The year is 2012. You and a record-setting 8 million people are watching live as supersonic skydiver Felix Baumgartner breaks the sound barrier with his 24-mile free fall to Earth. In another tab, Psy’s Gangnam Style plays for the umpteenth time. In a few months, it will become the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views. You’re doing all of this, of course, on your desktop, a device that still accounts for roughly 85% of web traffic globally.
That same year, we introduced Think with Google. Our goal was simple: Give digital marketers insights into behavioural and cultural trends based on Google data, all in a single destination.
So much has changed in the decade since. For one, there’s a much higher chance you’re reading this article on a mobile device, as mobile usage now makes up almost 60% of global web traffic. In that time, Think with Google has charted the evolution of consumer behaviour as new digital technologies have emerged — from the rise of apps to the growing popularity of voice searches.
To mark our 10-year milestone, here are 10 illuminating insights that tell the story of that digital marketing evolution.
What we discovered in a 2013 ethnographic study is that people use Search for many reasons — from answering the practical to pondering the poignant.
What we discovered in a 2013 ethnographic study is that people use Search for many reasons — from answering the practical (“Where can I buy these shoes?”) to pondering the poignant (“Who do I want to be?”).
In 2015, 82% of smartphone users consulted their phones while in-store shopping.
We called these “micro-moments,” and they were becoming increasingly widespread. That year, 82% of smartphone users consulted their phones while in-store shopping.
As Lisa Gevelber, then-VP of marketing for the Americas at Google, wrote two years later in a piece that reflected on this trend, “the use of the search phrase ‘near me’ [is] a crucial bit of information for advertisers. If people are searching for something near them, that’s a pretty strong signal of intent.”
In 2018, 7 in 10 Gen Zers said watching videos with others helped them feel more connected.
But YouTube data from 2018 revealed the emergence of a trend that would explode just a few years later: the rise of video as an interactive, social experience. For example, we saw a huge interest in videos that encouraged viewers to do something — study, clean, read — at the same time as a YouTuber and their followers. And seven in 10 Gen Zers said watching videos with others helped them feel more connected.
Almost 150 years later, the technology was widespread and starting to influence how people behave. In 2019, 27% of the global online population was using voice search on mobile.
People were desperate to get back to a sense of normality and start doing things they missed. Virtual social experiences never fully went away.
On the one hand, people were desperate to get back to a sense of normality and start doing things they missed out on. Around the world in 2021, we saw a 2X increase in searches containing the words “zoo tickets.” But virtual social experiences never fully went away. For example, in the same period we also saw a 90% year-over-year increase in searches containing the term “watch party.”