What Google search data reveals about what people need in this moment, and how brands can help

Melanie Silva / April 2020

Over the last few years, I’ve heard the word disruption a lot. Well, if you ever wanted the greatest real-time experiment in managing disruption, this is it folks! And if you’re anything like me, you find yourself adjusting to an entirely different way of life: at work or at home with friends and family, we’re all having to adapt. People are doing things now that they would have never anticipated just months or even weeks ago. Baking bread? Sure. Do-it-yourself home projects? Yep. Searches for DIY have spiked globally in the past few months, with Australia and New Zealand among the top 10 countries showing increased interest. In fact, 52% of Aussies believe self-isolating will let them try new things, and 48% believe it will help them rediscover their passions.1

A Silva (pun intended) lining to all this turbulence can be finding hobbies or nurturing new skills, but the stark reality is that the normal course of business and daily life is, well, no more. All organisations will be touched by this pandemic. Consumer behaviour is changing daily, and the question I’m getting most often from people right now is how we as marketing professionals can be more helpful to our customers in these fluctuating moments.

Google data can give us insight into that. At a high level, we are seeing five behaviours playing out in Google data across Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of the world, reflected in how people are searching.

Five behaviours reflected in how people are searching


Assembling critical information and content they need to get by

Normal life is anything but normal these days. With retailers adapting to delivery or online models, schools shifting to virtual lessons, and much of the workforce staying home, people are looking for clear, specific information about where, how, and when to get the things they need.

Search interest related to retail has spiked globally over the past few months as people try to find things they need.2 And as people limit their trips to grocery stores, we’ve seen search interest spiking for “home delivery,” with queries like “coles online” and “woolworths for seniors” increasing by up to 1,850%.3 There’s also been growing search interest in “can you freeze” in New Zealand and “homemade hand sanitiser” in Australia. And we’ve seen increases in search interest for “rental relief” across both Australia and New Zealand and a surge in interest in “unemployment benefits” in Australia.

How brands can help: Be useful as people’s needs evolve

  • Acknowledge the new reality.
  • Give people credible, detailed, current information about your operations. Reinforce that you’re there to help.
  • Regularly update communications across your website, blogs, social handles, and even your Google My Business page to ensure people are in the know.
  • Be flexible. Help customers with cancellations, refunds, and customer service.

For example: To reward customer loyalty at a time when planes are grounded and borders are closed, Qantas has extended all their frequent flyers’ statuses by 12 months, requiring no action from the user — they’ll “take care of everything.” And to promote social distancing, McDonald’s has redesigned its logo to separate its famous golden arches.

Discovering new connections and nurturing relationships

Even as people physically distance themselves, they’re discovering new connections and nurturing relationships, whether virtually or in their own household. YouTube has always provided a sense of human connection, and Aussies see the platform as a “content window to the world.” Since we’ve been practising social distancing, we’ve seen a rise in “with me” videos, where people film themselves going about ordinary tasks like cooking, cleaning, or shopping, and Aussie YouTube creators are inviting audiences to join them by creating content like “cook with me” or “workout with me.” Personally, I’m loving that I can still jam out to live music from my favourite Aussie artists like Hayden James while I’m home with my family. It’s a great way to stay entertained and support the music industry.

People are also looking for new ways to connect with people from afar. Search interest for multiplayer video games has spiked globally in the past few months, and both Australia and New Zealand are in the top five trending markets. And search interest for “virtual drinks” in Australia and New Zealand is highest worldwide, followed by the U.K. and Canada.

How brands can help: Forge new communities and connections

  • Look for ways to connect your customers, locally and globally.
  • Consider whether your brand has a role to play in creating or enhancing shared experiences, virtually or otherwise.

For example: Ikea in Spain tapped into the emotions associated with home to encourage people to stay inside.

Adjusting to changes in their routine

As routines and schedules change to meet the demands of isolation, so do people’s online habits and expectations. For example, search interest for “do it yourself” peaks midday in Australia, while New Zealanders are searching most in the late-night hours.Who knew Kiwis were such night owls?

And as we all adjust to working from home, conference call interruptions from the kids are unavoidable. We’ve seen the world revisit — and relate to — a much-loved YouTube video from the BBC Dad whose video call was unexpectedly crashed by his kids.

Workout routines are getting an overhaul all over the world, too. I’ve swapped my morning gym class for virtual coaching sessions with Tayla Harris, and there’s growing search interest for “stationary bicycles” worldwide, especially in Australia. And “weights” gained interest in New Zealand this month.

Globally we’ve also seen an increase in “at home” content, with average daily uploads of videos with “at home” in the title increasing over 50% from March 10 through March 15 compared to the average daily uploads in 2020 prior to March 10.4 This increase may be because when it comes to defining valuable content, Australians in particular rate personal passions and interests above production value or popularity.

How brands can help: Adjust to people’s non-routine routine

  • Let people know that solutions are available whenever, wherever.
  • Assess when people are needing you most, whether through your own first-party data (like your site analytics or email opens) or Google Trends, and adjust your communications strategy accordingly.
  • Update or publish often. There’s a need for content that informs, entertains, connects, and promotes wellness.

For example: Supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles are adjusting hours for seniors and healthcare workers to make sure everyone can shop safely.

Praising everyday heroes

We’ve all noticed a growing appreciation for the new everyday heroes among us. Whether it’s healthcare workers on the front lines or cashiers or delivery people, many are risking their own health or safety to help others.

For instance, there’s been increasing search interest locally in “clap for carers australia” over the past seven days, with the viral “Clap for Carers” movement started by the UK in celebration of the National Health Service rallying the world together in a moment of solidarity.

How brands can help: Support heroes

  • Look for people who are helping, and find ways to support or celebrate them.
  • Consider who your heroes are among your employees, your customers, or even your local community.
  • Consider whether you have non-human heroes that can contribute, like your technology, your operational rigor, or your equipment.

For example: Deliveroo has partnered with 20 Hong Kong shopping malls to help food and beverage tenants expand delivery service during the crisis. LVMH is converting its factories into hand sanitiser production lines. And Foodstuffs NZ is increasing staff wages and paying staff members who have been required to self-isolate or have been deemed high-risk by the government and are therefore unable to work.

Taking care of themselves and others

As we navigate these challenging times, it’s important to take care of physical and psychological needs — and those of friends and loved ones.

There’s rising search interest in “virtual” in Australia and “live zoo” in the U.K.5 as people look to experience something beyond the walls of home. We’ve also seen rising reach interest in “puzzles” in the U.S., Australia, and Canada, especially.6 And even outdoor home projects seem to be trending with rising search interest in landscaping globally, especially in Australia and the U.S.7

How brands can help: Find ways to enrich people’s lives

  • Facilitate virtual collaborations with outdoor spaces and cultural institutions people crave to visit.
  • Join the conversation about home-based health and wellbeing.
  • Pivot to platforms and formats that make sense for people staying home.

For example: Guinness is encouraging folks to toast virtually, not physically, and raise one another up in this time.

The more helpful brands can be, the better they’ll fare now — and even more importantly, in the long run. Aussies are already choosing trusted brands that deliver safety and value. These are trying times, but we’ll all get through it together and hopefully come out even stronger on the other side.

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