To Win the Holiday Season, Consumer Tech Brands Have to Be Always On

Brands must forge connections well before October, according to Google

studio shot of different electronic products
New research from Google details how consumers shop for electronic devices. Getty Images
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

Consumer electronics brands looking to connect with holiday shoppers are likely too late for 2019 if they haven’t already invested in those relationships throughout the year.

That’s according to search giant Google, which said while consumer technology has ranked among the top five holiday gifts in the last two years, brands in this sector that want to win over holiday shoppers should be forging connections with consumers year-round.

Google’s advice for these brands: Be ready for early holiday shoppers, use an always-on strategy and have a presence both online and offline. Here’s a closer look:

Start your outreach early

Google’s data shows that holiday shoppers start early: In 2018, nearly 40% of consumers began their shopping in October, and nearly half of consumer electronics searches in Q4 came before Thanksgiving.

In addition, Google found that nearly half of consumer electronics customers start their journeys knowing what brand they want to buy. This reinforces Google’s point: Brands that want to be in that consideration set need to build awareness and forge connections before Black Friday.

Always on is the only way to be

Nevertheless, 53% of shoppers who have committed to a brand remain open to influence. They are also taking nine days longer to make their purchase decisions compared to 2015, which Google said is in part because the consumers are often “reconfirming information they looked up weeks ago.”

So even if consumer electronics shoppers approach the holiday season thinking they will buy a certain brand, if they are frequently interacting with another brand and have a good experience with that brand, and its products have all the features the customer wants, there’s potential for the competitor to win over said shopper. And the more that brand is present throughout a given journey, the higher the likelihood the brand will connect with that consumer, according to Lori Sobel, managing director of technology at Google.

“Personally, I believe consumers definitely still have brand loyalty,” she said. “One of the things that is critical for consumers is a connection with a brand. [They] go into shopping thinking, ‘That’s where I will purchase from.’ But the opportunity, as our research suggests, is they are open to other brands while going through this journey.”

Price is the No. 1 reason undecided shoppers stop considering a brand, which means brands without strong consumer connections risk letting Black Friday price wars determine purchase decisions.

“To avoid this, brands should consider an always-on strategy that allows them to capture demand when someone decides they’re ready to shop and buy,” according to the search giant. “Brands that consolidate efforts to key shopping days miss out on the full opportunity, as only 18% of holiday shoppers consolidate shopping to the Black Friday-to-Cyber Monday period.”

This is the strategy used by camera brand GoPro. CMO Todd Ballard said GoPro has found it’s important to be consistent with messaging throughout the year because in previous years when the company scaled back ad spending in Q3, it saw adverse effects in Q4 because it wasn’t bringing customers into the top of the funnel and conversions went down.

“This was probably 2017 that we made that realization as we were looking at our metrics year-over-year and noticed when we tried to get too clever in efficiencies and really have what we thought was an important, big ramp in Q4, it had an adverse effect when we were light in Q3,” Ballard said. “In 2018, we changed to an always-on approach all year.”

GoPro has also found it is competing for consumer attention with a broad range of consumer tech, including video game consoles and smart home devices.

“There are so many more products we’re competing with; ultimately, I think it’s important to become more focused on educating consumers … around our products and less just on the brand, especially around Q4,” Ballard said.

Have a presence online and offline

Google found tech shoppers who make a purchase in stores spend 68% of their research time online, with 57% of that time on mobile. That means brands with mobile-first experiences—or those with fast-loading pages, clear calls to action and minimal steps in the conversion path—are primed for success. Also, features such as guest checkout and autofill forms can add substantial value.

That’s because better mobile site experiences convert more customers and keep them coming back, according to Sobel. This holds true beyond consumer electronics.

“Industries that don’t capitalize on a great mobile website experience will absolutely lose customers,” she said. “They get frustrated and don’t have the time [and they leave].”

Google also found 24% of tech purchases are made on mobile devices in 2019, which is up from 7% in 2015. Smart speakers, smartwatches, wireless headphones and wireless speakers are among the top consumer electronic devices purchased on a mobile phone, whereas gaming consoles, smartphones and smart TVs are still typically purchased in stores.

Along with tech review sites, Google said online video is among the most influential information sources for consumer electronics shopping with half of shoppers using online videos while they are shopping in stores, which Sobel said is a signal that they are using video to confirm their choices right before making the actual purchase in-store.

And shoppers who use online video to inform their decision-making spend an average of 21% more on devices. According to Sobel, this is likely because those shoppers are more informed and comfortable thanks to unboxing and review videos.

@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.