The year is 2012. You and a record-setting 8 million people are watching live as supersonic skydiver Felix Baumgartner breaks the sound barrier with his 39-kilometre free fall to Earth. In another tab, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” plays for the umpteenth time. In a few months, it will become the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views. You’re doing all of this, of course, on your desktop, a device that still accounts for roughly 85% of web traffic globally.
That same year, we introduced Think with Google. Our goal was simple: Give digital marketers insights into behavioural and cultural trends based on Google data, all in a single destination.
So much has changed in the decade since. For one, there’s a much higher chance you’re reading this article on a mobile device, as mobile usage now makes up almost 60% of global web traffic. In that time, Think with Google has charted the evolution of consumer behaviour as new digital technologies have emerged — from the rise of apps to the growing popularity of voice searches.
To mark our 10-year milestone, here are 10 illuminating insights that tell the story of that digital marketing evolution.
What we discovered in a 2013 ethnographic study is that people use Search for many reasons — from answering the practical to pondering the poignant.
What we discovered in a 2013 ethnographic study is that people use Search for many reasons — from answering the practical (“Where can I buy these shoes?”) to pondering the poignant (“Who do I want to be?”).
In 2015, 82% of smartphone users consulted their phones while in-store shopping.
We called these “micro-moments,” and they were becoming increasingly widespread. That year, 82% of smartphone users consulted their phones while in-store shopping.
As Lisa Gevelber, then-VP of marketing for the Americas at Google, wrote two years later in a piece that reflected on this trend, “the use of the search phrase ‘near me’ [is] a crucial bit of information for advertisers. If people are searching for something near them, that’s a pretty strong signal of intent.”
In 2018, 7 in 10 Gen Zers said watching videos with others helped them feel more connected.
But YouTube data from 2018 revealed the emergence of a trend that would explode just a few years later: the rise of video as an interactive, social experience. For example, we saw a huge interest in videos that encouraged viewers to do something — study, clean, read — at the same time as a YouTuber and their followers. And 7 in 10 Gen Zers said watching videos with others helped them feel more connected.
Almost 150 years later, the technology was widespread and starting to influence how people behave. In 2019, 27% of the global online population was using voice search on mobile.
People were desperate to get back to a sense of normalcy and start doing things they missed. Virtual social experiences never fully went away.
On the one hand, people were desperate to get back to a sense of normalcy and start doing things they missed out on. Around the world in 2021, we saw a 100% increase in searches containing the words “zoo tickets.” But virtual social experiences never fully went away. For example, in the same period we also saw a 90% year-over-year increase in searches containing the term “watch party.”