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EDITORIAL Google searches reflect changing shopping habits – so what are UK shoppers looking for?

Google search terms have changes dramatically during lockdown

Since the first cases of COVID-19 in the UK, online priorities and interests have had to adapt – and daily Google searches now include a plethora of what would usually be considered unusual search terms – and they tell us a lot about putative shopping habits.

A few months ago no one would have expected search terms like can I leave my house? and what is social distancing? To be common, but today they these are near the top of the list for what consumers are looking for.

So, now that we’re under lockdown measures, how have our online searches changed and what does it mean for retail?

Reboot Online Marketing Agency sought to find out. Using reliable search engine marketing tools Google Trends and SEMrush, trending topics over the past 90 days have been investigated to reveal which have increased and which have decreased in popularity through numbers of searches.

Unsurprisingly, food figures highly in searches, with Pubs delivering food near me up 3100% on last year, Fish and chips near me up 2900% and baking recipes up by 2500%. In fifth place, things to make with plain flour is up a whopping 2250%. The flour shortage in Britain seems to remain an issue, with flour more generally also up 690% in 14th place.

Restaurant deliveries, supermarket opening times and local farm shop deliveries all also figure highly in the list, as consumers stuck at home seek to do the one thing they are allowed to do/need to do: get food.

However, what marks the study out is that, aside from food, none of the usual things people search for shows up in the list of ‘growers’. In fact, many of the things that people usually look to buy online are dropping down the rankings.

Down 99% in searches, the topic which has decreased the most is city breaks. Unsurprisingly, a weekend getaway is the least of our concerns right now. In second place is travel insurance which is down a substantial 97%. While unsurprising to see a reduction in interest for holidaying, assumedly Brits would still need to consider their insurance policies when cancelling trips?

This is followed by cinema times (-97%), taxi to airport (-97%) Ticketmaster (-95%) and holiday insurance (-93%). Other topics of interest include comic con in seventh place (down 93%), prom dress in 16th place (down 85%), and dog shows in 19th place (down 82%) – proving Britain’s interests before Coronavirus took hold.

The biggest winners however are home health and fitness, with ‘Renting gym equipment’ the biggest grower of all, up 3600% year on year. Home workout, online Yoga, how to lose weight and cycle routes are all in the top 20.

While this doesn’t directly suggest what people are shopping for, it shows that consumers are steering away from the normal things they would look to buy and are fixated – for now – on food and fitness (and home haircuts and coronavirus cures).

It also shows that if you are building a business around holidays or travel then your are in for a rough ride.

The reasons are plain: consumer confidence in both the fear of getting ill and the financial worries of such a closed economy are preventing them spending on all but the essentials for health and fitness.

Is this permanent? No. But it will have long lasting effects. Looking now at how to drive business to your site – the ideal way being via promotions, currently, as people need to feel they are getting value for money – is also going to involve looking at what you sell and how it fits into this new zeitgeist over the coming months.

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