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COVID-19 and Retail consumer trends

COVID-19 has changed how people shop overnight: how they interact with the products has gone from in-store where they can see and touch to completely digital. As a result, consumers are turning to search for ways to adapt and thrive as everyday life looks drastically different.

Search trends in retail, how and what people are searching for, have changed dramatically in the past few months.  Due to the radical change in everyday life, people are changing how they are shopping for products and goods they need without going in-store. Consumers are leveraging search, with Retail searches increasing by 17% post COVID-19, so we can analyze this information to understand how consumer behaviour is evolving.

As search volumes have increased, there are a few trends we are seeing that retail advertisers should ensure they’re taking part in. People are learning a lot in this new way of working, schooling and staying home, and they’ve increasingly searched for Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS), Food, Grocery & Cooking, Holidays & Gifting and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.

Buy Online, Pick Up in Store is continuing to grow

Consumers want convenience and safety when shopping, so instead of going in-store, many are opting for Buy Online, Pick Up in Store (BOPIS) options. BOPIS and “click-and-collect" is expected to grow over 60% this year according to eMarketer, up from the 38% growth predicted earlier in the year. BOPIS searches have massively spiked as COVID set in, which shows a huge change in consumer behaviour that is likely to stick around long after this pandemic. There’s an opportunity for you to implement curbside pickup and BOPIS as shopping options to adhere to legal and CDC guidelines and as restrictions loosen — incorporate this benefit in your advertising copy to capture consumers looking for convenience and safety without sacrificing speed. Update your hours of operations or share any announcements you want your customers to know with Bing Places.

Consumers are cooking at home and looking for inspiration

People are spending more time cooking and eating at home and they are searching for items to make cooking more enjoyable and easier.  Searches for major and small kitchen appliances (bread makers, anyone?) on the Microsoft Search Network are up 44% year over year (YoY). Unsurprisingly, Food & Beverage searches have increased by 27% YoY as home cooks are researching their next meal. According to Deloitte Insights, 37% of U.S. consumers plan to spend more on groceries within the next four weeks. Like the BOPIS trend, online grocery and delivery searches spiked 202% YoY. If you’re a grocery store, meal box service, food content creator or small appliance retailer, reach consumers with broad match, and highlight your products and offerings with Callout Extensions that will entice the newest wave of novice chefs.

Activities and projects shift to DIY and at-home

Shelter-in-place orders have many people searching for DIY projects, homemade items and ways to repair or complete projects on their own. According to eMarketer, 17% of Americans are planning on purchasing home renovation supplies. The pandemic has forced consumers who typically would hire someone or are bored at home to get creative and turn to search for inspiration and direction. For example, the term “make” in searches is seeing an astounding 906% increase YoY. Recently I saw my favorite cupcake shop offer “decorate your own cupcake” kits, turning those fancy boutique cupcakes into DIY. Get creative with ways to offer DIY or at-home projects and virtual services such as online how-to videos and update your ad copy to reflect these offerings. 

Year over year search growth, post Covid-19, showing 906 percent growth in searches using the term, make.

Celebrations turn virtual

While families are not able to be together, they have turned to search to discover ways to celebrate big occasions virtually.  Searches including “virtual” in the queries are up 25x YoY, highlighting the need for consumers to find inspiration on gifts and celebrations that are normally done in person. While graduation looked vastly different than many had imagined, graduation searches were up 428% YoY, signaling the desire to celebrate achievements during COVID-19. Non-branded searches are increasing, from 87% of total searches before COVID-19 to 90% of searches after COVID-19. Capture the attention of those looking to celebrate, whether it be birthdays or milestones, by offering virtual celebrations, delivery of decorations and catered food deliveries to help enhance their big day. Take advantage of users searching without brands in mind, use Dynamic Search Ads to capture emerging queries for holidays and milestones


Adapting to new consumer behaviours is not always easy, but Microsoft Advertising can help you meet your customers where they are searching. Search demonstrates consumer behaviour intent, and we can help you better understand your consumers as well as reach them more effectively and efficiently.

For these and many other regularly updated insights, please bookmark our COVID-19 insights and resources for advertisers hub and subscribe to the Microsoft Advertising Insider newsletter to receive blog updates automatically. If you’d prefer to listen instead, follow our Insights with Microsoft podcast series on Apple, Google and Spotify. Curious about strategies and recommendations? Read our digital advertiser’s guide to COVID-19. For insights on Marketing with Purpose, which explores building loyalty and creating business value through an expanded view on trust paved with empathy, inclusivity and knowing your brand’s purpose, bookmark our curated hub.