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As digital marketing nerds, we love data and analyzing trends. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a global tragedy – one of the most significant events of our lifetime. So how has it affected our behavior? And how can businesses cater to people’s needs?
With more people working from home and lockdowns in many countries stopping people from getting out and about, our habits and priorities have changed significantly.
To gauge what’s happened, we decided to analyze Google search trends data and see which searches had seen an increase in interest over the past few months. We originally analyzed UK COVID-19 searches but decided to look at the USA for Search Engine Watch.
It should be fairly obvious to most of us that the world’s gone online. Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams – these are things many of us had barely used before. Now they’re mainstays of our daily life.
In the world of work, virtual meetings have become the norm. No surprises there. The initial peak has passed, but search volume is still high.
Dating isn’t just online anymore, it’s virtual – so the date itself happens in cyberspace. This has seen some decline since an initial peak in April as lockdowns have eased, but still popular in July and going into August.
Note – We also looked at “virtual mosque” and “virtual synagogue” as well, but the data was less clear.
What’s interesting here is that the graph is so similar to ‘virtual dating’. People here are also looking to make a connection – just in a different way.
Something else we’re having to do at home is teach our kids. Good to see people doing some research. It’s interesting the peak in searches is actually quite recent – in July.
As online services and meetings have become the norm, consider if there’s anything your business could move online. ‘Virtual church’ shows there’s plenty of scope for this. Say you run a coffee shop – why not set up virtual coffee mornings for your customers?
Not going out can seriously put a strain on your relationships (see “get away with murder” below). But some good old-fashioned family activities can help – assuming that Monopoly game doesn’t get too competitive.
Puzzles usually see a small peak over Christmas, but March and April this year completely blew that out of the water. Things seem to have gone back to normal now though – maybe people have got bored with this search trend?
Also popular over the holiday period, Monopoly saw a resurgence in March and April, but it too has died down a bit.
Strangely, KerPlunk didn’t see the same trend. That also has a winter peak but hasn’t seen much interest during the pandemic.
I have to admit, I thought this was more of a British thing, but people in the States are loving a good pub quiz. Particularly in Wisconsin. And there was a spike in searches in July, so this one isn’t going away.
Businesses can jump on this too. Why not run a pub quiz to raise money for a local cause or charity?
Not necessarily a family activity, but exercise is still important for health and wellbeing. There was a big peak in people searching for ‘home workouts’ in March and April, and it’s still a little up against previous months. Have people got the workout advice they needed, or lost motivation? It’s hard to say.
Is it any surprise that people are looking for a bit of comfort right now?
Home baking has been high on the list, with sourdough a particular favorite.
This is one of those where it’s hard to tell what the intention behind the search is. There’s a clear peak in searches for ‘puppies’ in April, but are people looking for videos or wanting a puppy of their very own?
If you are looking to get a puppy, make sure you’ll be able to look after it long term i.e. if you’re no longer working from home.
FYI, the search trend for “kittens” is similar, but ‘puppies’ are more popular (at least according to Google).
DIY and luxuries for the home have also been popular – and it’s no wonder since so many of us have been unable to get out much. “Hot tubs” are a good example.
People doing things around the home provide some obvious opportunities for businesses. Companies selling DIY equipment, hot tubs, plants, and other things online have already seen an uplift in sales.
All I can say about this, is I really hope people are using their free time to write crime novels or catch up on the TV show.
If you run a bookshop, now’s the time to promote your crime section with some tongue in cheek messaging about devouring a good book instead of murdering your spouse. Or maybe do a display of ‘how to’ and writing books?
The pandemic is a major global crisis and things are changing all the time. What does the future hold?
The “picnics” graph shows perfectly that habits are still evolving, with searches high in June, July and into August. People are looking for ways to get outside safely where this is allowed. It doesn’t appear to be a purely seasonal trend.
Of course, the pandemic isn’t the only global issue affecting us right now. The Black Lives Matter graph shows how influential the movement has been this year.
One final graph to share – ‘have hope’. This peaked in May. I hope that’s because people found it. We’re going to need it.
Russell Welch is Head of Digital Marketing at Clear, a creative digital agency based in Shrewsbury and Birmingham, UK. When not poring over data, you can find him writing fiction, playing some geeky game, or wielding a sword.
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