing perspective by looking at trends in the use of “gift” as a search keyword in Google – and learned a few things in the process:

  • When holiday shopping activity begins to heat up (October, going into November), we saw the Photo/Video, Food/Drink, and Beauty/Personal Care categories rising the fastest.
  • Among gift purchases with a longer sales cycle, the Recreation category stood out, showing the fastest growth in gift queries from September to October.
  • During graduation season in the spring, gift-givers frequently search for Recreation and Photo/Video gifts, but they also use keywords like ‘graduate’ or ‘student’ to qualify their research.

As we look beyond the spike in shopping around the holiday season, a number of interesting gifting occasions show their own unique patterns.

Reminder: the key metric in this analysis is called Average Search Volume Index, or ASVI. For more insight into our research methodology, see here.

With a New School Year Approaching, People Can’t Resist Giving More “Studious” Gifts


While we may not traditionally think of the back to school period as a big gifting occasion, whatever gift giving is going on indeed skews toward items of some educational relevance (the Arts & Humanities category). This is where book retailers really shine; are we perhaps seeing adult gift-givers trying to get school-aged gift recipients a little more excited about returning to the classroom?

The back to school season also doesn’t seem to diminish searchers’ interest in recreation: outdoor activities like boating, cycling, running, hiking, and camping, as well as crafts and hobbies. Note that this category doesn’t include sports like baseball, basketball, football, or soccer, which get their own separate category in Google Insights.

Several Key Categories Characterize a Slow Gifting Season in July & August


July and August can be relatively quiet from a gifting perspective. Summer birthdays notwithstanding, this slow period sits right between an active spring (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations) and the busy fall, which is characterized by an elongated shopping run-up to the holiday season.

What are the biggest drivers of this decline? For starters, it looks like the Recreation category, highly active during the spring and fall, enjoys a bit of quiet in July and August. We know that outdoor activities are popular in the summer, but according to the data, the relative demand for those gifts in fact bottoms out in the summer.

A few other categories are not far behind:

  • Food & Drink: while overall search interest in beer and bbq are high in the summer, for a great many others the data is scattered elsewhere around the calendar. The trend just may be that the more “giftable” food & beverage items are simply not associated with warm weather.
  • Beauty & Personal Care: Fitness queries, and to a lesser degree weight loss, tend to reflect New Years’ resolutions. People love to give spa gift certificates, but they generally do so around the holiday season or Mother’s Day. It could be that the prevailing wisdom is, summer is when we need to look our best… so winter and spring are the time to be thinking about those gifts.

Gadgets & Computers are Popular Last-Minute Gift Purchases During the Holidays


Computers & Electronics is a little misleading here. Because we’re using a tricky metric based on averages of a normalized index, we’re exposed to a big weakness in the data.

If there happens to be an abnormally high figure for a certain data period, it pushes down the index value for all the other values, which dilutes the average. And that’s exactly what happens with this category, the week before Christmas. This could be an indication that digital cameras, computers & laptops, home video & audio, and personal electronics like iPods (but not iPhones) are very popular last-minute purchases for the stressed-out gift giver.

The same holds true for categories like Games (especially video games). As for the others, that’s anyone’s guess, including the outliers at the top of the chart.

To Be Continued…

Our analysis continues next time when we’ll drill down into the Shopping category, where a lot of important products and services reside: apparel/clothing, flowers, luxury goods, and collectibles. We’ll also get to see more about gifters’ demand for information like product reviews, coupons, price comparisons, and general customer service.

After that, we’ll wrap everything up and provide some best practices for how you can put this data to good use – as well as dig up an insight or two of your own.

Footnote. The following categories of industry classification are used in this data set: Arts & Humanities, Automotive, Beauty & Personal Care, Business, Computers & Electronics, Entertainment, Finance & Insurance, Food & Drink, Games, Health, Home & Garden, Industries, Internet, Lifestyles, Local, News & Current Events, Photo & Video, Real Estate, Recreation, Reference, Science, Shopping, Social Networks & Online Communities, Society, Sports, Telecommunications, Travel.

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