Local is now digital: Understanding the new local shopper

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how consumers shop worldwide; they rely more on the Internet to research and discover products to buy. For example, search interest for products like the “best exercise bikes,” “best ring lights” and “best air fryers” increased by 100% or more in the last year. To make it easier for consumers to discover top products and the best places to buy them, Google launched the Best Things for Everything Guide.

We’ve seen that shoppers don’t just turn to Google for things they want to buy on the web; they also use Google to find what they need nearby. Over the past year, we’ve seen a significant increase in commercial intent across Google including Google Search, Google Maps and YouTube.

Finding what’s nearby on Google Search

Whether it’s to support small businesses in their community or ensure a nearby store has the item they need in stock, consumers are using Google Search to thoughtfully research their shopping trips in advance. 

  • Searches for “local” + “business(es)” have grown by more than 80% year over year, including searches like “local businesses near me” and “support local businesses.”
  • Searches for “who has” + “in stock” have grown by more than 8,000% year over, including searches like “who has nintendo switch in stock” and “who has gym equipment in stock.”

Icon of a blue rising arrow over a store icon. Text says: "Searches for "who has" + "in stock" have grown by over 8000% year over year in the U.S.

Beyond retail searches, we’ve seen an increase in online research before heading out to a restaurant or to get takeout. At Google, we recently found that:

  • Two out of three dining consumers said they used search to find food and beverage information during the pandemic.
  • Fifty-seven percent of dining consumers said they discovered food and beverage information during the pandemic via online ads.

Exploring new products on YouTube

YouTube has become a critical part of not just the shopping process, but the local shopping process too. In a recent U.S. Google/Talkshoppe study, we found that:

  • Forty-five percent of viewers say they watch YouTube to see a product demo before buying.
  • Viewers say they are 2x more likely to go in-store or online to buy something they saw on YouTube versus the competitive average.

Starting their journey on Google Maps

Google Maps has become a more critical part of the local user experience, as people use Maps to explore something they’re interested in, versus just for navigation:

  • Searches on Google Maps for “curbside pickup” have increased 9000% year over year in the U.S.
  • Searches on Google Maps for “discounts” have grown globally by more than 100% year over year.
  • Searches on Google Maps for “gift shop” have grown globally by more than 60% year over year.
Map icon. Text says: Searches in Google Maps for "curbside pickup" have increased 9000% year over year in the U.S.

Visits to local stores and restaurants continue to be top of mind in the new year:

Top Generic Searches on Google Maps:

  • restaurants
  • hotels
  • restaurants near me
  • gas
  • food
  • food near me
  • grocery store
  • gas station
  • coffee
  • pizza

Top Brands Searched on Google Maps:

  • walmart
  • starbucks
  • home depot
  • target
  • mcdonald’s
  • costco
  • chick fil a
  • walgreens
  • cvs
  • bank of america

Source: Google Data, U.S., February 2021

Connect these shoppers to your store

Every month in 2020, Google helped drive over two billion direct connections, including phone calls, requests for directions, messages, bookings and reviews for U.S. businesses.

If you run a business with physical stores, it’s crucial to make sure your customers can easily find you online. Check our new best practices guide on how to drive offline sales with online ads.

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