Thursday, December 11, 2014

Examining Search and Social Behavior for Holiday Shopping

Now is the time of year when shopping malls and toy stores have lines out the door. With doorbuster deals beginning just after Thanksgiving dinner, many consumers now forgo the long lines and parking lot battles and shop online instead.
As one could imagine, the use of search engines and social media play a big role in how users shop online, especially during the holidays. The following is a look at some interesting trends that occurred over the past few weeks, with a focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Kicking the Social Promotion Off Early

Over the past few years, big box stores such as Target have gotten more and more aggressive with when they start their "Black Friday" deals. In fact, as many of us saw all day Thursday while watching football, Target started its doorbuster deals on Thursday at 6 p.m. Over the two-day period (Thanksgiving and Black Friday), more than 3.6 million tweets were sent related to "Black Friday." As shown in the graph below pulled from Sysomos, around 1.3 million tweets related to Black Friday were sent out on Thanksgiving, while volume picked up to just less than 2.3 million tweets on Black Friday.
When expanding this data set out to encompass Cyber Monday and expanding the Boolean query to include Cyber Monday related terms, we still see Black Friday being the dominant content mentioned as well as dominating total volume.
Based on data provided by, these tweets ranged across a wide array of product categories. The engagement with the links tweeted also varied based on category.
Here is a look at the top product categories mentioned on Black Friday as well as engagements with them.
As the data shows, certain categories received significantly more engagement than others. Electronics was by far the most successful, while automotive and book categories pushed out a lot of content, but received little interaction.
On Cyber Monday, the number of categories that hit the minimum requirement of volume actually decreased. Consumer electronics continued to dominate in terms of volume and engagement.

Examining Search Behavior

While social is becoming more and more part of the promotion of driving sales over the holidays, search is still king. As you can expect, search volume around terms related to Black Friday and Cyber Monday skyrocket on their respective days. This can be seen in the graph located below from Google trends.
The interesting part of this data set is users are searching for Cyber Monday significantly less than Black Friday. Yes, Black Friday has more awareness, but Cyber Monday is a Web-based program. The rational assumption would be for Cyber Monday to be a more active search term on search engines.
When looking at specific products such as TVs, we see a similar pattern.
This specific pattern is also mirrored when search for short tailed terms that do not contain "Black Friday" or "Cyber Monday" as shown in the following graph.
When looking at this data from a macro level, it is quite apparent that Black Friday is still in the minds of individuals when it comes to holiday shopping. Whether it’s across social networks or via search engines, Black Friday trumps Cyber Monday in terms of search volume and activity across social networks and search engines.

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