With the world still coming to terms with a global pandemic, consumers find themselves moving from one crisis to the next – or, more accurately, dealing with multiple crises at the same time.
The UK is facing a particularly difficult year with the economic landscape expected to be even worse in 2023. By looking at the latest search data, we can see how mounting concerns are changing consumer priorities. Interestingly, people aren’t simply spending less to deal with economic uncertainty but changing the way they spend their money and re-evaluating what’s most important to them.
We can see the extent of these concerns by looking at search volumes for specific keywords:
With the exception of “interest rates,” search volumes for all concerns listed above are at their highest for the past five years – and by quite a distance. And, if we look at a comparison of search volumes for all five concerns, you can see how strongly these increases correlate over the first half of 2022.
This illustrates how comprehensive the financial pressure consumers are facing is with concerns affecting almost every aspect of daily life – not only luxury spending but everyday essentials.
Looking at top-level search insights paints a bleak picture for the months and years ahead but digging a little deeper into the data reveals some reasons for hope.
While all the economic data paints a bleak picture for the months (and, possibly, years) ahead, consumers are surprisingly keen to keep spending money. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise after seeing the resilience of UK consumers during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic – in fact, lockdown measures, travel restrictions and other Covid-19 impacts could even be a driver for consumer spending during the difficult months ahead.
Google search data shows that searches for “cheap holidays” have increased by 400% over the past year as people take advantage of loosening restrictions. At the same time, Airbnb is posting record-breaking bookings in another sign that people are determined to get away, even if they have to navigate soaring prices.
As expected, consumers are becoming more price conscious as economic pressure takes hold but this doesn’t mean the cheapest price always wins out. Another important insight from Google Search data is that queries for “cheap and best” have grown by 40% over the past year.
Consumers still demand quality for their money, even if this means prioritising some purchases over others or waiting for the right time to buy (eg: sales promotions).
Economic uncertainty isn’t dampening interest in conscious consumerism, one of the key emerging trends in recent years. In fact, the economic impact of climate change is becoming increasingly apparent with the UK posting record-breaking temperatures in July as wildfires spread across much of the world and droughts threaten water supplies across Europe.
Google data shows searches for “say no to plastic” have increased by 200% over the past year while queries for “fuel economy” have grown by 70% over the same period.
Rising temperatures and dry weather aren’t the only factors driving interest in conscious consumerism, either. Recent investigations have found microplastics in global food chains and forever chemicals in rainwater around the world.
Meanwhile, Europe’s dependency on Russia for oil, gas and coal has exacerbated a fuel crisis that is pushing millions into fuel poverty.
Google data shows searches for “solar panel price in” have grown by 50% globally over the past year while searches for “how much electricity does a” have increased by 40% – and we expect similar searches to continue growing in the years ahead.
For most consumers, the biggest impact of economic strain is faced at the tills when paying for food. While official figures put national inflation at 9.4% in the UK, the prices of many food products are rising significantly higher than inflation: low-fat milk (26.3%), butter (21.5%), flour (19.3%), pasta (15.9%), eggs (11.5%), bread (9.7%), etc.
We’re talking about essential products for many people in the UK and most food products increasing below the national inflation rate are already sold at high markups, such as lager (2.0%), confectionary (2.7%), wine (1.4%), etc. – and they’re still getting more expensive.
Again, this is reflected in the search data with Google insights showing searches for “buffet price” increased by 300% over the past year and searches for “food pantry” grew by 100%.
Higher search volumes for “food stamp app” (80% YoY) and “menu with prices” (50% YoY) show food price sensitivity is increasing.
After several years of uncertainty and heading straight into recession territory, consumers are understandably thinking about unforeseen life events more than pre-pandemic times. Google data shows searches for “job vacancy near me” and “personal injury lawyer” have both increased by 100% over the past year.
Searches for “cost without insurance” have also increased by 50% – although this is largely driven by searches related to health insurance in the US – and searches for “whole life insurance” have grown globally by over 40%.
Based on the insights we’ve looked at in this article today, here’s a summary of the key takeaways:
As an official Google partner agency, we get exclusive access to insights but we can build a much bigger picture of consumer habits by combining data from multiple sources.
In this article, we’ve looked at data from Google Search and Google Trends to analyse consumer priorities but our intelligent automation system, Apollo Insights, collects data from dozens of other sources for in-depth analysis of consumer demands and how changing interests affect purchase decisions.
For example, we can analyse keyword data from dozens of sources (this is more reliable than using a single tool) and automatically cross-reference this with the latest economic data, industry reports, customer sentiment insights and hundreds of other data points.
In practical terms, this allows us to see how economic factors affect holiday bookings, car sales, food budgets and other key purchase decisions.
As we saw during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers were still spending money but they were spending it in different places. Current search data points to similar trends as we enter a new period of economic challenges. This crisis will affect different company types disproportionately in the same way Covid-19 was disastrous for restaurants but a boon for takeaways.
Search data reveals who the winners and losers of this economic crisis will be because it shows changing consumer demand in real-time. The same data confirmed takeaways and deliveries were the key lockdown opportunity long before this was being discussed in the press.
Restaurants and food businesses that were tapped into this data were able to adapt quickly and ramp up their takeaway services, menus, deliveries and other resources to not only survive lockdown but thrive during the biggest challenge to their industry in recent history.
Search data will do the same for businesses during this next economic chapter.
If you want to find out how you can implement this kind of big data analysis into your marketing strategy, you can speak to our analytics team by calling us on 023 9283 0281 or filling out the contact form.
Chris is Managing Director at Vertical Leap and has over 25 years' experience in sales and marketing. He is a keynote speaker and frequent blogger, with a particular interest in intelligent automation and data analytics. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the guitar and is a stage manager at the Victorious Festival.
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