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Consumer behavior shifts for a post-pandemic United States

The pandemic was a great example of just how much can change in one year’s time. In April 2020, Americans were grappling with new lockdown restrictions: businesses shutting down, office life moving to remote work, and dramatic decreases in gatherings of all sizes. Fast forward to April 2021, and the United States has a new sense of hope as vaccination numbers increase and reopening measures begin.

You may find yourself asking what types of changes we can expect as we head into spring and summer. Microsoft Advertising Insights aimed to answer exactly that by exploring the top post-pandemic trends we could see in the coming months. Our analysis consisted of comparing search acceleration trends for the state with the fewest remaining lockdown restrictions, Iowa, against the state with the largest remaining amount of lockdown restrictions, Virginia. Don’t sit on these potential upcoming trends — let us help you reach consumers during this new era!

Go explore the great outdoors

Remember all those weddings you were invited to last year that were canceled at the onset of the pandemic? Well, pull out your dancing shoes because signs are showing there will be a big increase in weddings in 2021. Iowa has shown a much larger spike in wedding queries than Virginia for searches such as ‘wedding guestbooks’ (+250% vs. +33%), ‘wedding invitations’ (+49% vs. +22%), and ‘wedding supply and equipment rentals’ (+74% vs. +41%).

Search volume change by state for 'wedding guestbooks'

Line graph depicting search volume change over time (week of January 2 through week of February 27) for "wedding guestbooks" in Iowa and Virginia. Search volume for "wedding guestbooks" in Iowa has growingly increased over time, up to +250 percent in the week of February 27; in Virginia, growth has been more moderate, +33 percent in the week of February 27.

The fun shouldn’t stop with weddings, as evidence suggests outdoor activities of all kinds will surge: We’re seeing similar trends for queries relating to ‘flower garden and home shows,’ ‘BBQs and grills,’ and ‘golf clubs.’ Iowa’s average temperature in March was 11 degrees cooler than Virginia’s, it’s safe to say the divergence in the data is not related to weather.

Recommendation: Use Keyword Planner to find powerful new keywords and conduct research.

Goodbye pajamas; hello business casual

Not only will people be seeing more of the outdoors in coming months, but they’ll also start their return to the office after months of working from home. Iowa has seen large increases in searches for ‘dress shirts’ (+35%) and ‘employment offer letters’ (+28%) while simultaneously seeing a dip in ‘home based business opportunities’ queries (-26%). This suggests we should start to see an uptick in business offices reopening. If you’re an advertiser in the retail or technology space, this is the perfect time for you to start targeting those customers who should soon be back to their pre-pandemic work schedules.

Recommendation: Use Dynamic Search Ads to drive incremental query coverage and expose new search trends and themes.

The return of brick-and-mortars

Brick-and-mortar stores will also see traffic increases after months of few to no customers. In a survey conducted for our Suzy x Microsoft Advertising 2021 Consumer Trends Report, we found that “47% of respondents feel it’s more important than ever to support local retailers over chains/big box stores.” Small businesses across the country suffered immensely from the pandemic, and will need clear marketing strategies to drive foot traffic to recover.

Recommendation: Use the Microsoft Audience Network native advertising to reach your audience where they are and increase engagement with customers, as we found that retail advertisers who run search and native advertising in tandem are 3.5x more likely to draw a conversion than those who exclusively use paid search.

Let’s hit the road!

Though travel has declined over the last year, we believe the market should start rebounding soon. We’ve already seen slight increases in travel searches with the rise of vaccinations, and we expect to see a larger uptick in vacation planning this summer, especially for road trips. Queries that have climbed over the last four months include ‘vans and minivans,’ ‘campsites and campgrounds,’ and ‘car DVD players.’ We can infer from these trends that car travel will most likely be the first travel category to spike in coming months.

Recommendation: Use Travel In-market Audiences in your campaigns to capitalize on these trends early.

We’re here to support you

We know 2020 was a hard year for communities and businesses, but we believe the gateway to recovery is near. Microsoft Advertising is here to help you engage with your customers in the most effective ways, as we start to prepare for a post-pandemic America. Stay tuned as we continue to explore what this ‘new normal’ will look like for consumers, and how their behaviors may change as a result.

Resources

If you love insights, we have a lot more coming in 2021! Sign up for the weekly Microsoft Advertising Insider newsletter to keep up to speed automatically with other vertical and seasonal analyses, tips and tricks, thought leadership, and product updates, and visit the Microsoft Advertising Insights content hub, which is updated weekly.