Ziad Chehade, Head of Business Marketing at Google MENA, explains the latest trends in consumer behavior and how automation can help brands understand and leverage them online.
The pandemic has caused a number of changes to consumer behavior for the last two years, pushing marketers to traverse an unknown territory. Which of these changes will stand the test of time? Consumer insights in MENA show that at least three trends will last throughout the year: keeping pace with changeable consumerism, understanding choice complexity to read the new reality, and building sustainable trust.
Keeping pace with changeable consumerism
The pandemic has accelerated behaviors that were largely underway already, from online shopping to online learning. COVID-19 was the catalyst that prompted a digital leap, resulting in more people going online in search of answers. In fact, around 5.6 billion searches happen every day on Google Search and more than 15% are new and unique queries we have never seen before. It’s important to note that in MENA, a considerable percentage of these searches happen purely in Arabic – over 50% to be precise, and that number soars to 70% in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The way people search for answers online has also changed, which we can see through more personalized queries. What once may have been a simple search for “baby car seats” has now become “What type of baby car seats are safest for long road trips?” for example.
This is why the first step to discover what consumers want is using real-time insights to identify where demand is and forecast trends. We’ve recently launched Insights Page in Google Ads to allow advertisers in MENA to identify audience insights that are curated specifically for them, find products with rising demand, and spot timely opportunities for geo expansion.
Understanding choice complexity to read the new reality.
With more people shopping online and more retailers selling their products on the web, the vast number of choices has truly affected how consumers make their purchase decisions. To help marketers dive deeper into this dynamic journey or process, we partnered with behavioral science experts, The Behavioural Architects, to launch a study called “Decoding Decisions.”
This study identified the “messy middle,” a space between trigger and purchase where decisions are actually made and customers are either won or lost by businesses. The path to purchase is no longer a funnel but rather a maze consisting of a complex web of touchpoints. Shoppers in this middle phase are in one of two mental modes: exploration or evaluation. The first phase is usually expansive, as consumers explore endless options. The second phase on the other hand is reductive, as consumers get to narrow their choices down. It’s important to note that consumers usually tend to flip the switch between these two phases till they make their final decision/s.
Decoding the messy middle
People’s shopping behavior is influenced by cognitive biases, and we’ve prioritized the six most prominent biases that could help nudge consumers into purchasing:
Navigating this messy middle can seem like a minefield, but with the help of automation, businesses can find new demand and unlock new growth opportunities – while also respecting user privacy and building trust. Whether customers are searching for “how to deal with a midnight tantrum” or “the best non-stick frying pan,” automation will deliver a relevant and helpful ad to the right person when they need it the most.
According to the 2019 BCG report “The Dividends of Digital Marketing Maturity,” automation can help drive performance by over 20%. If matched with human input, businesses can even increase their results by a further +15%. At Google, we’ve previously launched the Recommendations Page, which offers personalized recommendations prioritized according to your business KPIs. Today, we are pleased to announce that we are taking automation a step further by giving you the option to have your choice of recommendations get applied automatically. This will allow you as a business to respond to opportunities faster and reallocate resources to focus on other initiatives.
Tips to adapt to some primary trends in 2022 across the region and beyond:
Leverage the power of automation to apply recommendations that help you respond to opportunities faster and drive better results
Building sustainable trust
The newly evolved consumer behavior is underpinned by privacy and trust. Searches for “online privacy” have grown by 50% in one year. Additionally, the demand for visibility is on an upward trajectory with 86% of consumers demanding more transparency over how their personal information is used.
To protect user privacy, automation is helping to shift marketing from being ‘precise’ to being ‘predictive’ by using data aggregation like user cohorts, anonymization of data, and modeling to rebuild a complete picture. It’s important for businesses to ensure they are ready and well-equipped for the privacy-first future by adopting solutions like Global Site Tagging and Consent Mode which help observe conversions. There are also other tools like Google Analytics 4 and Global Site Tag, which help marketers get a more complete picture of their audience while preserving user privacy. It surely takes time to build trust between the brand and the customer. This is why marketers can start by being open and transparent about how and when they collect personal details in order to show ads that are useful to customers, and by putting users in control of their data.
As we speak, 2022 is already bringing new trends, including shifts in the way the industry approaches inclusive marketing campaigns and shoppable content, among others. No matter how trends change, it’s clear that automation will play a bigger role in helping businesses adjust their campaigns, measure results more efficiently, and expand more effectively.
This article was published in Communicate's latest issue.