Looking back at a year of contributions to Think with Google U.K. provides a revealing glimpse of the forces shaping the marketing industry as we know it. 2021 was another period of profound change, with issues such as diversity, sustainability, and brand safety clearly striking a chord with marketers.
We’ve compiled 10 of the most-read articles on the U.K. site. from the past 12 months, telling a story of the year gone: the challenges faced, progress made, and hope for what comes next.
1. We asked 7,000 Europeans about ads and privacy. Here’s what they told us
We saw the conversation on privacy leap forward in 2021 — a growing understanding that digital marketing can respect people’s data choices while delivering value to brands and customers. Google commissioned Ipsos to interview 7,200 people across Europe about their data, identifying three principles brands should adopt to help ensure their marketing is both privacy-first and effective: make it meaningful, make it memorable, make it manageable.
2. How BT put brand safety and suitability first — and doubled its reach
There were a wealth of brands showing what can be achieved with a sophisticated approach to data and safety over the course of 2021. One of them, British telecoms multinational BT, described how it’s using machine learning to identify brand-suitable inventory. Working with partner agency Essence, it demonstrated that marketers can effectively drive safety and efficiency, utilising features such as inventory modes on YouTube to double its reach in brand-safe environments — and at 20% lower cost.
3. British Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief: Why your brand needs a multitude of diverse voices
Another topic firmly on the marketing agenda was diversity and inclusion. British Vogue’s Edward Enninful OBE shared his vision on how he reinvigorated the 105-year-old brand when he was appointed Editor-in-Chief. He revealed how marketing leaders can build stronger businesses through diverse perspectives and enact meaningful change in the work we all do.
And to help teams become more inclusive, Google U.K. released our grassroots Inclusivity Builder tool to aid marketers on this journey.
4. The shift in shopping: The data that reveals the permanent changes to U.K. consumer behaviour
While change is still the operative word in 2021, when the U.K. consumer insights team studied the behaviours of 5,000 people across the nation early in 2021, it helped to shine a light on long-term shifts in the way we shop. Notably, 1 in 4 clothing shoppers said they had bought from a new brand in the past year, a habit most intended to keep, and across age groups behaviours formed around online shopping had irrevocably changed the way consumers buy. A key point to note: as inspiration moves online, YouTube and Search have become the new shop window – and they’re always open.
5. Restoring retail: The divergent rules to drive online and offline traffic
When consumer behaviours shift to the extent they have during the pandemic, it demands a significant rethink of marketing strategy. Arguably, nowhere more so than in how to most effectively drive and measure customer traffic — both online and offline. Google retail specialist Pablo Pérez highlights how, while the rules might differ between channels, taking an integrated approach and a more focused investment in digital marketing is crucial for retail success — on average, 51% of online traffic and digital sales are driven by marketing investment.
6. As consumer decision-making gets more complex, automation helps to simplify
With the ever-growing number of online and offline touchpoints, and the ease in which consumers move between them, getting your ad in front of the right people is increasingly complex. But as Alessandra Alari, Head of Search & Shopping at Google U.K., revealed, such change is also an opportunity — as automated products offer a way for businesses to optimise campaigns, simplify decision-making and reallocate that time for more high-value strategic thinking. Case in point: organisations that connected their first-party data using automation grew their revenue on average 2X faster and delivered a 1.5X cost efficiency improvement.
7. Unlocking growth: Why U.K. retailers should think globally this festive season
Automation can also provide scale, making it a vital tool for any brands or retailers eyeing international expansion. While an ongoing pandemic and supply chain crisis might seem a far from ideal time to think globally, Google U.K.’s Caitlin Ryan, Industry Manager for Retail, and Dario Herrera, International Growth Team Lead, made a compelling case otherwise — with many U.K. retailers driving success with e-commerce capabilities.
8. Vodafone: Dialling up success with a new global approach to digital
Operating globally can present challenges, with scale and agility often seen as being at odds. Vodafone’s Global Marketing and Brand Director, Nikos Vlachopoulos, shared how the telecom operator had overcome its own operational hurdles across territories in an ambitious marketing redesign. By harnessing the power of first-party data and a digital transformation strategy, it was able to better connect with customers.
9. Ask a researcher: 3 reasons you’re losing customers on your mobile site
Whether you’re a telecom giant or innovative start-up, mobile nearly always comes first when connecting with customers. As part of our Ask a Researcher series, we heard from Google research manager Raffaella Stratta about the key pain points damaging the shopping experience on mobile websites. Plus, the billions in revenue opportunities for retailers who get it right by making mobile a priority.
10. 3 surprising ways people prioritise sustainability in the wake of the pandemic
In 2021, a sustainability marketing strategy was firmly on boardroom agendas. From Google search data, we saw how U.K. consumers are increasingly interested in sustainable issues, with 62% saying they cared about at least one sustainability aspect when shopping online. But exactly what consumers prioritise may come as a surprise. The Google Human Truths team discussed how the desire for positive and authentic sustainability stories comes at the top of the list.
The unique insights our contributors have brought to Think with Google have been hugely valuable in a year rich with both challenges and opportunities. Thank you to all those involved and to our readers for your ongoing support. We look forward to welcoming you back in 2022 with more useful takeouts and diverse perspectives on an ever-changing marketing industry.