Lucy Sinclair is the EMEA director of the insights team at Google, where she and her team analyse changes in consumer behaviour. In this consumer search insights series she highlights what is on people’s minds during this unprecedented time.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated changes in consumer behaviour, posing new challenges to businesses. Our regularly updated collection of EMEA search insights drawn from Google Trends puts the spotlight on the biggest shifts to help you understand these changes in consumer behaviour, so you can continue to be helpful and relevant to your customers during this time.
Consumer behaviour during the pandemic
This month’s edition highlights search insights in three key areas where consumer needs have grown in recent months:
- Real-time information to stay up-to-date with guidance and new information
- Digital innovations to help with immediate and changed needs
- Seasonal searches, which are driving up product demand
To explore insights beyond what’s captured in this monthly summary, have a look at these tips for using Google Trends. The tool allows you to review the latest search insights and consumer behaviour more frequently, or for a specific country or region.
1. Real-time guidance and information is top of mind for consumers
The pandemic is far from over — and some places are even seeing a second wave of lockdown restrictions. This means that in many countries government guidance continues to change on an almost weekly basis, making real-time information a priority. As it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest rules and information, we see increased search interest for tentative questions such as ‘do you have to’ (‘moet je’) and ‘what to do when’ (‘wat te doen bij’) in the Netherlands, ‘should one’ (‘ska en’) in Sweden, and ‘how can I check’ (‘how can I check’) in South Africa.
Other questions front of mind for consumers relate to finding things nearby, or are of a practical nature. For example, Google Trends shows a rise in search interest for ‘where to eat’ (‘donde comer’) in Spain, ‘where to buy’ (‘nereden alınır’) in Turkey, banking ‘close to me’ (‘vicino a me', banking) in Italy, cleaning services ‘near me’ (‘near me', cleaning services) in the U.K., ‘lessons near me’ (‘lessons near me’) in South Africa, and ‘how to remove’ (‘comment enlever du’) in France.
Additionally, as governments across EMEA continue to support small businesses, students, and homeowners, consumers use search terms for the latest financial aid information in real-time. This includes ‘grant disbursement’ (‘grant disbursement’) in Nigeria, ‘apply for a student grant’ (‘studietoelage aanvragen’) in Belgium, ‘energy grant’ (‘energia avustus’) in Finland, and ‘foundations and grants’ (‘fonde og legater’) in Denmark.
2. People search for digital innovations to help with immediate needs
With the continued changes in what people can and cannot do, they’re not only searching for real-time information but also for alternative ways to help them with their immediate needs. Throughout the pandemic we have seen an acceleration of consumers’ digital adoption, and this trend continues to this day with an added interest for digital innovations that can make people’s lives easier and remove unnecessary contact with strangers.
Things that can be done online — or with the help of technology — are shifting to digital. With the summer holidays over, for example, searches for ‘virtual school’ (‘ecole virtuelle’) in Belgium and ‘teachers online’ (‘teachers online’) in Kenya have picked back up again.
Google Trends also shows rising search terms for ‘online bookstore’ (‘księgarnia internetowa’) in Poland, ‘online returns’ (‘přiznání online’) in the Czech Republic, ‘online application’ (‘online application’) in South Africa, ‘online booking’ (‘online booking’) in Kenya, and ‘online reports’ (‘referti online’) in Italy. Additionally, there is an increase in searches for scanning technology such as ‘QR codes’ (‘kodów qr’) in Poland, ‘make QR code’ (‘qr code maken’) in the Netherlands, and ‘QR code reader’ (‘qr code reader’) in the U.K.
And, when it comes to technological innovations to help consumers, government tracing apps to stay safe are also increasingly being searched for, including ‘track and trace app’ (‘track and trace app’) in the U.K. and ‘my health’ (‘la meva salut’) in Spain.
3. Google Trends shows seasonal searches are back in driving product demand
We’ve seen search interest move to new areas throughout the pandemic as people adjusted their lives to changed work, social, and school situations. As consumers have now established new routines, we see demand pick back up again for seasonal searches.
Back-to-school season, for example, saw a rise in searches for ‘school supplies’ (‘przybory szkolne’) in Poland, ‘school uniform’ (‘school uniform’) in the U.K., ‘student discount’ (‘opiskelija alennus’) in Finland, laptops ‘for students’ (‘für studenten' (laptops)) in Germany, ‘and student discount code’ (‘rabattkod student’) in Sweden.
Seasonal trends should continue to be a key factor driving demand. With winter just around the corner in the Northern hemisphere, people are turning to search to find themselves a suitable wardrobe for the colder months ahead. Google Trends shows a rise in searches for ‘winter jacket’ (‘kurtka zimowa’) in Poland, ‘winter coat women’ (‘winterjas dames’) in the Netherlands, and ‘puffer jacket’ (‘puffer jacket’) in the U.K.
Finally, while many big movie, game and consumer electronics releases were delayed at the start of the pandemic, consumers are showing an appetite again for upgrading their tech and going to the cinema. Search terms have been rising for ‘release date’ (‘date de sortie’) in France, ‘release dates’ in games (‘release date', games) in the U.K., ‘release date’ in consumer electronics (‘release date', consumer electronics) in Israel, and phone ‘release date’ (‘release date', phone) in the United Arab Emirates.
Be ready for what’s next
If the search insights we’ve shared this year have shown us anything, it’s that consumer behaviour and needs continue to change at a rapid pace. We can provide a snapshot of what is trending in real time, but the road ahead remains uncertain. If businesses constantly have to react to these changes, how can they develop a strategic focus for long-term recovery and growth?
We’ve identified four key areas in which you can take action now to be ready for what’s next:
- Be insights-led and understand consumer shifts, by using Google Trends and other consumer insights
- Be agile and respond to these changing needs in real time and at scale, offering the best possible customer service
- Be data-driven and learn when to surface the right information and at the right time
- Be privacy-first in this data-driven approach, to continue building trust with your customers
As marketers, we strive to always stay on top of consumer needs and deliver the most helpful experiences. It may be daunting to aspire to this now, especially during such a time of change, but following these four principles will allow you to work towards growth and recovery.