Consumers search and shop online for Father’s Day gifts quite differently than they do for Mother’s Day.

John Roswech, executive vice president, Brand Solutions, Criteo

John Roswech, executive vice president, Brand Solutions, Criteo

For what can seem a relatively minor celebration, Father’s Day is big business. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts total spend in the US for 2017 is expected to reach an unprecedented $15.5 billion, beating the record set last year of $14.3 billion.

That’s a lot of fishing tackle, and – given that one of the key trends in Father’s Day shopping is last-minute purchases – this is among the most important times of the year for search strategies.

According to the annual NRF survey, Father’s Day shoppers are expected to spend an average $134.75 for the holiday, up from last year’s $125.90. Impressive growth, but the total pales besides the $172.22 spent on every mother for Mother’s Day last year.

As with so much in a retail economy where there is increasingly so much product and price parity, special “experiential” gifts are expected to be in demand – much more so than with moms, where jewelry and food purchases soar around Mother’s Day. The NRF reports that 27 percent of dads would like an experiential gift such as a ticket to a sports event or gig and 25 percent of gifters intend to give one.

Fine-tuning product descriptions is vital as shoppers may be buying products with which they are not familiar.

Searching for that gift, 40 percent of consumers will head for a department store, while 34 percent will hop online. Others still will visit discount or specialist stores. Of those with smartphones, 33 percent will use them to search for gifts, but only 18 percent to purchase. Tablet figures are remarkably similar. Mobile conversion rates soar at the weekend, as consumers shop in-store with their devices in-hand.

However, some of the most popular gifts do not depend on online search, presenting us with a muddier picture than for some other holidays.

The most frequently given gift (64 percent of consumers) is the greetings card, not one searched for online. But cards only account for $861 million of the total spend. Planned spending on personal care products like scent and razors, increases more than virtually any category, especially at the very last minute, but – again – these are not major search categories in the run-up to the big day.

It is in traditional gift categories such as boating and fishing, golfing, camping and old-school electronics like cameras and televisions where we see the most dramatic shifts in both units sold and related dollar values. Research from Criteo’s Sponsored Product Retail Network reveals increases of 59 percent and 85 percent respectively in boating and fishing, 60 percent and 51 percent in golfing, 30 percent and 21 percent in cameras. Unlike personal care, they are all higher-priced individual units that are not frequent, all-year-round purchases.

In both buying cycle and products bought, Father’s Day is clearly very different from Mother’s Day, which tends to blur at the edges with the Easter period and be planned further in advance. But, there are lessons in how retailers can tailor products for search that apply to both.


Fine-tuning product descriptions is vital as shoppers may be buying products with which they are not familiar. Being smart about placements means covering primary categories and complementary ones (sneakers and running vests). It’s important to start in good time with sponsored products to reach those who do plan and reserving budgets to have enough spend for those many last-minute shoppers is particularly vital for Father’s Day.

In addition to those hard to categorize experiences, what else might be a new thing for 2017? Perhaps it’s voice-controlled speaker devices. This year Google Home looks set to give Amazon’s Echo some real competition – although some dads may prefer to hold out for the recently announced, but not yet launched, Apple Siri speaker.

While 4K televisions may belatedly go mainstream this year, and golf clubs and fishing rods will continue to be perennials, how much longer will camera sales continue to spike for Father’s Day? Whether for new products like “Home” or those on the decline like those cameras, plus those much-desired experiences, being ready for those last-week search queries is the key to Father’s Day success. And an online, offline, in-store mix seems set to be crucial in the decision-making process – at least until next year.

Criteo is a provider of digital advertising technology and services.