Has Covid changed us for good? Google Search Trends has some clues…
Google Trends shows you what people have been searching for on Google. It’s a great window into what people are concerned about at any point in time – and then how long those concerns persisted.
Right now the UK – alongside much of the rest of the world – is in lockdown. In the UK, this will be our third lockdown in less than twelve months. This feels like a good time to look back at the first lockdown and see which search trends started then, and are still going strong today.
So what I was looking for was search terms which spiked in March 2020, but which never faded away. While it was supposed to be a quick peek, my first search might as well have been covered in white fur and carrying a pocket watch, because down the rabbit hole I fell, suddenly knee deep in hundreds of searches. What other attitudes had changed across last year’s lockdowns, what had continued beyond the first two and into this one, what weird stuff were people searching for? And how could this inform our business practices and understanding of consumers as we traverse Lockdown 3.
The first surprise was that, according to Google searches, depression was not as high as we all thought. In fact, searches for that term were higher before the first lockdown, and dropped afterwards. And then stayed below pre-lockdown levels. Hope at least.
This may, however, be linked to my second shocking discovery (which I wouldn’t blame you for distrusting…I had to double check it) that the most popular liquid delivery of 2020 was not always alcohol as I’d assumed, but often afternoon tea. While wine and beer spiked in the first lockdown, tea caught up in May and continued its lead for most of the year. Showing that when the going gets tough, the British reach for a cup of tea.
And the second jaw drop moment came when I decided to look at which country in the UK ordered the most tea. England, right? Wrong. Scotland. Proving beyond any doubt that 2020 really was a strange year.
From tea to travel, and further down the hole I went. With people being discouraged from using public transport such as trains and buses once the lockdown lifted, there was a stampede to try new-ish travel options, culminating in a pitched battle for dominance between electric scooters and electric bikes. With the latter coming out on top. Remarkable really, given that they are currently illegal to ride on public roads. And, seems a little on the lazy side, considering all we heard about was how people were getting fit.
But what really piqued my interest was an apparent preoccupation with paddleboards, which, during the hot summer months became THE way to get around – well, on the river. Not so good for getting down to Tesco for the big shop, or up to the office for the brief time we could go back, but it caught the nation’s attention none-the-less.
However, until the paddle-happy nation could get out on the open water they had to deal with working in their bedrooms/living rooms/garages/gardens/basements/linen closets/dogs baskets. And this is when the boring paraphernalia of an office – desks, chairs, monitors etc – became as interesting as Joe Wicks, Zoom Quizzes, clapping on the doorstep or the latest Netflix phenomenon.
What is surprising is how search interest in office supplies has not only sustained, but grown over time. This paints a picture of people who have invested heavily in making their home office a productive area – making it a tough proposition when the time comes to winkle workers out of their bedrooms and back into the office.
After a quick glance at the aforementioned pocket watch it became clear it was very late and I needed to take the blue pill and go home to bed. But not before one final search. Did everyone droning on about cultivating their own yeast and making sourdough bread actually do it?
To read The Guardian, you would think that the whole country has been cultivating wild yeast daily, but in actual fact, after an initial slow rise in interest (pun intended), searches quickly sunk (and again) back to pre-pandemic levels.
Anyway, I’ve finished my tea, my paddle board paddles are safely stored in the garage, time to pull myself from my Aster high back mesh office chair with retractable arms and scoot off to bed leaving the wonderland of Google searches behind.