Searching for the way

Janusz Moneta / April 2021

In these fast-changing times, one of the most important questions marketers are asking themselves is, “Which changes are permanent?” As we search for ways to thrive in this new world, this question is crucial.

In the midst of the pandemic, we’ve seen consumer behaviours become more dynamic and unpredictable than ever. Now, one year into COVID-19, we see three consumer trends emerging that businesses should keep in mind as they move forward:

  1. The pandemic has accelerated existing shifts in behaviour
  2. People need more help than ever navigating choice complexity
  3. People want an open and affordable digital world, and that requires relevant ads that respect their privacy

These trends have staying power. Here’s how businesses can respond:

An illustration in black, white and green showing three icons that align with three business actions:  (1) Embrace acceleration (2) Be fast and helpful (3) Build trust, every time. The first icon shows a stylised upward moving line graph. The second icon

1. Embrace acceleration

Everything is speeding up. The pandemic has accelerated customer behavioural changes that were largely already underway. We’ve seen this acceleration in search volumes. For example, search interest for the term “ideas” increased significantly in 2020 and continues to grow in 2021. The trend shows people are moving online for inspiration for shopping, cooking, and so much more.

Demand also shifted dramatically as people broke old habits. For example, we saw swaps in search interest from “smart casual" to "lounge wear”.

Even now, customer behaviours remain unpredictable. For example, we’ve seen interest for “grocery stores” and “takeaways” unexpectedly shift to weekdays. The age-old phrase — “Change is the only constant” — certainly applies.

2. Be fast and helpful

We’ve all seen the value of being fast and helpful. The fact that consumer decision-making is increasingly complex means customers need more help than ever navigating the purchase journey. This presents a huge opportunity for businesses to be helpful and present at the right time. They can provide consumers with the information and reassurance they need to make the right purchase decisions. Automation can enable you to be there when needed, as well as to be agile enough to seize the opportunity to help consumers.

3. Build trust, every time

People’s behavioural shifts have been accompanied by rising expectations for online privacy. Brands have to work to build trust, every time.

A Google/Euroconsumers study has found nearly 70% of respondents believe the amount of personal data collected online makes it difficult for them to protect their privacy. Other research from 2020 shows 86% of consumers want more transparency over how their personal information is used.

People deserve to grant informed permission and know how their data is being processed. And when it comes to online ads, consumers prefer relevant, not random, ad experiences. They expect ads will be delivered in a way that respects their privacy and puts them in control.

The insights you want and the tools you need

As consumer behaviours keep changing, new tools are being developed to help businesses and marketers better understand customer needs and respond more effectively.

Firstly, Google’s new Insights page in Google Ads highlights trends curated for your business, so you can quickly identify emerging opportunities. This tool provides relevant, tailored insights into changing consumer demands, allowing you to make swift daily decisions with confidence. As everything is accelerating, the Insights page will keep you up to speed.

Secondly, we’ve been looking at ways for businesses to quickly act upon our real-time recommendations and insights in Google Ads. So we’re taking automation one step further. We’re giving marketers the opportunity to "opt-in" to automatically apply certain performance recommendations in Google Ads. Brands can choose to automatically apply new recommendations every time our algorithms detect opportunities, and the system will immediately improve and optimise your campaign. This removes the manual work, allowing you to move faster, save time, and meet accelerating demand.

Finally, we’ve been working with the wider industry on new privacy-preserving proposals within the Privacy Sandbox. We recently confirmed that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products. This delivers the privacy and control that consumers are rightly demanding.

Now is the time for marketers to focus on building strong first-party data relationships and the necessary expertise to build trust sustainably.

Searching for the way forward

As we search for the way forward in this changed environment, brands that keep these three consumer trends — and three business opportunities — top-of-mind will be able to approach decisions with greater clarity and confidence:

  • Embrace acceleration
  • Be fast and helpful
  • Build trust, every time

Businesses can show up at the right time, and provide consumers with the information and reassurance they need to make the right decisions, by leveraging new insights and automation. And companies with a solid first-party data strategy will ultimately be better equipped to deliver value and relevance to their customers and more confidently navigate business challenges and changes in 2021.

The Search collection: Searching for the way