As marketers prepare for this year’s peak shopping season, an array of opportunities are on the horizon. With inflation easing in the U.K. and the average regular pay for employees up, the outlook for retail is cautiously optimistic.
The latest Google research and search data provides a promising snapshot of U.K. shoppers’ mindset in 2023. People are showing a heightened sense of curiosity — they’re asking more questions, showing a willingness to try new products, and seeking out personalised experiences.
Below, we explore three consumer trends shaping the U.K. retail landscape this year and the opportunities they present for marketers during peak season.
1. Shoppers love to gather more information
Every year, the peak period starts early — and 2023 is no exception, with more than one-third (37%) of U.K. consumers planning to start holiday shopping earlier than previous years.1
What’s different this year is people asking more questions and drilling down on the specifics. While 74% said they will search online before buying,2 search data also shows sustained growth in terms containing questions — up 25% compared to the past three years during the same period — and searches for “which is best” and “where to buy” continue to garner momentum in the shopping category on Google Trends.
We’ve also seen a rise in search interest with modifiers, such as “ideas for”, “compare”, and “review” during peak retail moments — suggesting that U.K. consumers are intent on seeking out extra information to help them make better-informed purchase decisions. Our research suggests that shoppers don’t necessarily see this as a chore, with one in three Britons saying they spend time gathering inspiration for fun.3
Action for marketers: Show up along the path to purchase and answer shoppers’ questions in your Search advertising. Performance Max campaigns can help you lean into consumer intent and audience signals across Google’s channels – all while working towards one business goal to help optimise for profitable growth. Make sure the user experience is helpful and fun, too.
2. People are shopping around more
With the rise of the “zero consumer” — those who have higher expectations of brands but lower loyalty, patience, and channel boundaries when buying from them — retailers may need to work harder to win the hearts and attention of U.K. shoppers this festive season.
Our research found that 47% of Britons have tried a new brand, retailer, or product in the past six months, and that number is higher (72%) for Gen Z and Millennials.4 Across product categories, this behaviour has shown significant growth in the last three years.5 And while consumers are often shopping around to find a cheaper option (34%), many are also doing it simply because they can (33%).6
We’ve also seen a rise in search interest around reviews and ratings, showing that people are being more considerate with their consumption while seeking signals of trust and reassurance of product quality before they buy.
Brands that remove barriers and make it easy for consumers to switch and trial their products will likely see a benefit. Simply communicating the perks of buying from your store — such as highlighting your product’s key features, adding social proof, and reducing delivery friction — can have as great an impact as a product discount.
People are shopping around in different formats, too, with over half of under 35s in the U.K. saying they use short-form video to seek product inspiration.7
Action for marketers: Use consumers' willingness to try new brands to your advantage. For example, Search and Shopping ads can highlight unique product features and social proof, while formats such as YouTube Shorts can appeal to younger audiences. Make the switch and trial process effortless to gain a competitive edge.
3. Relevance goes a long way
People increasingly want choices tailored and relevant to their identities and specific needs. We can see this reflected in search queries — searches are getting longer and more detailed, and 80% of consumers under 35 agree personalised recommendations are important. For those over 35, that number is 47% and growing.8
For brands, this means using marketing solutions such as predictive, data-driven modelling to deliver highly relevant experiences, will be key to making meaningful connections with festive shoppers in the U.K. this year.
Also, consider that your advertising is reflective of your customers. People want to see themselves represented authentically in the media. In Google’s and MTM’s research Mirrors and Windows, spanning interviews and survey results from more than 10,000 people from all corners of the U.K., less than half of people felt proud, represented, noticed, understood, or included in the media content they consume. Addressing this gap is a powerful way to engage shoppers and encourage loyalty.9
Action for marketers: Harness first-party data and Google AI solutions to deliver hyper-relevant, personalised advertising on a privacy-first web. Show your customers how and why your product will enrich their lifestyles (or make the perfect gift) — and make sure your customers can see themselves in your ads.