The launch of ChatGPT has fueled countless conversations around the advancements in AI and Search AI. My inbox is inundated with articles such as “Generative AI’s Breakout Year” and “Managing Creativity and AI”. Let’s face it – AI is here to stay.

Scary? Maybe… as thoughts of Jetsons-like robots taking over haunt me. But as I continue to read up and educate myself on it — dare I say engrain myself in it— I realize it’s not scary after all. With the Holiday shopping season around the corner, AI cannot be ignored when developing a brand’s Holiday strategy. Search Marketers can lean on consumer behavior trends to inform when and how to use AI for a successful Holiday season.

Trend #1: Consumer behavior is changing, and the way people search has evolved to be more conversational.Searches are getting more refined and more specific. As consumers are getting ready for the approaching Holiday shopping season, the modifiers they use within their searches can vary substantially depending on if they’re initially doing research, or if they’re comparison shopping, or if they’re ready to purchase. As Daryl Blanco said in his Zenith interview, “…Search continues to evolve and grow. 15% of all searches every day are brand new, in addition to longer form conversational queries.” Broad Match can be a powerful tool to help capture these ever-changing conversational queries particularly during Holiday. Broad Match has been evolving over time to become more relevant and effective, and thanks to new AI capabilities, Broad Match now can understand user’s intent. Zenith’s performance team has conducted tests across nearly two dozen brands and have seen a 94% success rate. We are also planning to include Broad Match across 95% of our brands’ Holiday search strategies. Broad Match can be a key tactic used by modern day performance marketers to drive both reach and results during the Holiday shopping season.

Trend #2: Consumer journeys are now moving targets: 61% of consumers are using five (5) or more online sources before they buy*, like search, watching an online video and going to maps. This is at an all-time high, even compared to the heights of COVID, and getting the “right message” in front of the “right consumer” at the “right time” can require many diverse strategies to be successful. AI can help alleviate some of this guesswork and can more easily expand a brand’s reach across platforms by finding consumers across various moments of their buying cycle. Zenith’s performance team has found success with Performance Max, a goal-based campaign type powered by AI, to easily find valuable new customers and demand opportunities across Google and Microsoft’s inventory. Their machine learning models optimize bids and placements to drive conversions or conversion value against the goals you set the campaign to achieve. Additional inputs can also be incorporated such as audience signals (i.e. client’s customer data), and high-quality text, images, and video that can significantly improve campaign performance. While a consumer’s purchase journey across channels during Holiday can be a bit unpredictable, we’ve successfully used Performance Max to stay ahead and can more easily reach consumers everywhere.

*Google/Ipsos, Holiday Shopping Study, Oct 13, 2022 – Jan 4 2023, Online survey, US, n=8,467, Americans 18+ who conducted holiday shopping activities in past two days

Trend #3: People are placing more importance on a retailer’s overall brand value proposition than on spending less money. Amid economic uncertainty and inflation, consumers are looking to minimize risk:  not only are they looking for deals, but they’re also placing importance on a brand’s value proposition. According to Google, “strategies like displaying ratings and offering free delivery and returns can surpass the effectiveness of a discount by 10% in a given product category.” Over the past few years, Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) have been successful proving that AI can optimize thoughtfully crafted assets into the best-performing combinations of creative. We believe that layering in value propositions as headlines within RSAs can enable brands to directly express the value and advantages they bring to consumers, encouraging them to confidently engage. The next evolution of asset development for Search is through “Automatically Created Assets”. This allows Google AI to generate high-quality copy tailored to a user’s search query. In addition to drawing on text from your landing page and other ads in your account, generative AI will make these assets even more relevant to customer queries while staying true to your offerings.

These latest advances in Search AI and the constant shifts in consumer behavior will undoubtedly reshape how businesses reach and engage with their customers. Google has become a natural extension of how humans find and discover information on just about everything. AI will be required to keep up with quickly evolving consumer behavior. We are living the next big evolution of digital! I believe that you shouldn’t be scared of AI — embrace it, because it’s here. Educate yourselves, plan ahead, ask questions, and most importantly — Test! Work with us and we’ll show you how AI can help to discover new, high-value consumers that can help fuel a successful Holiday season and beyond.

Written by Dorothy Kornacki, Director of Search @ Zenith USA

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