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Google’s Rising Retail Categories Report Gives Advertisers Consumer Behavior Trend Data

Google recently released a new tool called the Rising Retail Categories report to help advertisers see period-over-period snapshots of consumer behavior searching patterns. Users can view week-over-week, month-over-month, or year-over-year trends in the US, UK, or Australia. Advertisers can click into one of the top 25 trending categories to drill into top growing queries within that category and the relative volume for that category by location.

Trending categories

Before taking action, context is key

This report is helpful for digital marketers to get a quick snapshot of what new topics are top-of-mind for consumers relative to past periods. However, it’s important to consider context before taking action. For example, the above screenshot shows week-over-week category trends that includes data from the week of May 3rd. All of the top eight trending categories can be tied to one-time events that aren’t predictive of future purchasing patterns. The cooldown in the Northeast that drove demand for Landscape Fabric will be replaced as low temperatures increase to the 50s this weekend. Holidays, like Mothers’ Day and Cinco de Mayo, already came and went.

Within categories, it’s also important to look into specific queries to determine purchase intent. The number 11 category in this week’s report is Salon Chairs. However, upon further investigation we find that the query driving that trend is “barber shop”. With weeks-long Coronavirus stay-at-home orders starting to phase out in some states, we can assume that this is consumers looking for open hair cutting establishments with no online purchase intent.

Compare category and query trends to your own search campaigns to identify opportunities

If there are Rising Retail Category trends that don’t appear to be short-lived based on context, there are a few ways advertisers can use these data points to support their search marketing efforts. Before pursuing those opportunities, we recommend putting a few of the top queries from whatever category you’re investigating into Google Trends to see if search volume is still elevated or if the peak may have passed.

  • Check for keyword gaps: Use the top growing queries section of the dashboard to see if there are new ways customers are searching for your category. Check these queries against your current keyword set to see if there’s any opportunity to either add new keywords or bid up on existing ones.
  • Identify overall consumer themes: While you may not sell an item that falls squarely into one of the trending categories, underlying themes can help identify what consumers are thinking about and what tangentially related products might sell well next. For example, some of the top trending categories month-over-month are Swimming Pools and Water Parks & Slides. Customers are clearly eager to enjoy the warming weather at home. Even if they’re not showing as trending categories, items like bathing suits, sunscreen, fire pits, and string lights might also be top-of-mind for customers to create and enjoy their backyard oasis. Granted, some of that interest might occur this time every year, but this is a good opportunity to ensure that those categories are getting appropriate bids and visibility after being dormant over the winter. This data is especially useful now, when consumer patterns are less predictable and not necessarily following typical seasonal patterns.
  • Gut-check geo performance: Part of the report that we haven’t touched on much yet is the Relative Volume graphic that shows relative search volume by state for each category. Note that this data does not appear to be per capita, so there is some bias toward states with higher populations. However, it can be a useful reference point to quickly see if the traffic you’re getting roughly aligns with Google’s trends and identify any gross mismatches between your account and broader U.S. trends. Looking at the graph below, we see that Cupcakes are about half as popular in Florida as they are in California. If your Cupcakes campaign is actually seeing Florida impressions at 25% of your California impressions, perhaps you’re losing out on some auctions due to your bids being too low. You can quickly dig into the efficiency and location bid modifiers for that campaign to see if more aggressive bids are warranted.

Volume map

Conclusion

The Rising Retail Categories tool is a great reference point for retailers to keep tabs on what categories are seeing period-over-period growth, especially during unpredictable times. While it may not drive shifts in paid search strategy, having a source that summarizes consumer trends across the country can lead to quick wins for advertisers that smartly incorporate the dashboard into weekly account health checks.

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