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Search Intelligence

How the cost of living crisis is shaping UK search behaviour

Profile picture of daniel morenoDaniel Moreno
Originally published on VMLY&R
on December 16th, 20212

Daniel Moreno, Senior Connections Manager, shares 2 interesting insights on how the cost of living crisis is affecting searcher behaviour in the UK.

It's no secret that the cost of living is a hot topic right now. In Q3 alone, UK social mentions and Google searches for 'inflation' have increased by over 264% and 71% respectively compared to the same time last year. And it’s not about to get easier, as inflation is forecasted to hit a record high of 13.3% by the end of 2022.

We will continue to see rises in prices, affecting most households in the UK. In turn, this will also influence buying behaviours as consumers adapt to challenging circumstances and look to be more conscious of how they spend their money in the months ahead.

As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers find a way to adapt to unexpected situations, and the current economic crisis is no different. By analysing data from popular search platforms, such as Google and Youtube, it’s clear to see some changes in searcher behaviour have already begun, and two interesting themes have started to emerge.

1. Preloved fashion continues to rise

Data from Google indicates that searchers' interest in second-hand clothing has increased by over 30% in Q3 2022. It’s a meta trend that started to accelerate back in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, but now a steep short-term rise appears to indicate this trend is fully taking off.

What's even more interesting is that many consumers have turned to second-hand apps like Vinted and Depop not only to buy, but to sell unused items and make a few quid off of them. 'How to sell on vinted' and 'sell on depop' have increased in search demand on Google by over 40% year-on-year. While on Youtube, we can see that searches for selling clothes online have also grown by over 23% over the last 12 months.

As shown in a recent trend report from Google, this behaviour change is also helping consumers live more sustainably. Especially as it’s not only clothes being sold and bought in second-hand apps, but shoes, toys, and even books are also getting to new owners, reducing the chances they end up in a landfill. It certainly helps explain why there were two times more searches for "Vinted" in the first half of 2022 than in the entire of 2021.

But there is more driving this steep increase in preloved behaviours as our research has also shown that search interest in recycling old clothes has dropped significantly during the same period of time. Google searches for 'clothes recycle near me' and 'clothes recycling' dropped by an average of 20% in Sep 2022 compared to 2019, indicating that consumers are less willing to give away their used items for free and instead have turned to apps to help provide extra income as purse strings across the UK are tightened.

Brands should think about the overlap between second-hand clothing and sustainability. The lifetime of regular items like clothing and household items is getting extended more than ever. So think about how your brand can tap into this shifting behaviour, and your products can continue to bring value post the initial purchase.

Some organisations could also adjust their business structure to keep up with these new trends. For example, brands in the fashion sector might need to revamp their standard ‘recycle your clothes for in-store discount’ offering by adding a ‘sell’ or ‘swap’ element. This could not only be effective in building a community that loves your brand and wants to interact with others that do too, but it allows consumers to get cash for their pre-owned items, helping them through the financial squeeze.

Chart with second hand search trends

2. Financial efficiency is top of mind

Personal finances are top of mind for many, and it’s not surprising, we’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis. But among the wide variety of financial concerns people are experiencing, one key theme emerged above others;consumers are looking for tips and guidance to help them become smarter with their everyday expenses.

Budgeting apps appear to be on the rise with nearly 10,000 searches for ‘best budgeting apps’ in Q3 2022, a 30% increase from 2021 and 95% increase since 2020. While searches related to saving money have increased exponentially compared to previous years with 'How to save money tips' and 'what is a budget' increasing by an average of 73% year-on-year in Q3 2022.

On YouTube too, demand for common questions like ‘how to budget your money’ have increased by over 87% over the last 12 months. And it’s no surprise that finance-related sites catered to everyday consumers like MoneySavingExpert are also getting a 33% lift in branded searches after seeing consecutive drops in search interest in 2021 and 2020.

As brands across the financial sector look to support their customers through these challenging times, they should consider exploring educational content and resources to provide customers with valuable and actionable finance tips on how to get the most mileage out of their money. Whether that’s newsletters, in-app content or a robust online hub, publishing helpful content can be a great strategy to engage with your audience and be seen as a trustworthy and supportive brand that people will remember when we come out on the other side.

Chart with finance and budgeting search trends

3. Using data to understand changes in searcher behaviour

In a day and age where consumer behaviour changes in a matter of days or weeks, we can expect to see even more interesting shifts influenced by the rising cost of living in the UK and other European markets. Thus, brands can use insights from search engines as an essential and efficient data point to understand consumer behaviour changes.

Search is not often thought of as a research and audience listening tool. Yet, insights generated using search data can do far more than inform SEO content and PPC campaigns. They can also help inform marketing strategies, creative approaches, and overall ​​business decisions. Ensuring brand actions are aligned with cultural nuances and external factors affecting purchasing decisions, like this cost of living crisis.

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The Author

I'm a digital marketer with 4 years of experience in the SEO and advertising industry. I write about SEO, content marketing, social media, and other areas of digital marketing.

Here I aim to help small creators to get the most out of their online content. I share tips and tricks to ensure the content they create is relevant to their audience and perform wells on search engines. Learn more about me.

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