The 4 Ds of Holiday Shopping Behavior

Understand how to meet your customer in the moment

With shoppers moving seamlessly across digital, physical, virtual and social platforms, it can be difficult to show up in the right way for them. And as the holiday season approaches, showing up at the right moment, with the right message can be the difference for whether you hit year-end targets or not.

But by understanding the four holiday shopper mindsets and using AI-powered tools to show up at each stage of the shopper journey in more connected, consistent ways, marketers will be well-positioned to hit their business goals this season and beyond. 


The holiday season starts off with shoppers in a deliberate mindset, which typically happens throughout October and into the early November timeframe—though it can start as early as May.

This deliberate shopper wants to get a jumpstart on planning their gift list, looking for product reviews, researching price, availability and promotions, and might even strategically purchase gifts during this timeframe to spread out their spending through the season. By the end of October, 50% of Americans are shopping for the holidays over any two-day period and an average of 29% of their holiday shopping is complete, according to a Google/Ipsos Holiday Shopping Study.

To make sure you’re not missing these shoppers and leaving early holiday sales on the table, it’s important to work on your holiday strategy well in advance to be there at the right moment for this shopper. With the help of AI, marketers can interpret billions of signals on search and can cast a wide coverage net as these shoppers seek out gift ideas. Marketers can also take this time to build a deep funnel of interest with video content, to be ready to close with the deliberate shopper as they enter a purchase-oriented mindset.


Shifting into the November timeframe and approaching Cyber Week, shoppers’ early holiday planning shifts into a more deal-seeking mindset.

Shoppers are ready to buy, but on their terms. They have done their homework, researching, comparing products and watching videos, and know the best value for their money. And while shoppers have come to expect great deals during Cyber 5—the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday—these shoppers have caught on that many retailers have begun releasing deals earlier or are keeping them active the days following Cyber Monday.

To make the most of the deal-seeking mindset, retailers need to continue their investment against the traditional period of Cyber 5, but also continue to invest in these moments the week before and week after Cyber Week to capture the full opportunity.


Moving into the December timeframe, the shopper shifts into a determined mindset. It’s crunch time to get all those gifts for loved ones, so shoppers have high intent and are ready to purchase now.

In the U.S., digital becomes an even bigger, more critical role to win this determined shopper. This is because the average number of digital resources that shoppers use increases significantly after the Cyber period, according to a Google/Ipsos Holiday Shopping Study.

Given the time crunch, omnichannel strategies move to the forefront of marketers’ plans. To bridge your digital and physical storefronts, best-in-class omnichannel AI solutions that feature local offerings, promotions and inventory are a key lever to deliver sales.


Finally, the devoted mindset kicks in after the holiday, spanning from Christmas Day into early January. The gift recipient shifts though, with a significant bump in the number of self-gifting shopping occasions post-holiday, according to a Google/Ipsos Holiday Shopping Study.

This opens up new chances to connect with loyal shoppers and build momentum into the new year. While shoppers take advantage of seasonal deals and special inventory to buy for themselves all season, it really takes off starting the day after Christmas once they’ve tackled their gift list. These shoppers are also more likely to consider a loyalty program when making a purchase, which can set you up with much-needed momentum into the next year.

One of the most important places to accomplish this is with your apps. According to, the two weeks starting Dec. 25 were the biggest iOS and Google Play combined app download weeks of last year.

App campaigns can help you ensure that if you were on a shopper’s phone on Dec. 24 and they get a new phone this holiday season, your app makes it onto the new phone and you don’t lose a valued customer in the new year. The ability to connect in an app not only enables a quicker checkout, but it also connects to loyalty program rewards in one seamless experience. This keeps shoppers coming back to you, with 87% of retailers agreeing that their app users are more loyal and have a higher lifetime value than non-users, per Google/Ipsos findings.

Jane Butler, VP, sales – retail ecommerce, is a 20-year veteran of Google and has held multiple leadership roles on the advertising side of the business.