Search insights to help you understand consumer needs in uncertain times – 30 March 2020 edition

Lucy Sinclair / April 2020 / Consumer Insights, Research & Data

Lucy Sinclair is the director of the insights team at Google Europe, where she and her team analyse changes in consumer behaviour. In this regularly updated article she’ll be highlighting what topics are on people’s minds during this unprecedented time.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt by everyone around the world, changing the daily lives of people and businesses. As people adapt, consumer needs and behaviours are constantly changing, posing new challenges to marketers.

In order to help you understand what is top of mind for people during this period, we’ll be regularly mining Google Trends data across Europe. These insights will cover three key areas:

  • Immediate needs
  • New day-to-day realities
  • New trends in behaviour

Compared to the search trends we highlighted last week, priorities seem to have changed. People are moving outside activities into their homes, with a global shift from search interest in ‘restaurants’ to ‘delivery’. Whether it’s cooking, socialising, or learning — consumers are adapting and innovating every day.

The Google Trends insights highlighted in this edition (week of 30 March 2020), show a particular increase in searches for: helpful information to bridge knowledge gaps about the changing situation; how to stay productive, active, and socially connected; and technology to keep learning, stay fit, and virtually go outdoors.

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Immediate needs

As the current situation is changing so quickly, Google Trends insights show there is uncertainty about what this means for people’s personal situations. For example, in many parts of Europe governments are closing non-essential services, but what is classified as ‘essential’? Consumers have turned to search to fill this knowledge gap and find immediate answers to questions related to:

Financial aid coverage and new payment methods. In the Netherlands there was a spike in search interest for ‘applying for self-employment benefits’ ('zzp uitkering aanvragen') in the past week, while Swedes started searches for information on ‘debt restructuring’ (‘företagsrekonstruktion’).

Essential services and store opening hours. It’s important that retailers are forthcoming in how they communicate their opening hours, as customers seem to have more questions about this right now. In Turkey people searched for ‘is it open’ ('açık mı?'), and in Germany there was an increased search interest in if hardware stores are still open ('baumärkte noch'), highlighting consumers’ uncertainty about which stores are classified as essential services.

Helping people in need and celebrating the efforts of key workers. In the U.K. both ‘how to volunteer for’ ('how to volunteer for') and ‘clap for’ ('clap for') saw a spike in searches, as Brits en masse applauded care workers and those working for the National Health Service (NHS). In the Netherlands, people have increasingly been looking into ways to ‘help the healthcare industry’ (‘zorg helpen’).

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New day-to-day realities

Though the current situation is changing constantly, consumers are adapting and finding new ways to stay productive, active, and socially connected day-to-day. Google Trends also highlights that they’re looking for information on how to do everyday things themselves that they may have previously outsourced to professionals. This week’s searches show a rising interest in:

Maintaining social connections and recreating communities online. As people are spending more time at their own homes, they’re finding new ways to stay connected with their family, friends, and communities online. There has been an increase in searches for ‘houseparty app’ ('houseparty app') in Denmark, video calling ('videobellen') in the Netherlands, and ‘mass of the pope today’ ('messa del papa oggi') in Italy.

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Grooming (even for pets) at home. Many people are taking a DIY approach to grooming now that they are staying home. There has been an increased search interest in’ acrylic nail kit’ ('acrylic nail kit') and ‘dog grooming kit’ ('dog grooming kit') in the U.K., and ‘cut hair yourself’ ('haare selber schneiden') in Germany. In the Netherlands, collective handwashing has led to a growing number of queries about ‘dry skin’ (‘droge huid’) care.

More time in the kitchen. People have also started to experiment in the kitchen, with Norwegians showing a growing interest in ‘recipes’ (‘oppskrifter’), Germans wanting to ‘make their own yeast’ (‘hefe selbst’), and Italians looking for ways to make their own ‘simple cookies’ (‘biscotti semplici’).

New trends in behaviour

Spending more time at home means that people are finding opportunities to adapt to the new situation by bringing different activities indoors, such as connecting with the outside world and staying fit. In the last week there was increased search interest in:

New forms of entertainment. From ‘VR headsets’ ('virtual reality headset') in Sweden and Germany, to ‘smart TV’ ('smart tv') in Spain, Italy, and the U.K., and the more old-fashioned ‘puzzles’ in Denmark (‘puslespil’) and Belgium (‘puzzelen’): throughout Europe, people have been searching for ways to keep themselves entertained during their time at home.

Connect with the outside world through virtual travel. In the Netherlands there was a rising search interest for ‘webcam Scheveningen’ ('webcam scheveningen'), which is a popular beach in the country, suggesting that people were looking for different ways to connect to the outside world. In Spain consumers increasingly searched for ‘escape room online’ ('escape room online').

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Adapting to new ways of learning and staying fit indoors. In Turkey there has been an increasing search interest for ‘distance education’ (uzaktan eğitim) -- and an increase in searches for ‘lion and tiger 3D view’ in Saudi Arabia, the U.K. (‘lion and tiger 3d view’), as well as the Netherlands (‘leeuwen 3d’) and Denmark (‘tiger 3d view’). People are also looking to stay fit in their own home as there has been an increased search interest for ‘table tennis table’ ('table tennis table') and ‘basketball hoop’ ('basketball hoop') in the UK, ‘daily sport class’ ('tägliche sportstunde') in Germany, and ‘yoga videos’ ('jogaavideo') in Finland.

Long-distance celebrations. As birthdays are celebrated in isolation, there has been a spike in searches around showing affection from a distance. In the Netherlands, searches for ‘sending postcards’ (‘kaartje sturen’) and ‘sending balloons’ (‘ballon versturen’) are steadily on the rise, while in Denmark, there is an increased interest in flower delivery (‘blomster udbringing’).

Explore more consumer behaviour trends

While this analysis provides a regularly updated snapshot of trends and shifting consumer behaviours across Europe, we understand it may be helpful to review the information more frequently, or for a specific country or region. To explore further insights, here are 10 tips for using Google Trends yourself. By entering a keyword or a topic into the tool, you can explore what the world is searching for in near real time.

How to stay on top of market trends in a dynamic environment