What kinds of local businesses do consumers search for directions to over the holiday period?

Digital knowledge management platform Yext has conducted a search trends study with a difference. The company tracked and aggregated searches for directions to nearby businesses during the month of December to discover when and how consumers were searching for businesses over the holidays.

The findings, released today, paint an interesting picture of consumer foot traffic over the holiday period. They give an insight into the peak times for certain businesses throughout the month, as well as the times when demand drops off dramatically.

While the results are all relative – providing information on comparatively large increases and decreases in demand, but not actual volume of searches – they could be useful to retailers wanting to know when to up their spend on PPC advertising, position offers to drive more foot traffic in-store, or when to double-check that their opening hours, locations and contact details are completely accurate.

Some of the findings are to be expected; others are quite surprising. Here are eight that stood out.

1. Many consumers get their banking sorted at the beginning of the month

The 2nd December is the day of choice to go to the bank: Yext found that searches for directions to a nearby bank branch rise by 14% on the 2nd, compared to the average for that day of the week.

Yext’s analysis speculates that consumers are “stock[ing] up on cash for their holiday shopping”, but they might also be paying in cheques, or sorting any outstanding transactions in anticipation of an expensive month ahead.

Either way, there’s plenty to do at the bank in early December. That the number isn’t higher is probably indicative of the number of people using online banking to manage their finances.

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2. Peak jewellery shopping day is the 22nd December

Searches for directions to jewellery stores start to climb around the 9th December, and rise steadily over the following two weeks, but by far the biggest day for jewellery shopping – and the best time to employ a strategic discount or enticing offer – is the 22nd December.

Yext found that searches for directions to jewellery stores peak at an astonishing 180% above average on the 22nd – the highest peak in any of the categories covered by the study, eclipsing even searches for liquor stores on New Year’s Eve.

This could be the result of deliberate planning on the part of shoppers, but I like to imagine it’s because thousands of spouses and significant others get to the 22nd, realise that they’ve still not bought a Christmas gift for their loved one, and panic-buy jewellery as a last resort.

Or perhaps they’re prepping for a romantic Christmas Day proposal?

3. Most people search for shipping services in mid-December

When is the best time to ship your gifts in time for the holidays? Too early, and most people won’t have bought their gifts yet – but leave it too late, and you risk getting caught in the Christmas rush, or having your item arrive after Christmas Day.

Yext’s study found that “December 17th and 18th are big days for mailing and shipping services—with clicks for driving directions rising over 70% above the norm—as gift-givers send gifts and cards.”

Sellers could also be influencing these trends, as the 17th and 18th are probably also some of the latest dates that purchases can safely be shipped out to arrive in time for Christmas (unless you’re Amazon).

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4. No-one wants to lose weight in early December

Amusingly, one of the most pronounced negative trends in the study was an overall 20% drop in searches for nutrition and weight loss stores between the 3rd and 13th December.

I think the 3rd December must be the date on which the entire population collectively gives up on the idea of dieting, realising that the holiday season is upon them, and succumbs to the inevitable month-long food coma.

There’s always New Year’s resolutions, right?

5. Christmas Day sees an upsurge in pharmacy visits

And speaking of food comas… to the surprise of no-one, the 25th December is the peak day for visits to the pharmacy, with a whopping 95% increase in searches for nearby pharmacies, presumably to buy heartburn medication after a massive Christmas dinner.

Of course, the jury’s out on whether they’ll be open, as many pharmacies will close their doors or drastically reduce their hours on Christmas Day, but those who are open stand to benefit from a surge in Christmas Day-related drug sales.

6. Pet store visits peak on the 21st

This is an interesting one. If you’re buying a pet for a loved one for Christmas, the most popular day to do so is the 21st December, with searches for directions to pet stores up 54% on that day.

This could be another last minute Christmas gift trend similar to jewellery, but it also stands to reason that pet purchases would happen quite late in the month – after all, the earlier you buy them, the longer they need to be looked after for before being given to the recipient.

7. Late December is bad for flower business

If you’re a florist, you might want to close up shop for the last week in December. Yext found that searches for flower shops drop by 18% for the last few days in December, between the 26th and the 31st.

I actually find this trend quite surprising: in my personal experience, a lot of social visits take place in the days immediately after Christmas Day – the kind of event that might necessitate buying a bunch of flowers.

Then again, maybe everyone is just bringing booze – see next point…

8. It’s New Year’s Eve…. Let’s get smashed!

In the study’s least shocking discovery, searches for nearby liquor stores peak for the month on the 31st December, with a 123% increase in consumers looking for places to buy booze. Cheers, everyone.