After surviving a global pandemic, disproportionate impacts on women, facing an awakening of racial injustice and coming to terms with a climate crisis, “we’re all different people now,” said Kellie Fitzgerald, managing director, retail at Google. And that’s not hard to believe, she told the audience at Women in Power, as she reflected on her own personal, professional and consumer behavior changes over the last three years.
And then, 2022 brought on a new set of challenges with consumers dealing with financial uncertainty, once again impacting shopping behavior, including intent to purchase. All of this, Fitzgerald said, gets tied into brand purpose, as consumers have become more connected to personal values, which directly impacts how they shop.
“Whether someone is choosing to buy an electric car to do her part for sustainability in the environment, or simply directing their $5 to a Black-owned coffee shop, consumers are actively shopping their values in nearly every transaction today,” said Fitzgerald. “Now, at the same time, consumers are experiencing rising prices on essential items like gas and groceries and rent, so they’re forced to make tough choices on how and where to spend. We’re seeing a significant increase in consumer shopping for deals, looking for ways to stay within a budget or even buying in bulk in order to save. However, the importance of value has not diminished the importance of values.”
Over and over again, Google’s data analytics show that the search and shopping data proves that “it’s not an either-or, it’s both and more,” she said.
One way that personal values show up as consumers search on Google is in modifiers that consumers use. A “magic” keyword for queries is “for,” which critically serves to share a consumer’s personal value and identity — for example, a search for “sustainable hair products for graying hair,” which not only shows that the consumer wants to find environmentally friendly products, but also indicates their age.
“It really changes your ability to connect in a meaningful way with them and understanding their identities gives you more chances to service and delight them with your product and what you have to offer,” said Fitzgerald. This insights data is also relevant, she said, as prices continue to rise as consumers are searching for key items with modifiers for promotional codes.
According to Google’s data, searches for the terms “cheap” and “best” together have risen by 40 percent year-over-year. Searches for “designer outlet” have also seen a 90 percent increase since just last year.
In addition to price, sustainability has been top of mind for shoppers, Fitzgerald said, though consumers still want to find the best options at accessible price points. With this in mind, Fitzgerald pointed to fast-fashion brands as a potential winner if they continue to offer more sustainable options and evolve when it comes to environmental impact.
“Our primary goal is to be helpful and we really respect the opportunity to respond to the identities and values that people are sharing with us when they search,” said Fitzgerald on her team at Google. “Our goal is to partner with many brands like all of you represent to ensure that you can go beyond just talking about your brand values and really embed them and activate them in every touch point as differentiating features of your product and your service.”