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Vertical tips for advertising in uncertain times

Two women working with some handouts in a desk next to a laptop in an office.

Economic uncertainty has been somewhat of a constant trend since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and financial experts are predicting an unstable environment for the remainder of 2022 as well. Reaching consumers during this time is extremely important; in some ways, advertising dollars can have more impact during a potential downturn. As competitors scale back, you can gain a higher share of voice (SOV) and reach consumers who may have otherwise gone elsewhere.

Here at Microsoft Advertising, we took a look at the top trends per vertical, including Travel, Automotive, Retail, Technology, Health & Wellness, and Financial Services. All the verticals shared one overarching theme: Consumers want to save. Read on to find out what query types and ad strategies can help you send the right message at the right time.

Top trend for 2022: Travel

Travel’s a vertical that was hit hard at the onset of the pandemic, as consumers initially felt unsafe going into public places. It’s since picked up again, with this summer being one of the busiest travel summers we’ve seen in quite some time. With pent-up demand, the price of airline tickets increased by 25% in June. Despite price increases, consumers are still ready to get back out there and travel.

According to a recent Civic Science survey, 41% of consumers are still interested in traveling this fall, despite inflation concerns. Not only that, but half of the respondents said they’ll plan their trips between 2 and 6 months in advance, making now an ideal time to reach out to them through Microsoft Advertising.

Insider tip from Microsoft Advertising: People still want to travel, but they’re also looking for ways to save money by doing so. Searches for travel containing the words "cheap" and "discount" have risen +56% since January 2022. Make sure to integrate cost-saving phrases into your keywords this fall!

Chart for cheap and discount travel searches percentages since January 2022.

Top trend for 2022: Automotive

The automotive industry was also hit hard during the pandemic due to inventory delays, and gas prices have been on the rise for a few months now. Electric vehicles (EV) were already on the rise with +47% year-over-year (YoY) growth for branded queries in 2021, but the change in gas prices has helped driving even more attention to EV options. In a recent analysis done by Microsoft Advertising, we found that electrified queries have a strong positive correlation (r value of 0.74) with United States fuel prices. In other words, as the cost of fuel goes up, so does the number of queries related to electric vehicles. Click growth is happening across both the economy and luxury markets and is expected to continue into the rest of 2022.

Insider tip from Microsoft Advertising: The Hybrid and Alternative Vehicles In-market Audiences on the Microsoft Audience Network increased 3x in size during the first half of 2022! Reach this rapidly growing In-market Audiences on the Microsoft Audience Network for upcoming electric vehicle launches and updates.

Graphic showing growth of Electrified Clicks by class

Top trend for 2022: Retail

The top trend we’ve uncovered from Retail is straightforward: People want to save money, and they're willing to wait for a good deal to do so. 84% of Microsoft customers said they’re at least somewhat likely to wait for the upcoming Labor Day sales to buy non-essential items rather than paying full price ahead of time. The most popular types of deals being used right now are buy one, get one (BOGO) deals or percentage off deals, although free shipping and free gifts with purchase have also been used.

Insider tip from Microsoft Advertising: This July's Prime Day was a huge success, and it most likely contributed to consumers' desire to save money. Traffic containing "deals," "discounts," or "sales" all began ramping up in early July. You can get ahead of demand for Labor Day sales by highlighting sales and including similar messaging in your upcoming campaigns! In 2021, searches and clicks related to Labor Day began to peak about a week before the holiday.

Top trend for 2022: Technology and Telecommunications

Regardless of pricing, smartphones are here to stay. Despite all the inflation talk, the demand for smartphones is rising YoY. The United States market is holding strong, with an expected +2% YoY growth for all of 2022. Surprisingly, consumers are willing to compromise on what type of smartphone they get if it means saving money along the way. Recent estimates show that consumers are willing to pay between $100-$500 for a smartphone, which is much lower than, say, the latest Apple iPhone 13 Plus that’s currently on shelves.

Insider tip from Microsoft Advertising: The main way consumers are saving money on smartphones right now is by purchasing older models. You can use this opportunity to promote both new and older models with Multimedia Ads to stay on top of your competition. We recommend highlighting price models that fall below the $500 spend level.

Smartphone owners comparison bar graphic

Top trend for 2022: Health & Wellness

One of the main places we’re seeing inflation affects the health industry is through the price of pharmaceutical drugs. Currently, 18% of United States adults have reported having medical debt caused by prescription medical costs, and an even greater portion of adults are concerned about possible increases. For consumers sensitive to affordability pressures, the uncertainty of the market holds a great amount of stress over their heads. Stand out amongst your competitors in this space by lowering your prices, even slightly, to attract attention from users who are searching for cheaper options.

Insider tip from Microsoft Advertising: Not surprisingly, consumers sensitive to medication prices are also more likely to be in the market for a variety of credit and lending services. Find overlapping In-market Audiences between these verticals and reach consumers on both ends.

Top In-market Audiences information chart

Top trend for 2022: Financial Services

Financial Services are perhaps one of the most widely utilized industries during a time of economic uncertainty, and Microsoft Advertising results are no different. We unlocked plenty of insights to share with you, but the overarching theme remains consistent with other verticals. In short, people are looking to save money wherever they can. Savings accounts are growing in popularity, showing a massive +165% YoY growth in June 2022.

Not only that, but queries for cash-back and reward-based credit cards are also soaring. Make sure to make the most of the newly introduced Credit card ads on the Microsoft Audience Network, so you can showcase your credit card products and promotions in more high-quality placements than ever before.

Insider tip from Microsoft Advertising: Now is a good opportunity for advertisers as cost per click (CPC) for “savings account” terms are low. Leverage this opportunity while searches are still rising month over month (MoM).

Resources 

Curious about other category trends we’re seeing across our marketplace from a search or native perspective? Luckily, if you love insights, we have a lot more coming in 2022! Visit the Microsoft Advertising Insights content hub, which is updated weekly.

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