Consumer Behaviour Trends According to Google’s Year in Search

Based on 2017’s most popular Google searches, consumers are more inquisitive, insistent, and impatient than ever before.

Identifying the pivotal moments and occasions that defined a year can be as simple as looking at Google’s search history. It represents a snapshot of the people, places, and things that held our collective interest and inspired the strongest emotions throughout the year.

For brands, Google search can provide the most unfiltered access into the minds of consumers. Last year, Canadians illustrated their enthusiasm for a wide spectrum of topics, with searches for the late, great Gord Downie, the solar eclipse, and ways to provide support for Hurricane Irma victims. But the insights gleaned from 2017 weren’t just about what consumers searched for. It was the way in which consumers searched, the terms they did or did not use, or the timing of searches, that highlighted the growing trends in consumer behaviour.

Marketers could benefit from taking these behaviours into account when developing their online and, especially, their mobile strategies. Mobile continues to play a crucial role in this behaviour shift, allowing for immediate gratification and convenient access to a wealth of information. Analysis of common Google searches indicated that consumers are increasingly inquisitive, insistent, and impatient.

The Inquisitive Consumer:

Consumers used more specific search terms last year, and they expected brands to deliver content that met their exacting standards. For example, people didn’t just search for “how to make slime,” a kid’s DIY craft that was trending last year, they searched for “how to make fluffy slime,” “how to make butter slime,” or “how to make slime without borax.” [1]

This practice may hint at a more savvy consumer who better understands the power of Google, and that even the most obscure information is available online. But more importantly, it provides insight into what a consumer is particularly curious about. Brands that can provide meaningful information that meets each consumer’s narrow search criteria will have the strongest impact on these discerning individuals.

The Insistent Consumer:

Consumers continued to use Google search to seek out stores, restaurants, and events close to them. In fact, one third of all mobile searches were related to location, a growth of 150% over only two years. [2]

While consumers are becoming more particular about the majority of their searches, location details are the anomaly. Prior to 2017, consumers used to include the words “near me” with their searches, but they now seem to understand that Googling on mobile devices will automatically take their position into account.

Consumers are dropping the phrase “near me,” but they are still expecting local results. Nearly two thirds of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites or apps have information customized to their location, [1] making it imperative that brands deliver content that is always relevant to a consumer’s whereabouts.

In 2017, Google search revealed an increased demand for the best of everything, with mobile searches for “best” growing 80% versus two years ago. [3] This trend isn’t only for high involvement purchases, as even searches for the “best toothbrush” grew by over 100% in the past two years. [2] With this higher consumer benchmark comes a growing dependence on third party testimonials and product reviews. Marketers can position themselves as the experts in their field through cultivating brand advocacy and being open to consumer feedback.

The Impatient Consumer:

The convenience of Googling on mobile, coupled with faster internet speeds and more sophisticated devices, have acclimated people to getting exactly what they want, where they want, and when they want it. Searches on smartphones for “open now” are three times higher versus two years ago, while searches for store hours have plummeted. [4] Mobile searches related to “same-day shipping,” also saw a growth of over 120% over the past two years. [3]

The prevalence of these search terms is evidence of a more time strapped individual who is actively taking charge of the consumer journey. There is a lower tolerance for rigid retail hours or slow ship times. Businesses must cater to a consumer’s demand for immediate gratification through providing timely information and by delivering goods and services in an efficient manner.

At a basic level, it is imperative to ensure a brand’s website, especially on mobile, functions quickly and correctly. 53% of website visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. [4] Achieving this standard is still a work in progress for most companies, with the average mobile site taking 22 seconds to fully load, but continuing to shave down load times is a worthwhile ambition, as Google estimates that for every one second delay, conversions fall by 12%. [4]

As consumers continue to evolve, their demands and standards will steadily increase. People will likely continue asking more specific questions, and expect brands to deliver a rapid and personalized solution that meets their needs. Ensuring digital content is location, time, and shopper specific, will go a long way in attracting and cultivating relationships with the modern day consumer.

1. Think With Google
2. Think With Google
3. Think With Google 
4. Think With Google