Search insights to help you understand consumer needs in uncertain times – 30 March 2020 edition

Lucy Sinclair / April 2020

Lucy Sinclair is the EMEA director of the insights team at Google, where she and her team analyse changes in consumer behaviour. In this regularly updated article she’ll be highlighting what is on people’s minds during this unprecedented time.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt by everyone around the world. As people adapt to this new situation, consumer needs and behaviours are constantly changing, which poses new challenges to marketers.

We’ll be regularly sharing the latest search insights across EMEA from Google Trends to help you understand what is top of mind for your customers — so you can continue to be helpful and relevant during this unprecedented time. These insights will cover three key areas:

  • Immediate needs
  • New day-to-day
  • Emerging behaviours

Compared to the search trends we highlighted last week, priorities have evolved. People are replacing what they used to do outside to inside the home as, for example, there has been a global shift from search interest in ‘restaurants’ to ‘delivery’. Whether it’s baking, socialising, or learning — consumers are adapting and innovating every day.

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Immediate needs

As the current situation is changing so quickly, Google Trends insights show there is uncertainty about what this means for people’s personal situations. For example, in many parts of the world governments are closing non-essential services, but what is classified as ‘essential’? Consumers have turned to search to fill this knowledge gap and find immediate answers to questions related to:

Essential services and store opening hours

In Turkey people searched for ‘is it open’ ('açık mı?'), in South Africa for ‘essential services’ (‘essential services’), and in Germany there was an increased search interest in if hardware stores are still open ('baumärkte noch geöffnet'), highlighting consumers’ uncertainty about which stores are classified as essential services.

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Financial aid coverage and new payment methods

In the Netherlands there was a spike in search interest for ‘applying for self-employment benefits’ ('zzp uitkering aanvragen') in the past week, and in South Africa consumers searched in higher numbers for ‘how to pay’ (‘how to pay’).

Helping people in need and celebrating the efforts of key workers

In the U.K. both ‘how to volunteer for’ ('how to volunteer for') and ‘clap for’ ('clap for') saw a spike in searches, as British people applauded care workers and those working for the National Health Service (NHS). In Poland, people were looking for ways to help their fellow countrymen in need as the term ‘volunteering coronavirus’ was on the rise (‘wolontariat koronawirus’). In France there was an increase in search interest for a platform designed to help farmers find workers (‘des bras pour ton assiette’), and in Spain for a hotel restaurant offering free food to truck drivers (‘hotel restaurante el hacho’).

Search insights to help you understand consumer needs in uncertain times – 30 March 2020 edition

New day-to-day

Though the current situation is changing constantly, consumers are adapting and finding new ways to stay productive, active, and socially connected day-to-day. Google Trends also highlights that they’re looking for information on how to do everyday things themselves that they may have previously outsourced to professionals. This week’s searches show a rising interest in:

Grooming (even for pets) and baking at home

Where many people may have previously outsourced grooming appointments to hairdressers, nail technicians, and pet groomers, they now have a more DIY approach at home. There has been an increased search interest in ‘acrylic nail kit’ ('acrylic nail kit') and ‘dog grooming kit’ ('dog grooming kit') in the U.K., ‘cut hair yourself’ ('haare selber schneiden') in Germany, and ‘shaving’ (‘shaving’) in Saudi Arabia. People are also experimenting with their baking at home more themselves, as we’ve seen search interest rise for ‘bread recipes’ (‘ekmek tarifi’) in Turkey, ‘simple cookies’ (‘biscotti semplici’) in Italy, ‘banana bread’ (‘chleb bananowy’) in Poland, and ‘making yeast’ (‘hefe selbst’) in Germany.

Staying productive and learning new things

People across EMEA are turning to puzzles and games to keep their minds active, as shown by an increase in search interest for ‘puzzles’ in Italy ('puzzles'), Poland (‘puzzle’), and Denmark (‘puslespil’), and ‘board games’ ('board games') in Spain. And in Saudi Arabia there has been a rise in searches for ‘professional development’ ('لتطوير المهاني').

Maintaining social connections and recreating communities online

As people are spending more time at their own homes, they’re finding new ways to stay connected with their family, friends, and communities online. There has been an increase in searches for ‘party app’ ('party app') in Nigeria, ‘play with friends’ ('play with friends') in the United Arab Emirates, ‘mass of the pope today’ ('messa del papa oggi') in Italy, and ‘holy mass broadcast’ (‘transmisja mszy świętej’) in Poland, peaking notably on Sundays.

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Emerging behaviours

Spending more time at home means that people are finding opportunities to adapt to the new situation by bringing different activities indoors, such as connecting with the outside world and staying fit. In the last week there was increased search interest in:

Connecting with the outside world through virtual travel

In the Netherlands, for example, there was a rising search interest for ‘webcam Scheveningen’ ('webcam scheveningen'), which is a popular beach in the country, as people were looking for different ways to connect to the outside world. And in Spain consumers increasingly searched for ‘escape room online’ ('escape room online').

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Adapting to new ways of learning, consuming entertainment, and staying fit indoors

In Turkey there has been an increasing search interest for ‘distance education’ (‘uzaktan eğitim’) and in Saudi Arabia, the U.K., and the United Arab Emirates there was an increase in searches for ‘lion, tiger, and panda 3D view’ ('lion, tiger, and panda 3d view') as people use Google to view different animals in 3D. In Poland there was a rising search interest for ‘theatre plays online’ (‘spektakle online’). And people are continuously looking to stay fit in their own home as there has been an increased search interest for ‘table tennis table’ ('table tennis table') and ‘basketball hoop’ ('basketball hoop') in the U.K. and increased searches on YouTube for ‘daily sport class’ ('tägliche sportstunde') in Germany.

Upgrading technology in style

From ‘VR headsets’ ('virtual reality headset') in Sweden and Germany and ‘3D printer’ ('stampante 3d') in Italy to ‘smart TV’ ('smart tv') in Spain, Italy, and the U.K., there has been an increase in searches for technology that can help people spend their time in different ways at home.

Explore more consumer behaviour trends

While this analysis provides a regularly updated snapshot of trends and shifting consumer behaviours across EMEA, we understand it may be helpful to review the information more frequently, or for a specific country or region. To explore further insights, here are 10 tips for using Google Trends yourself. By entering a keyword or a topic into the tool, you can explore what the world is searching for in near real time.

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