Inflation. Economic uncertainty. The rising cost of living. These are big financial topics that have quickly become part of our everyday vocabulary in 2022.
As people juggle — and struggle with — their personal budgets, many turn to Google to search for a myriad of finance-related topics.
Our insights team has analysed the latest Google Trends to get a better understanding of what’s on everyone’s minds in these economically challenging times.
We analysed millions of high-growth search terms from across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Here are three insights we found:
1. People are asking a lot of finance questions
“What is inflation” is one of the phrases that has seen a significant increase in search interest across the world this year.
The state of the global economy — and even personal finances — is a complex topic. It makes sense that people ask a lot of questions as they’re trying to understand what’s happening in the world.
For example, search interest for “why” in relation to “expensive” has grown 20% globally in the last 6 months alone.1
And we’ve seen an increase in search interest in 2022 for phrases such as “why is butter so expensive” in the U.K., “pourquoi pénurie moutarde” (“why is there a mustard shortage”) in France, and “warum steigen die preise” (“why are prices rising”) in Germany.
Additionally, people are concerned about how inflation is impacting them — and how they can minimise the impact on their personal finances. They ask questions such as “what can I afford” across the globe, “when is fuel price going up” in South Africa, and “كم باقي على الدعم السكني” (“how much is left on housing support”) in Saudi Arabia.
2. An unexpected alliance: Saving money and saving the planet
The latest Google Search trends also show that, in some instances, inflation and sustainability are going hand-in-hand. As consumers look for ways to cut costs, many of the more affordable alternatives are, unexpectedly, better for the environment.
Take the increase in searches for “second-hand” and “used”. In the past, second-hand products may have carried a negative connotation. Now, the boom in reselling apps tells us a different story about the shopping preferences of today’s consumer.
Here are some “second-hand” searches that have seen an increase in interest in South Africa and Kenya this year:
Another area where the sustainable option has recently aligned with the cheaper one is “energy”. People are looking to save money as prices have surged and using less energy is, of course, positive for the environment.
We saw this in Google Trends as search interest peaked in 2022 for “how to save energy” around the world. We also saw a rise in Search interest for these phrases: “does switching off the geyser save electricity” in South Africa, "hora más barata para poner la lavadora hoy" (“cheapest time to put washing machine on today”) in Spain, and "elpriser time for time" (“hour by hour electricity prices”) in Denmark.
3. Despite everything, people still want (little) luxuries
But that doesn’t mean consumers are only looking for low-budget shopping options.
We’ve seen an uptick in people looking for little luxuries as well. Search interest has risen for items such as "luxury flooring" in South Africa, “luxus sonnenbrille” (“luxury sunglasses”) in Germany, and “luxury perfume” in the United Arab Emirates.
Additionally, people are planning in new ways for bigger purchases that are not always affordable in the short-term — or without some form of help.
For example, search interest has grown for “incentivi auto elettriche” (“electric car incentives”) in Italy, “subventions panneaux solaires” (“solar panel subsidies”) in France, and “subsidie warmtepomp” (“subsidy heat pump”) in the Netherlands.
This data shows that even amid economic uncertainty people are trying to find the right balance between “cheap” and “luxury”. They’re willing to wait for — and invest in — more expensive purchases, but they’re looking for alternative ways to fit it into their budget.
The long and short of it: How to succeed in uncertain times
We know that in times of rapid change and uncertainty it’s critical to stay close to evolving consumer needs and behaviours.
Search trends give us a sense of what matters to people in the moment; how they’re feeling and what they’re looking for.
The Insights Page in Google Ads allows marketers to identify new and changing consumer demand — and respond quickly, even in real-time. The data shows how search behaviour is changing in the moment and can be tailored to individual business preferences, such as location and language.
To truly understand the mindset of today’s finance-strained consumer, however, it’s also important to look at trends over the long-term. This is not the first time inflation and economic uncertainty are weighing heavily on people’s minds, and it won’t be the last.
Google Trends data goes back over 15 years, showing long-term changes in behaviours and demand, not just recent fluctuations.
Marketers that will succeed in these uncertain times will look at both short-term and long-term trends data to inform their budget and campaigns. They can use new consumer insights to identify immediate changes and react in real-time. And they will keep up-to-date with sustained trends to plan for a — hopefully — more financially stable future.