The future of retail hangs on these 4 purchase behaviours

Be ready for retail’s next wave with this insights-packed guide.

The industry is flooded with lengthy white papers, endless research documents, and massive guides on the future of retail. To cut through the noise, here’s a quick view of purchasing trends that will drive business in 2021 and beyond, backed by first-party insights and third-party field studies.

Because people come to Google at decision-making moments along their shopping journeys, retailers often ask us what trends are shaping the future. We don’t always have the perfect answer, but we do know there’s no going back to how things were before.

There isn’t a world where people revert back to their 2019 [behaviours], and part of that is just a comfort level.

Our research uncovered four persisting purchase behaviours

Dynamic demand. People’s buying patterns will continue to change as they react to unpredictability

From the start of the pandemic up to now, we’ve seen continual interest spikes in categories relating to the current societal context, including everything from joggers to toilet paper.

People have new needs. Every day, 15% of the search queries we see on Google are ones we’ve never seen before.1

And their searches reflect more time spent at home. “Milk delivery” grew 800% YOY globally at the start of the pandemic.2

Retailers need to be ready to anticipate customer needs by analyzing consumer trends and applying automation tools to keep pace with both large and small demand shifts in real time

Digital inspiration. People will continue to look for ideas and shopping inspiration online

More than ever, consumers are searching for ideas, inspiration, and information on what products or services to buy as they browse the web. Searches for “ideas” have surged on Google.3

Searches directly on Google Images for “unique gifts for” have grown globally by over 100% YOY4

Spending more time at home, people have grown more comfortable with online browsing and shopping, and are hungry for inspiration. Searches for “simple” plus “ideas” have also grown globally 200% YOY.5

81% of consumers in surveyed countries across the globe said they discovered new brands online during the pandemic6

Counting on convenience. People will continue to shop in new ways, with a focus on convenience

Consumers want to know what they can expect before heading into stores, especially around inventory and business hours. We’ve also seen people take more of their shopping to Google Maps, with spikes in searches for “available near me” and “curbside pickup” happening directly in Maps.7

In the past year, we’ve seen searches for “in stock” grow by over 700%8

Searches for “available near me” have grown 100% in the past year globally.9 And searches for “shopping” plus “app(s)” have grown 210% YOY.10

Over half of consumers globally discovered at least one form of online shopping11

From purchasing products through mobile apps to buying online and picking up in store, they say they plan to continue engaging in these methods.12

Supportive spending. People will continue to be more discerning about how and where they spend their dollars

We see this represented in our own search data. With less spending overall, consumers are going out of their way to shop smart.

The notions of “value” and “values” will continue to converge. Increasingly, a product’s perceived value will be less about its price point and more about its alignment with a buyer’s values.

Whether someone is choosing to buy an electric car to do her part for the environment or directing her $5 to a Black-owned coffee shop, consumers will more actively shop their values.”

Searches for “ethical online shopping” have grown globally by over 600% YOY13

Consumers are continually looking for the best deals. They’re also seeking ways to shop purposefully. Searches for “best affordable” have grown globally by over 60% YOY.14

To take action on these insights with the help of Google’s tools and solutions for retailers:

Download our 2021 Canada retail marketing guide

From product queries to purchase patterns, these trends reveal the breadth of shopping journeys happening across Google.

BY THE RETAIL ADS TEAM

Google Ads Marketing, Retail & Shopping

CREDITS

Designer: Kelly Sullan; Editor: Zharmer Hardimon; Story: Andrew Pagonis; Product Lead: Casey Fictum; Production Lead: Jenny Maughan.

Sarah Bradley contributed research to this story.

Sources

1.
Google Internal Data, Global, July 2019.
2.
Google Data, Global English, Feb. 26, 2020–April 25, 2020 vs. Feb. 25, 2019–April 25, 2019.
3.
Google Data, U.S., March 2020–May 2020 vs. March 2019–May 2019.
4.
Google Data, Global English, Nov. 3, 2020–Jan. 1, 2021 vs. Nov. 3, 2019–Jan 1, 2020.
5.
Google Data, U.S., March 2020–May 2020 vs. March 2019–May 2019.
6.
Google-commissioned Ipsos COVID-19 tracker, AU, BR, CA, CN, FR, DE, IN, IT, JP, MX, KR, ZA, ES, U.K., U.S., n=1,000 online consumers 18+ per market, May 7, 2020–May 10, 2020.
7.
Google Data, Global English, March 25, 2020–May 23, 2020 vs. March 25, 2019–May 23, 2019.
8.
Google Data, Global English, June 17, 2020–Aug. 15, 2020 vs. June 17, 2019–Aug. 15, 2019.
9.
Google Data, Global English, Feb. 26, 2020–April 25, 2020 vs. Feb. 25, 2019–April 25, 2019.
10.
Google Data, U.S., March 2020–May 2020 vs. March 2019–May 2019.
11.
Criteo, Peak to Recovery Consumer Survey, Global (15 markets), n=13,532, May 13, 2020–May 29, 2020.
12.
Ibid.
13.
Google Trends Data, Global, 2020 vs. 2019.
14.
Google Data, Global English, March 25, 2020–May 23, 2020 vs. March 25, 2019–May 23, 2019.