How Google signals reveal shifts and surges in demand

To be ready for tomorrow, brands should keep a close eye on what’s happening today. But first, they need to know what to look for.

No two businesses face the same fluctuations in demand, so they can’t be expected to rely on the same data.1 Instead, they must be alert to online signals relevant to their category, related areas, geography, and marketing and sales channels when those signals provide actionable insight into how people search for their business.

“Today, businesses have more data and consumer signals, are better able to act on them, and can meet a higher standard for doing all of this more responsibly than ever before.”

— Allan Thygesen, Google President of the Americas

Aggregated, anonymized Google signals reflect unanticipated shifts, dips, and surges across categories.

Informed by those signals, brands facing unique challenges will be ready to pivot with purpose.

These signals reveal the fast-rising, disruptive trends that shape new norms.

They also put a spotlight on the fleeting ones you might miss if you blink.2

Once attuned, brands can respond in real time and at scale to signals while preserving user privacy.

For example, one well-known restaurant chain with 700 locations ran national campaigns prior to the pandemic. But given the staggered pace of recovery across states, the brand needed a more tailored approach.

By paying attention to where signals surged, the brand was able to spot rising local demand.

And to answer that demand, it leveraged automation, activating advertising only in those areas.

If interest subsided, the advertising was paused automatically.

In the uncertainty that follows reopening, business demand can ebb and flow. Cautious customers may be unwilling to rush back to stores just because they can.3

As restrictions loosened in some states, one quick-serve restaurant chain found its customers were still wary of returning to dining rooms. So instead of urging them to come inside, the brand changed its messaging to match their comfort level.

By automating both investment and ad creative based on Google signals, the chain was able to respond swiftly and at scale to what customers wanted.

There are more online signals than ever — too many for a marketer to parse. In this deluge of data, using automated tools is the only practical way to respond.4

The greater the brand’s ability to connect the dots, the more clearly they’ll understand what people want, allowing them to craft a more relevant message.5

Across categories, people are more likely to respond to messaging that reflects what matters to them. Ads that spoke to underlying needs drew 30% more clicks from people who knew the brand as well as those who hadn’t considered it.6

Trying to predict what people will do tomorrow is not a winning strategy, but listening to what matters to them today is. By paying attention to online signals, brands can stay on top of disruptive trends and respond in real time and at scale. Learn more about capturing demand through the power of signals.

1. Google Data, Global English, search interest for “restaurants open for,” March 11, 2020–May 9, 2020 vs. March 11, 2019–May 9, 2019.

Google Data, Global English, search interest for “takeout restaurants,” March 22–28, 2020 vs. March 15–21, 2019.

Google Data, Global English, search interest for “best skincare near me” and “veg box delivery,” April 1, 2020–May 30, 2020 vs. April 1, 2019–May 30, 2019.

Google Data, Global English, search interest for “click and collect” and “skincare,” April 15, 2020–June 13, 2020 vs. April 15, 2019–June 13, 2019.

Google Data, Global English, search interest for “best gaming phone,” “selfie hd camera,” “competitive multiplayer,” and “foaming facial cleanser,” May 20, 2020–July 18, 2020 vs. May 20, 2019–July 18, 2019.

Google Data, Global English, search interest for “bank account online,” “mobile banking app,” “can i travel,” “travel trailers for,” “best car under,” and “car sales,” June 3, 2020–Aug. 1, 2020 vs. June 3, 2019–Aug. 1, 2019.

Google Data, Global English, search interest for “slippers for,” “glamping near me,” and “car cleaning kit,” June 17, 2020–Aug. 15, 2020 vs. June 17, 2019–Aug. 15, 2019.

Google Data, Global English, search interest for “wall painting ideas,” “canning lids,” and “how to harvest,” July 1, 2020–Aug. 29, 2020 vs. July 1, 2019–Aug. 29, 2019.

Google Data, Global English, search interest for “second hand laptop,” “wealth management,” “student desk,” “cooking games with,” “games with friends,” and “delivery restaurants,” July 15, 2020–Sept. 12, 2020 vs. July 15, 2019–Sept. 12, 2019.

2. Google Trends, Global, “hair dye,” “lipstick,” “try on app,” “multiplayer games,” “boredom,” and “makeup games,” Sept. 15, 2019–Sept. 15, 2020.

3. Bank of America, U.S. Department of Commerce, ShawSpring Research, 2020.

4. Google/SKIM, U.S., Rethinking Readiness Study, Gen Pop 18+ n=4,461, March 20, 2020–April 3, 2020.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.