May 17, 2023

What your search behaviour tells us about your Christmas shopping habits

Date & Time (GMT):
May 17, 2023 12:47 PM
Date & Time (EST):
May 17, 2023 12:47 PM

Are you a Grinch? A Scrooge? A Christmas Angel?

We’ve seen the news – shopping trends are on the climb! Whether that’s due to a new online retail habit a lot of us developed in lockdown, the build-up of money not spent on travel, or just plain boredom, experts expect us to spend as much as 11.5% more this Christmas. These record sales are grabbing media headlines across continents, but why? Who are we buying for? And what’s driving us to click ‘buy now’?

Of course, there will be hard data on this when the financial analysts publish their Q4 earnings reports in the New Year. Yet this data does little to reveal our intentions and motivations behind our purchases – which is why we’ve turned to search data…

We analysed search trends for ‘Christmas Presents’ and ‘Christmas gifts’ over the past year (Nov 2020 – Oct 2021) across the UK and US. We focused on average monthly searches in the Christmas months (Oct-Dec). We chose this period, as we’re unlikely to search for “Christmas present” in July – therefore all ‘average monthly search volumes’ and ‘total searches’ refer to these Christmas months when search activity starts to grow.

From this, we’re able to answer some key questions about the Christmas shopper's psyche…

Q: Who are we shopping for?

A: Him, Her, In-Laws, Parents, Pets and Neighbours

48% of our online searches are people specific. That means we’re searching for things like, “Christmas gifts for mother-in-law” (40.2K avg. monthly searches). Yet, as perplexing as it is solving the question of “what’s an appropriate gift for a mother-in-law?”, the group we search for the most isn’t “Christmas gifts for teens” or 'Christmas gifts co-workers”.  It’s Parents.

“Christmas gift ideas for mom/mum” or “Christmas presents you can make for your parents” hit the top of the charts, but perhaps more interestingly are the secret searches for:

- “Christmas gifts to dad from daughter” – 11.2K avg. monthly searches
- “Christmas presents new parents” – 173 avg. monthly searches

Or perhaps even more endearingly…

- “Christmas gifts from bump to daddy” – 133 avg. monthly searches, primarily UK

Or from those cheeky children….

- “Where do parents hide Christmas presents” – 115 monthly searches, primarily a US search

Who we're shopping for

Parents may ‘not have a favourite child’, but the children’s preference is loud and clear as searches for “Christmas gifts for mom/mum” are more than double the avg. monthly search volume for dad. Sorry dad!

Yet it may come of comfort dads, that searches ‘for him’ outrank searches ‘for her’ by more than 50K – so Mom’s/Mum’s got your back Dad. Then again, this could just confirm the commonly held belief that men are harder to shop for.

Mom v Dad

Q: Now for the bigger question, what’s driving that click on the ‘buy now’ button?

A: It depends who’s shopping for you: Grinch vs Scrooge vs Generous Santa – Who comes out on top?

24% of our searches are specific to an item or idea, which reveals our motivations behind our Christmas shopping this year. As the data shows, we have an assortment of Christmas characters shopping. From the most generous of us, those ‘Christmas Angels,’ to the ‘Scrooges’ and the ‘Grinches.’

Her vs him

You Christmas Bonus:

My favourite feature of search analysis, are those golden nuggets – those secret searches that we all do, but don’t want anyone to know. Those searches that provide a real, honest window into the psyche of the searcher, questions and keywords that say so much more than the words of what we’re looking for.

The more candid, often comical, sometimes embarrassing, confessional truth:

- Christmas presents pranks
- Taking away Christmas presents as punishment
- How to open Christmas presents without getting caught
- Who delivers Christmas presents to dogs
- How to celebrate Christmas after losing a loved one
- How to get more Christmas presents
- Can't afford Christmas presents
- Do prisoners get Christmas presents

The beauty of analysing search, as Seth Stephens-Davidowitz pioneered in his book Everybody Lies, is that we can discover so much more in what’s confessed privately (to Google) over what’s said publicly on social channels. It’s the beauty of search data, that helps gives us a more complete insight, adding qualitative findings to quantitative clicks, to answer those more ambiguous questions in human behaviour.

Which is how we learn that Mrs. Clause is Googling  ‘Christmas presents for a husband that has everything’ – I mean, what do you get someone that already has a magic sleigh full of presents?!

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