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COVID-19 insights & trends (May 27 edition)

As consumers remain home, search has grown in increasing importance. It helps brands stay connected with consumers and highlights new and emerging behavior trends. Our goal is to continue to provide you with new and updated search trends on a weekly basis as you adjust to the ongoing changes in search behavior.

The value of search during a pandemic

The disruption in our daily lives caused by the coronavirus is like nothing we’ve ever experienced. According to Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future, “Daily life is far more disrupted by the pandemic than after 9/11 or the beginning of World War II, and anxiety is at levels only seen after Pearl Harbor and the Great Depression.” When framed against that backdrop of other major tragedies, it becomes clear that we’ll be talking about our recent COVID-19 experiences for the rest of our lives. There is, however, one major difference between past events and what’s happening now—that’s our current access to technology. More specifically, the ability to use search to answer questions, solve problems and get the latest information has fundamentally changed our behaviors during this time of crisis. This powerful tool enables every person on the planet to find answers, something that even was not readily available as recently as 9/11 when search was still in its infancy.
The benefit of search is twofold, helping both consumers and advertisers. Behind every query is intent, and it’s these signals that allow brands and advertisers to connect directly with their customers. At a time when businesses have shut their physical doors, this point of connection has never been more vital. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that search is the least-affected media channel amidst the COVID-19 era. When looking at top media budgets, display, social, video and TV are all expecting reductions between 47% to 41%, in descending order. On the other hand, search is only expected to see a 24% reduction in budget. According to a recent Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) study, media buyers are opting to invest more in social and search right now relative to other channels because of the agility at which they can produce ads that adapt to the everchanging consumer landscape. Beyond allowing for the right messaging, search is also proving to have the best performance. Our multi-touch attribution study found that on average, search clicks are directly followed by a conversion 2.6x more than clicks from other ad types, including social and video.

Chart illustrating that search clicks drive conversions 2.6x more than clicks from other ad types.

The benefits of direct response marketing have been well known before this global pandemic and these data are proving search to be a reliable advertising channel to help businesses weather the storm. As a relatively new member to this media mix, native advertising has also seen positive performance as of late. For example, the Microsoft Audience Network has seen click volume increase by 50% for Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPGs) since COVID-19 was first declared an emergency. At the same time, costs per click (CPCs) have gone down by 30% and click-through rate (CTR) has gone up by 14%. Leading the charge on this volume and performance are Beauty & Personal Care products, whose clicks are up 69%. It’s clear to see that people are in the mindset of keeping up their personal hygiene at home and native advertising is doing a great job at capturing that interest.
To bring it back full circle, there is a lot of consumer intent that advertisers and brands can glean from search platform data, so use this to your advantage when making business decisions. There are also plenty of additional resources available to help recommend products and solutions based on your business needs. To get started, be sure to check out Good luck and be safe.

Search trend & behavior changes during COVID-19

Health & Wellness

Retail & CPG

Tech & Telecom


For these and many other weekly-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 AppleGoogle 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.