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APAC Year in Search 2021: Identifying Top Consumer Trends Through Consumers’ Search Patterns

After the economic disruption caused by COVID-19 across the world in 2020, we slowly began adapting ourselves to the idea of constant flux and disruptions. The healing process began with the world taking small and steady steps.

Thankfully, the Internet came to everyone’s rescue during these trying times and people from across the world turned to the search bar every day to satiate their hunger for information. These searches painted a picture that gave us valuable insights into what people really want and care about.

However, it’s nothing short of a Herculean task for marketers to make sense of billions of searches that happen every year. But Google’s Year in Search report has compiled search data to identify the top 5 consumer trends that will guide their marketing strategy into the next year.

So, let’s analyze the key pointers from Google’s report to understand the trends that would shape up consumer search patterns as we go forward.

1. Mainstreaming Digitization

While 2020 saw the migration of millions of people online, 2021 showed the retention power of digital. From online shopping to availing of different services, people who began their online journeys due to some necessity are now proactively using the power of the Internet. This shift to digital lifestyle has been ushered in by various factors such as convenience, speed, and price.

APAC’s digital migration has continued with more people going online to access services that were disrupted by lockdowns. In the first half of the year itself, 20 million people from Southeast Asia became new digital consumers. The staying power of digital is such that more than 58% of consumers in India and China are now purchasing a majority of items online instead of going in-store. This figure was only 34% till last year. Flexible cost options, diversity of product offerings, time and cost savings, and delivery services are some of the biggest factors that are motivating shoppers to go for digital-first experiences.

With the influx of new users, businesses are also changing their digital strategies to meet people where they are. Growing searches across APAC show businesses are trying to understand more about digital transformation strategies and online inventory management.

Also, people are now expanding the use of apps and technology in their day-to-day lives while also experimenting with new digital services like contactless payments. Although digital wallets mainly gained traction as a contact-free payment mechanism during the pandemic, their ease and convenience are converting consumers for good. The first quarter of 2021 alone saw Mastercard registering 1 billion more contactless transactions against the same period in 2020.

2. Reexamining Lives

People have embraced many changes over the last year and are now reexamining their former lifestyle choices. In a recent survey, almost 50% of the APAC consumers said that the pandemic inspired them to reassess their priorities in life. The most significant shift in priority came in their approach to finance and savings.

People’s perspective on their finances has undergone a significant change too. While some people tried new ways to put their savings to work through investments, others looked for deals, discounts, and ways to boost their finances. Ahead of the 2021 holiday season, most shoppers planned to either buy less or wait till there was a sale.

People have also started focusing on updating their homes as they accept a more permanent way of hybrid living. There was a 25% growth in search interest in “indoor bicycles” in South Korea and Malaysia and a 45% growth in Singaporeans looking for “ergonomic chairs at home”. Indonesia saw a 25% boost in search interest in “solar power” and “electricity saving” as people started looking for long-term ways to reduce the toll of stay-at-home life on their electricity bills.

3. Bridging Distances

The pandemic kept apart countless people and this led them to find ways to adapt. But in 2021, we saw the sense of separation deepening further. As a result, people moved beyond finding brief moments of connection, to finding new ways to express themselves and create deeper and more ongoing relationships, both online and offline.

With new COVID-19 variants emerging, APAC consumers still remain wary of being in close contact with others. In fact, people in India, Japan, and South Korea feel much more anxious about resuming normal activities compared to the global average. However, the fear of resuming in-person activities hasn’t overridden the basic human needs for personal connection. Rising searches show that people continue to find new ways to connect with each other and how they rely on digital platforms to do so.

One example of finding that personal connection is adapting the way they express their affection. People are now searching for gifts that they can send to their loved ones in lieu of physical touch or time spent together. An October 2021 survey found that one in two APAC consumers prefer to meet their loved ones virtually instead of in person. Also, the searches for online group activities like concerts, races, and escape rooms have seen significant growth.

4. Seeking Truth

With data breaches on the rise, consumers have become more skeptical than ever. Scared of being misled, they are proactively looking for credible sources using Search to scrutinize brand values and ensure the authenticity of the brands that they engage with.

The pandemic further exposed the dangerous consequences of misinformation and spurred governments across the region to come up with laws on fake news. Also, the public has become more aware of the consequences of false information, with 86% of APAC consumers expressing their concerns about fake news. People are not only savvier about the kind o content they see online but also proactively seek the right information on their own.

Moreover, consumers have now become much more alert against fraud and scams and are constantly looking for ways to shield themselves from this menace. With data breaches hitting an all-time high in 2021, searches related to privacy continued to rise along with their concerns about their digital safety.

Also, shoppers are more willing than ever to invest their time and resources to ensure that their choices align with their beliefs and value systems. Rising searches for ethical shopping and sustainable practices bear ample testimony to consumers’ will to hold their brands accountable for their claims.

5. Growing Inequality

While most people’s lives saw a significant shift over the last year, not everyone was affected equally. The pandemic not only exposed the existing inequalities but exacerbated them. These inequalities existed even before the pandemic but COVID-19 played a critical role in accelerating these inequalities.

Lower-income households saw more job losses and their children missed twice as many days in school compared to their classmates from high-income families. Also, women suffered a higher degree of violence, with 83% of women in Indonesia reporting an increase in domestic violence since COVD-19.

As cities shut down during the pandemic, millions of migrants across the APAC had to head back to their homes in rural areas. Since they had no access to high-speed internet anymore, they and their families lost jobs and learning opportunities. On the other hand, widespread digital migration has brought more users online from non-metropolitan areas in APAC, thereby, accelerating the need for the evolution of a digital ecosystem to address their specific needs.

People have also started to realize that these societal inequalities can’t be solved by governments alone. Therefore, brands are also expected to drive the change now. Since brands that are seen to be more ethical and competent enjoy better customer loyalty, the onus is on brands to not only reflect diversity but also do enough to create equity in societies.

Wrapping Up

Digital has become mainstream in 2021 and helping people bridge physical distances. As the ripple effects of the pandemic continue to pile up challenges across APAC, everything that brands once knew about their consumers must be re-evaluated. And in order to move ahead, marketers need to look back and assess 2021 to gauge the direction of the winds of change.

To delve further into the findings of the report, click here.


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