Frenzied crowds chasing “shocking” deals and a yearly spike in media spend are annualized and anticipated. The rhythm of Black Friday, the year’s biggest shopping event, is starting to become old hat, but advertisers have new technology and advertising channels to learn and leverage each year.

This year, a new set of data to digest comes courtesy of Google. For the first time, the search giant has released information about Black Friday shopping trends, pulled from Google Maps and anonymous location tracking. We now have an official picture of what time of day is busiest for Black Friday shopping, whether Black Friday or Christmas Eve is busier for different retail categories, and additional insights about travel and search behavior during Thanksgiving week.

At the same time, new Google AdWords features are empowering advertisers to take advantage of information about offline purchases and the true ROI of campaigns. Is there a better trial-by-fire for this new measurement than the holiday shopping season?

What Black Friday Shopping Really Looks Like

Here’s that data about foot traffic on Black Friday, conveyed in Google’s official infographic. Scroll past for the most important bits:

Black Friday Infographic

There are several highly actionable insights in this graphic. For example,

  • On Black Friday, stores are busiest in the afternoon (between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.), not the morning, as doorbuster sales and media coverage would suggest. In fact, comparatively, stores are dead in the wee hours of Friday morning, but Thursday evening sees huge traffic spikes for department stores and electronics stores.
  • Only electronics stores and cellphone stores are busiest on Black Friday. For other categories, like department stores and shopping malls, the last Saturday before Christmas is the busiest shopping day.
  • The only stores that see higher traffic on Christmas Eve than other holiday weekends are superstores and dollar stores. For shopping malls, cellphone stores, and electronics stores, Christmas Eve is less busy than every other other holiday shopping weekend, so it doesn’t make sense for these categories to bid more aggressively on Christmas Eve.

Black Friday Data is Changing the Game

These are interesting observations for advertisers and small business owners alike. In the PPC and social advertising categories, specifically, it’s a huge boon to know when a large share of customers in a certain category are already in-store. If you aren’t bidding aggressively at that time of day, you’re missing a huge opportunity to win omni-channel customers in the micro-moments when purchasing decisions are made. 82% of smartphones users consult their phones for buying advice while in a store, and 1 in 3 have changed their minds about a brand they were about to purchase because of that micro-moment.

This is especially actionable for retailers on Facebook, as the recently debuted Canvas allows major retailers to do real-time product marketing and re-marketing with clean, streamlined ad units.

For AdWords specialists, Google is taking things a step further. As of Tuesday, Google now reports on the keywords and ad groups that drive the most in-store visits. At the intersection of e-commerce and traditional retail, there is little knowledge with greater value than this. Suddenly, paid search ROI can reflect a wealth of offline leads. After all, local commerce is still 10 times larger than e-commerce.

Here’s what the AdWords team had to say on the change:

“Starting today, advertisers can get a more detailed view of offline measurement with the ability to breakout store visits at a keyword or ad group level, and the ability to view visits by day, week, or month to better inform bidding and campaign strategy. By reviewing data at this level, advertisers can understand which keywords or ad groups drive the most store visits. For example, a toy store may learn that certain dolls or action figures bring in the most visitors. With this insight, that toy store might invest in search terms that drive both online and offline sales, and display those products at the front of their store. As a reminder, store visits are based on anonymous and aggregated statistics and are shared in a privacy-safe way.”

“We fight a constant battle over how to attribute success to marketing programs and products,” says Mitchell McLain, Gruen Agency’s Director of Paid Search. “The difficulty is even further compounded by how detailed and granular our data is, or isn’t. Allowing brands to track in-store visits without the hassle of setting up physical beacons is a huge win for Google and advertisers. Ultimately, it makes Google a better search product and improves efficiency for paid search specialists, but with this collection of big data, we need to be wary of ‘analysis paralysis.’ It’s important to work with a marketing team capable of implementing what’s actionable and breaking down the result.”

Kyle Schweitz, Sr. Digital Account Manager, agrees. “Paid search specialists can leverage this data to give customers the info they desire in micro-moments,” Schweitz says. “The consumer’s experience in a micro-moments is increasingly linked to a successful conversion. Our expectations of information are greater and our attention spans have shortened. A significant competitive advantage will be gained by digital marketers who can capitalize.”

How does Black Friday and the holiday shopping season affect your digital marketing efforts? Which new insight or feature from Google seems most actionable for boosting physical sales? Join the conversation in the comments below!