This piece is part of a series of three articles on how brands can navigate uncertainty with confidence. Look out for the next two articles on why marketers should embrace tried-and-new strategies, and how marketing experimentation can benefit you during uncertain times.
Inflation. Economic uncertainty. The rising cost of living. These are big financial topics that have quickly become part of our everyday vocabulary in 2022.
As people juggle — and struggle with — their personal budgets, many turn to Google to search for a myriad of finance-related topics.
Our insights team has analyzed the latest Google Trends to get a better understanding of what’s on everyone’s minds in these economically challenging times.
We analyzed millions of high-growth search terms from across Asia Pacific. Here are three insights we found:
1. People are asking a lot of finance questions
“What is inflation” is one of the phrases that has seen a significant increase in search interest across the world this year, including “インフレとは” (“what is inflation”) in Japan and “lạm phát là gì” (“what is inflation”) in Vietnam.
The state of the global economy — and even personal finances — is a complex topic. It makes sense that people ask a lot of questions as they’re trying to understand what’s happening in the world.
For example, search interest for “why” in relation to “expensive” has grown 20% globally in the last 6 months alone.
And we’ve seen an increase in search interest in 2022 for phrases such as “why is lettuce so expensive” and “why is diesel so expensive” in Australia, “kapan harga turun” (“when are prices going down”) in Indonesia, and “why is petrol expensive” in India.
2. An unexpected alliance: Saving money and saving the planet
The latest Google Search trends also show that, in some instances, inflation and sustainability are going hand in hand. As consumers look for ways to cut costs, many of the more affordable alternatives are, unexpectedly, better for the environment.
Take the increase in searches for “second-hand” and “used.” In the past, second-hand products may have carried a negative connotation. Now, the boom in reselling apps tells us a different story about the shopping preferences of today’s consumer.
Here are some “second-hand” searches that have seen an increase in interest in APAC this year:
Another area where the sustainable option has recently aligned with the cheaper one is “transportation.” People are looking to save money as gasoline prices have surged. For example, search interest in “electric car” and “petrol price” have spiked together in Australia over the last year. In Thailand, search interest for terms containing "ราคาน้ำมัน" (“petrol price”) grew over 100% compared to the same period in the previous year, while search interest in electric vehicles continues to rise across APAC.
3. Despite everything, people still want (little) luxuries
But that doesn’t mean consumers are only looking for low-budget shopping options. They want a balance between quality and value, with search interest in terms containing “best” remaining high in Australia even during times of uncertainty.
We’ve seen an uptick in people looking for little luxuries as well. Search interest has risen for items such as “luxury perfume” in India, “luxury retreat” in Singapore, and “glamping” in Indonesia and Taiwan.
Additionally, people are planning in new ways for bigger purchases that are not always affordable in the short-term — or without some form of help.
For example, search interest for “buy now pay later” offers and credit cards is growing as consumers look for immediate ways to purchase not just the essentials, but also the little things that bring them joy. We’ve seen rising search interest in phrases like “後払い” (“buy now pay later”) in Japan, “mua trước trả sau” (“buy now pay later”) in Vietnam, and “buy now pay later” in India.
This data shows that even amid economic uncertainty people are trying to find the right balance between “cheap” and “luxury.” They’re willing to wait for — and invest in — more expensive purchases, but they’re looking for alternative ways to fit them into their budget.
The long and short of it: How to succeed in uncertain times
We know that in times of rapid change and uncertainty it’s critical to stay close to evolving consumer needs and behaviors.
Search trends give us a sense of what matters to people in the moment; how they’re feeling and what they’re looking for.
The Insights Page in Google Ads allows marketers to identify new and changing consumer demand — and respond quickly, even in real time. The data shows how search behaviour is changing in the moment and can be tailored to individual business preferences, such as location and language.
To truly understand the mindset of today’s consumer, however, it’s also important to look at trends over the long term. This is not the first time inflation and economic uncertainty are weighing heavily on people’s minds, and it won’t be the last.
Google Trends data goes back over 15 years, showing long-term changes in behaviors and demand, not just recent fluctuations.
Marketers that will succeed in these uncertain times will look at both short-term and long-term trends data to inform their budget and campaigns. They can use new consumer insights to identify immediate changes and react in real time. And they will keep up to date with sustained trends to prepare to win in the next period of economic growth.
Contributor: Debadeep Bandyopadhyay, Research Analyst for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa