In the past three years, Pakistan’s digital population has surged by 68%, with now over 78 million users flocking online to discover new things to watch, read, learn, and buy. Understanding the needs and expectations of this growing number of digital consumers is important for brands to remain agile and relevant, especially during these unprecedented times.
In our first “What is Pakistan searching for?” report, we looked at the search habits of people online and discovered how their behaviors are changing as they integrate digital into their daily lives. They’re finding opportunities to connect with new communities, expecting more from the products they can find online (and how quickly they can get them), and showing a rising interest in improving their lives and the environment.
1. Making more informed buying decisions
As digital begins to play a bigger role in the lives of Pakistanis, we see people gaining more control of their path to purchase — exploring thousands of categories, brands, and products at any moment and switching among platforms to compare the information they find. Around 55% of people search for a product first, but then check YouTube to read reviews and understand user feedback.1
Users not only switch among channels but also spend more time exploring the options available to them. 81% of people use search to make more informed buying decisions, meaning they’re no longer looking to compromise — they are looking for the best products that suit their specific needs.2 For example, in 2019, we saw search interest for “best mobile for gaming” rise by 127%, while “best moisturizer” rose 1.4x from the previous year.3
Convenience plays an equally important role, and we have seen a trend in people looking for quick ways to access products and services on demand. People searched options for “same-day delivery” (1.4x increase) and “near me” (+138%) to locally source food and other essentials that add comfort to their lives.4 COVID-19 has continued to further accelerate this demand, with a surge in search interest for “online grocery delivery” hitting a 300% increase.5
2. Caring for themselves in mind and body
Despite Pakistan’s passion for serving rich, delicious cuisines, in the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, Pakistani people are becoming more conscious about taking charge of what they eat. Search interest for “Keto diet” increased by 1.4x in 2019, while “vegetarian cuisine” jumped 1.5x — a search trend that has continued with the country becoming the second-fastest adopter of vegetarian diets in the world.6
But healthy eating is only one factor, with search interest for “health clubs” increasing by 1.5x and “fitness classes” by 189% as people see the future of living a healthy lifestyle going beyond simply a change in diet to one of regular exercise, too.7
With COVID-19 restricting the movement of people outdoors, Pakistanis have started looking for ways to start (or continue) their usual physical routines indoors, with “HIIT workout”8 YouTube searches growing by 175%, “gym at home” by 125%, and “home workouts” by 80%.9
With more people confined indoors, interest in mental health and well-being has also become an important factor for Pakistanis, with a surge in search interest for “meditation” (+56%) in March and April this year.10
3. Searching for ways to be more sustainable
While we’re seeing people focus more on bettering themselves, we have also seen a rising interest beyond individual needs.
When much of the country was shrouded in smog in 2019, Pakistanis became concerned about the environment, and search interest for “conserve water” and “pollution index” rose significantly.11 With COVID-19 forcing many households into lockdown, users were seemingly curious about the visible impact on air quality and pollution levels, with search interest for “clear skies” increasing by 300%, “clean air” by 225%, and “clear water” by 217%.12
Although search interest in Pakistan shows a rising concern for the environment, we also see this concern translating into how consumers make decisions about what they buy. Search interest for “cloth bag” is rising, and we have seen a 150% increase as consumers look for alternatives to plastic shopping bags.13 Meanwhile, search interest for “electric cars” grew 1.5x as people explore more sustainable modes of transport.14
4. Discovering new communities online
In 2019, our YouTube Profiling Study with Kantar TNS found that 73% of internet users in Pakistan are watching YouTube every month. But it’s not just about using the platform to consume content — it’s about being part of a wider community.
YouTube watch time for videos related to “with me” grew by 150% last year.15 Audiences are tuning in to live streams and prerecorded videos of content creators taking viewers through common, everyday activities like cooking, cleaning, or even doing homework.
The platform has also become a hub where users can gather to feel connected to a wider group of like-minded people, particularly during the COVID-19 period. We saw a 96% increase in search interest for queries relating to “recipe”, including terms that contained “aloo tikki” (a popular snack made from mashed potatoes) and “pizza,” as well as increases in queries for “classes online”16 (+550%), and “make at home ideas”17 (+144%) as people look for other ways to occupy their time.
With people looking online to form connections, brands have an opportunity to play a leading role in curating and facilitating these micro online communities — such as Shan Foods and Food Fusion’s Ramadan cooking challenge or the home yoga session collaboration between Sunsilk and Hania Amir.
As more Pakistanis turn to digital for inspiration and guidance, particularly during COVID-19, we learn more about their evolving needs and habits. By understanding what people are searching for online, brands can provide more relevant information to build a stronger and more meaningful relationship with audiences.