Accelerating behaviours: What Search trends tell us about changing consumer habits

Lucy Sinclair / April 2021

As we consider what the world could look like after the pandemic, one thing is certain: many of our old habits have changed, in some cases, permanently.

Behaviours that we saw emerging even before the pandemic have accelerated. And we’ll continue to change and evolve. Google Search offers powerful insights into these changes in consumer habits. For example, we’ve seen interest for “grocery stores” and “takeaways” unexpectedly shift to weekdays, while "delivery" and "discount codes" saw higher interest during weekends.

By looking at thousands of Google searches across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, we’ve found fascinating insights into the new ways we’re living, working, playing, and shopping. The video below features a quick overview of these new habits that we expect will sustain in 2021.

Insights from Search show we’ve been breaking old ‘habit loops’, which are long-standing patterns of behaviour that govern the way we go about our daily lives. Here are key ways our habits have fundamentally changed.

We’ve learned new skills, online and offline

Our learning habits have shifted online and we’ve taken a DIY approach to at-home needs. Interest increased for skills-based searches, such as "how to cut hair” in the U.K. and "how to make a robot" in Nigeria, as we've adapted to home schooling and spent our lockdowns learning new things. While some were searching for ways to manage daily tasks, others were looking for ideas to cope with boredom. With many more people now aware of how easy it is to upskill online and discover how to do things themselves, these searches for knowledge are expected to continue.

We're increasingly seeking inspiration and ideas online

With window shopping made impossible for much of the past year, browsing and buying habits have changed. Consumers have gone online for shopping inspiration. “Bathroom ideas” (“badezimmer ideen”, Germany) and “home gym ideas” (“gimnasio en casa ideas”, Spain) all saw increases in Search interest. Even when physical stores reopen, we expect people will continue to actively seek inspiration online as one of the first steps in their purchase journey.

We’re looking for balance in our (work from home) lives

Many people have no intention of going back to the classic 9-5 working day, as the pandemic saw people embrace remote working. Searches for “high adjustable desk” (“höj och sänkbart skrivbord”, Sweden) and “comfortable office chair” (“fauteuil de bureau ergonomique”, France) show we’re planning for the long haul. We’ve also reassessed the balance between work and family time, while discovering new ways to unwind. We’ve been looking for ways to switch off from work, ranging from “woodland walks near me” (U.K.) to going to a “virtual gym” (“gym virtual”, Spain). While some new ventures, such as a “virtual museum visit” (“visite virtuelle musée”, France), are likely to revert back to their traditional form when local guidelines allow, others have shown us how convenient virtual ‘outings’ can be, and they are here to stay.

We’ve discovered new ways to stay connected

We’ve had to find new ways to communicate and connect from our homes, with Search interest in “games to play with friends” (“juegos para jugar con amigos”, Spain) increasing. Many of us have also embraced new communities online: “virtual choirs” (U.K.), “virtual class” (“aula virtual”, Spain), and even “virtual regatta” (France) all saw an increase in interest. While most of us can’t wait to embrace our loved ones in person, many of these online communities are likely to stay around in some form. After all, we’ve become more familiar with socialising through our screens this past year. And while this will no longer be the default way to connect post-pandemic, it has become a more habitual way to stay in touch.

And we've found new ways to have fun

With fewer traditional ways to have fun, we’ve been looking for new things to do, ranging from “online board games” (“jeux de société en ligne”, France) to “sushi at home” (“sushi a domicilio”, Spain). As lockdowns continued, we moved from short-term diversions to longer-term life decisions, as evidenced by increased Search interest for “adopt a dog” (“adottare un cane”, Italy). Fun fact: 11% of British households adopted a new pet during the pandemic. Even as we return to enjoy ourselves in a more traditional way, some of these changes in our daily lives are here for the long-term.

Searching for the way: Respond to new consumer habits

As we assess our new post-pandemic world, one thing is certain: consumer behaviours will remain dynamic. New needs will emerge. Existing patterns will accelerate. And businesses must be ready to embrace this acceleration.

It’s important to adapt your business strategy to allow for a swift pivot to meet these changing consumer behaviours. You can use tools to put insights at the centre of your strategy. Google Trends shows real-time rises in Search interest. And the new Insights page in Google Ads highlights insights curated for your business, so you can quickly identify emerging opportunities.

We’ll continue to be faced with accelerated behaviours and unexpected changes. But by looking for solutions today, we’ll be ready for tomorrow.

The Search collection: Searching for the way