Google predicts how the winter World Cup will affect consumer demand

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How the winter World Cup will impact consumer spending and search interests, plus three tips from Google for advertisers.

In any normal year, the festive period is the biggest consumer event on the calendar – by far. Every now and then, retailers get a summer boost from other events, such as England reaching the Euro 2020 final or the Lionesses winning the European Championship.

This winter, the festive period collides with the 2022 World Cup and many analysts predict record-breaking consumer demand. Search data from Google reveals the scope of opportunity for retailers this holiday season, plus some of the challenges a winter World Cup could pose.

Q4 is the most important season for retailers

Largely thanks to Christmas and Black Friday, Q4 is the most important season for the majority of retailers. Google data shows this period was responsible for 23%-32% of all retail searches in 2021, varying across seven key sectors, including apparel, consumer electronics, food and beverages, health and beauty, home and garden, luxury, and sport and fitness.

Retail searches in Q4 - UK

It predicts this will increase to 25%-31% in Q4 2022 across the same retail sectors. Only two sectors are expected to see a decline from the previous year (apparel and luxury) while all five of the remaining sectors are forecast to experience increased demand in the final quarter of 2022.

Retail sectors that typically see higher demand during international football tournaments are all expected to see increases this winter: consumer electronics (mainly TVs and AV equipment), food and beverages, and sport and fitness.

World Cups have a positive impact on consumer spending

This year, retail’s busiest period overlaps with the first winter World Cup, a competition with a long history of positively impacting consumer spending. According to data from Barclaycard, consumer spending rose by 5.1% as “World Cup fever” took hold during the previous tournament in 2018.

However, analysts acknowledge the impact of a winter World Cup is more challenging to predict. Matt Newman, category director for consumer electronics at Currys, says the winter tournament represents a “step into the unknown” as two of the biggest drivers behind TV sales collide.

TV sales typically spike ahead of major football tournaments and Black Friday is the biggest annual driver of TV sales. This year, England will play the USA on Black Friday in its second game of the tournament, which sounds like the perfect combination for TV sales in the UK.

The risk for some retailers is that consumer spending and foot traffic in stores could decline on match days and during the game itself, in particular. The big question is whether England playing on Black Friday will enhance or hinder sales – or, whether the two events will partially cancel each other out.

How did the 2018 World Cup affect search interests?

When analysing the impact of major sporting events like the World Cup, there are three distinct phases to consider: the build-up to the tournament, the duration of the tournament and the immediate period after the World Cup has finished.

You can see this from search volumes for sports and fitness queries during and either side of the 2018 World Cup. As expected, the data shows a linear increase during the build-up to the tournament with interest rising further during the competition.

Sport and fitness searches in 2018

The graph above shows how search interest in England peaked on match days and increased as the national team progressed further in the competition. You can also see the comparative decline in interest on the day of the final that England missed out on after a disappointing semi-final loss to Croatia.

This highlights a key variable when analysing consumer behaviour during a Word Cup: how far the national teams progress. The further teams like England progress in Qatar this winter, the more impact the tournament will have on consumer habits in home nations.

The impact of a winter World Cup

Although the World Cup could shake things up this winter, the usual seasonal consumer trends are expected to shape the autumn and winter months this year. Historical trends show that the month of October and the week building up to Christmas should be the top-spending periods for consumers in a normal year.

With the World Cup starting Sunday 20 November and ending on Sunday 18 December, the tournament could have minimal impact on these periods. However, the month-long tournament that overlaps with Black Friday, Cyber Week and the longer build-up to Christmas could shake up consumer habits, especially if England and other home nations reach the latter stages.

UK consumer spend 2021 growth trends UK + when did you shop in the black frider / cyber monday sales?

Black Friday shopping habits in the UK show consumers spread their purchases over multiple days before and during the promotional days themselves. Google data shows that 26% of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers in the UK are deal-hunting earlier and not waiting for the actual days.

It will be interesting to see how the England vs USA game on Black Friday impacts these shopping habits. If consumers are already doing most of their Black Friday shopping across multiple days, retailers can be optimistic that overall spending won’t suffer as a result of the match.

We could see purchases on Black Friday itself reduce, particularly during the game, but retailers can deal with this by putting more of their advertising budget into the week before Black Friday and days between matches.

How can retailers win during the 2022 World Cup?

Google is aware of the opportunities retailers could have this winter but it also understands the opportunities will benefit some retailers more than others and present challenges to many.

Above all, retailers are heading into Q4 2022 with no previous experience of a winter World Cup and the impact this will have on consumer habits.

Google wants to offer three key pieces of advice for retailers this year.

Actions suggested by Google that advertisers should take through the World Cup

#1: Make sure you have enough budget

With the World Cup expected to boost consumer activity beyond usual winter levels, retailers need to make sure they have enough budget available to take full advantage of increased demand.

The tournament brings an element of uncertainty in terms of which retail categories will benefit the most so businesses need to keep a constant eye on search data to measure real-time demand and respond quickly to changes.

#2: Consider extending your trading season

With the Word Cup starting just before Black Friday and finishing in the final build-up to Christmas, the tournament could bridge the gap between the two seasonal events – especially if home nations go the distance in Qatar.

Retailers may need to consider extending the trading season to take advantage of consumer demand while remaining flexible. The outcome of individual matches will drastically impact trading in the following days (especially during the knockout phase) and the tone of this year’s marketing campaigns will need to respond very quickly.

#3: Respond to demand with automation

With the consumer landscape in a constant state of change during the World Cup, retailers will need to respond instantly to shifts in demand. Intelligent automation will be crucial for tracking sentiment in real-time and tools like automated bidding will allow companies to maximise visibility at the key moments.

In a tournament like the World Cup, consumer demand can flip from a single goal, red card or dodgy VAR decision. Moments on the pitch (and, sometimes, off it) can influence an entire nation’s mindset and retailers need to hit the right tone with their marketing messages, every step of the way.

Remove the uncertainty with search analytics

Retailers will need to respond to changing consumer demand on a game-by-game basis, especially if teams progress to the latter stages. Marketing teams will have to create campaigns for both wins and losses, choosing which campaign to run with as the ref blows the final whistle.

As we saw during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, search data provides the real-time insights marketers need to make informed decisions on the fly during uncertain times. This will be equally true during Q4 2022 with the unpredictability of the first winter World Cup. Marketers can’t rely on historical data or the same strategies they’ve used in the past for the festive period.

The companies that stay tapped into search data to track consumer demand in real-time and use automation to respond as quickly as possible will be the biggest winter winners this year.

Is your analytics system responsive enough for winter 2022?

If your analytics system isn’t responsive enough to track consumer demand in real-time, or you just need help optimising your campaigns, our PPC and data scientists can help. Call us on 023 9283 0281 or fill out the contact form and we’ll be in touch.

Mike Johnson profile picture
Mike Johnson

Mike joined Vertical Leap in 2019. Having studied Marketing, he quickly decided digital was the path for him due to the huge potential that it gives businesses to grow and develop. He started off in a broad digital marketing role, learning the essentials of website management, optimisation and promotion, before choosing to take the specialist route of PPC for a leading reviews platform. His ethos of managing PPC accounts is all based around simplicity and transparency, creating strategies around clear goals and objectives which campaigns are then built and optimised towards. He enjoys developing strong relationships with clients and passing on as much knowledge as he can to both clients and colleagues. Mike’s competitive nature is demonstrated in his work for clients, constantly striving for improved performance. This comes from his passion for all things sport, so if he’s not at work, you’ll find him playing tennis, football or attempting to go skiing (after 2 failed attempts due to COVID...)

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