Can't figure out what gifts to give this holiday? If the searching behavior of 10 million Internet users is any indication, the item people most want is surprise! the iPod, which remains the undefeated champion of the holiday-product Web search. In fact, the top three holiday gift search terms this year are all perennials: "iPod" in the top spot, along with the video game console du jour this season, the Nintendo "Wii" and, for the third year in a row, "Ugg boots," a piece of Australian footwear some (okay, I) might consider the ultimate sheepskin fashion faux pas.
Not only are Uggs back, but they're back with a vengeance. Based on the Hitwise sample, searches for Uggs increased 23% compared with the same week last year. And the top three product search terms in the apparel category are all Ugg-ly: "Ugg boots," "Uggs" and "Ugg." In the retail category, Internet users declared this year's uncontested winner in the war of video game consoles: Nintendo's Wii, which is the second most searched retail product after the iPod. (The next most popular gaming console is the Xbox 360, which comes in a distant second to the Wii as the 12th most searched term.)
Even some of the hottest toys this season have been around for decades the most popular searches include "Barbie," "Lego" and my favorite childhood toy, "Hot Wheels." New-guard toys, like "Bratz," "American Girl" and "Transformers," round out the list. The biggest difference between modern toys and those of yore is perhaps the webification of the former. If the fine print on packages once read "batteries not included," get ready to see a new disclaimer on toys of the future: "social network included." The increasingly popular Ganz toy "Webkinz," for example, seems at first glance like a simple stuffed animal, but it actually comes complete with its own online persona and a secret-coded portal to the Webkinz World online, where kids care for their virtual pet and earn KinzCash. The latest entrant to this year's most-popular list is a collection of toys called the "Littlest Pet Shop," which also includes a social network online. And even the old bird Barbie now has her own interactive Internet playspace. (Didn't Barbie recently break up with Ken? Maybe she met someone else online.)
Search terms have always proven to be an accurate indication of what the hot gift items will be this coming holiday season, even down to the smallest detail. Black and brown Uggs, for example, will be among the most popular colors this season, and "Ugg boots," "shoes" and "slippers" will be most sought in that order. But one size doesn't necessarily fit all: For the first time, "Guy Uggs" and "Man Uggs" have appeared in the list of most popular search terms. So, if my wife happens to be reading this week's column and is searching for a last-minute Chanukah gift idea, I have one request: Please don't.
Bill Tancer is general manager of global research at Hitwise