Why YouTube is the Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide

Ready or not, Black Friday is upon us. The day after Thanksgiving (and increasingly the day of), shoppers across the country will officially begin their frantic search for that elusive “perfect” gift for their loved ones. And, every year, more and more shoppers are turning to YouTube to strategize their mad pursuit. The video platform has quickly become the most trusted resource for smart shoppers. A recent study from Google found the following:

“YouTube is a stand out for shoppers: 64% referenced the video site as the most influential channel for making shopping decisions.”

Add the fact that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, the result is a holiday shopping guide that you just can’t find anywhere else. For brands, this presents an enormous opportunity to be “front of mind” for shoppers looking for an excuse to seal the deal and cross someone off their holiday gift list.

Using ZEFR’s Brand ID technology, we pulled some numbers to help illustrate the different characteristics that make YouTube the ultimate gift guide and why brands should care.

First, to give a sense of the overall scope of this trend, we recently looked at the available data for Black Friday on YouTube, and came away with these impressive numbers:

Black Friday Views Gift Guide

Note: stay tuned for our “post-holiday” recap to see how this season took shape.

Gift Guides for any industry or any product, for any person on your list

For virtually any industry or product you can think of, there are fans on YouTube creating videos about them. While Amazon and other ecommerce sites are limited to the inventory they stock and sell, YouTube has it all. Fans review and discuss their favorite items of the season, regardless of brand or category, with billions of viewers paying close attention and adding products to their own “favorites” lists.

If that limitless sense of choice seems overwhelming, thankfully shoppers can begin their gift search by simply typing in “gift guide for ___” into the search bar.

Gift Guide Search

We gathered statistical data for searches containing the phrases “gift guide for him” and “gift guide for her” on YouTube that reveal how this resource for shoppers has become larger than a trend and more like a seasonal event attracting swarms of shoppers to rival the crowds on Black Friday itself.

“Gift Guide for Her” Videos: 591
“Gift Guide for Her” Views: 3,803,619
“Gift Guide for Him” Videos: 400
“Gift Guide for Him” Views: 3,024,039

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Again, YouTube has it all. It’s simply a matter of knowing what you’re looking for and where to find it.

How brands are getting involved

As a brand, if you can recognize and understand these video trends, you’ll notice an opportunity to be front and center for anyone watching. Moreover, being able to pair the right message at the right time to the right person is what we at ZEFR strive to achieve, and the holiday season in particular serves as the perfect reminder for why this strategy is so important.

Looking at specific video examples, one the best “gift guide” video creators is Fleur DeForce. The YouTuber’s 2014 edition of “Christmas Gift Guide for Her!” already has well over 300K views:

And, here are all the products that made it on to Fleur’s list, which also includes off-site links for shoppers to click through and easily buy everything online:

  • The Body Shop Glazed Apple Set
  • Bobbi Brown Mini Eyeshadow Palette
  • Too Faced Eyeshadow Palette
  • Laura Mercier Petit Patisserie Body Souffle Set
  • Clarisonic Aria Winter Lace Edition
  • Victoria’s Secret Fragrance Cracker
  • Elemis Spa Light Candle
  • ASOS Scarf
  • Alex Monroe Necklace
  • Philip Lim Mini Pashli Handbag


Interestingly, Fleur includes the following disclaimer at the end of her video description, which serves to highlight the opportunity for brands to partner with YouTube’s top creators:

“My Christmas Gift Guide series this year is sponsored by The Body Shop. All of the gifts were chosen and paid for by me with the exception of the Too Faced, Elemis and The Body Shop products, which were sent to me for review consideration.”

As another example of how brands might align with this trend, Ryobi has created a gift-guide video of their own, collaborating with sister creators Shanty-2-Chic:

Cabella’s took it a step further and created an interactive guide using YouTube annotations:

Authentic, first-hand reviews that shoppers trust

Because 86% of branded content comes from fans instead of official brand channels, the most important aspect to keep in mind here is the level of authenticity that YouTube presents. For example, instead of relying on a traditional TV spokesperson to recommend the latest must-have gift, you can watch your peers actually use and review products in their own living rooms, with no other agenda other than to share useful information.

This “authenticity” is the driving force behind purchase decisions, creating an environment of trust, with shoppers seeking out the best information they can find. Are you more likely to buy a Roomba because of a flashy advertisement you see on television, or because a fellow fan on YouTube shows you that it works and he/she personally loves it?

Or, to illustrate the amazing creativity and unpredictability of these fan videos, maybe an even better question is whether you’re more likely to buy a Roomba because of a video of a cat wearing a shark costume riding around on a Roomba:

Happening at a massive scale that demands a brand’s attention

It can be difficult at times to comprehend the true size of the opportunity that brands have to align with content creators on YouTube. At ZEFR, we use our technology to help brands find and target content that matters most to them. And, what’s surprising is just how massive the view counts can get, even after targeting specific products.

To illustrate this scale, we did a search for three different gifts – one for tech, one for beauty, and one for the kid in all of us:

Tech Gift

Below is one great example of how potential tablet buyers are faced with “vs.” videos when trying to decide on the best gift. “Vs.” videos are very common in the tech community on YouTube, with products of every shape and size facing off against each other for top-dog status:

Gift Guide.001

Beauty Gift

Tutorials on YouTube represent a unique value add for any gift. Instead of having to rely on paper instruction manuals that no one reads any more, imagine being able to send your Secret Santa some helpful “how-to” videos as a gift.

For anyone on your list that is new to the world of makeup, beauty tutorials are probably the most widespread example of seeing products in action thanks to the enormous and active“Beauty Guru” community. Here is one video using the Naked 3 palette to help put together a look for those holiday parties coming up:

Gift Guide.003

Kid Gift

Trying to decide on that perfect Play-Doh set for your picky 4 year old? From Disney princesses to making ice cream cones or Spongebob, YouTube can point you down the right path to find a Play-Doh set that caters to any child’s interests.

Gift Guide.002

Stocking Stuffer

As the above info hopefully illustrates, shoppers can approach and engage with YouTube in a variety of ways, and the amount of influence the platform holds over purchasing decisions is only growing. This holiday season is poised to offer more opportunities for brands than any year previous. Whether that means aligning with targeted content through advertising, or creating custom content that aligns with a fan trend, the choice to get involved and develop a strategy should be an easy one. The sooner brands recognize this opportunity, the better positioned they will be as social video continues to grow into next year and beyond. If you’ve missed the boat already this season, just store these tips in your stockings for next year as YouTube and its purchasing influence will only continue to grow at a pace almost no one (not even YouTube itself) could have predicted.


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