Groceries, Covid and the rise of the sugar-free gummy bear
Face masks (again!) dominated the top 10 searches in the UK, US, and Canada in July. So, we thought for this month we’d look at the search terms that had increased the most over the pre- and post-lockdown period to get an idea on volatility in this time of rapid change.
We also thought we would look beyond the top 10 this month, to see if we could spot any trends in individual categories.
With the UK easing its lockdown measures (first in May and again on 17 July) — and introducing Amazon Fresh same-day delivery — we thought it would be a good time to look at the changes in grocery searches. It’s also given us a chance to investigate the case of the sugar-free gummy bears — more later.
“Before and after” grocery indicators
Generally, the UK searches for more grocery items than the US and Canada. For example, in the UK, over 100 items will have an average ranking in the top 1000. In the US and Canada, Nespresso capsules are the only grocery item to feature with an average ranking of 904 and 567, respectively.
Trends in Grocery
Grocery searches in the UK group into three main areas: confectionery, alcohol (which is purchasable online in the UK, unlike in the USA), and gifts. Ever-present in the top 10 search terms are chocolate, gin, and sweets. So much so, that you can look at them as indicators for pre- and post-lock down sentiment.
UK normality indicators — Chocolate, Gin and Sweets
The four tables above are the “Grocery top 10s” for Feb, March (when lockdown commenced), April (during lockdown), and July.
February is included as a benchmark, highlighting the combination of alcohol, confectionery and gifts — with perhaps the inclusion of Dettol being a precursor of what was to come.
March saw the search domination of the Great Toilet Roll Hunt with chocolate and gin falling down the list, and sweets only appearing at number 14. There may also have been an inkling regarding the restorative powers of Beefeater strawberry gin, which suddenly appeared in the top 10.
By April, the chocolate-gin-sweets trilogy was back at the top of the grocery search terms. Each was also showing their highest overall average rank. The home baking boom emerged with the appearance of flour and yeast as popular search terms.
July searches seemed to hint at some stability with the top 10 back to being dominated by confectionery and gifts — and the rise in the ranking of sugar free gummy bears.
The rise and fall of the Gummy Bears
The appearance of sugar free gummy bears in the Grocery search ranking may have had something to do with this article, and a few others. For the period between 1 July and 25 July, this search term was ranking number 1 in Grocery. Its overall average rank was 20.2. Within three days, it had fallen to an average position of 55.
Interpreting the data
Peaks and troughs
It’s worth digging out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help understand what is happening here. Basically, according to Maslow, the base layer of needs concerns safety and survival. The next is for belonging and esteem — moving on to self-fulfilment at the top of the pyramid.
When a significant change such as COVID-19 occurs, people look first to the base layer. So, in this case, searches are dominated by cleaning and toilet paper. Once those needs are met, customers move to “belonging and esteem” purchases — gifts, confectionery and gin. Depending on the circumstances, the level of these needs can still move up or down.
As selective lockdowns seem to be the current stage in combating the virus, it would be wise to examine your portfolio of products to see whether they satisfy basic or belonging/self-actualization needs.
For the former — be ready for stock-outs and panic buying.
For the latter — prepare to take a bit of a hit during a lockdown. But be ready for a bounce-back as basic needs are felt to be met.
Seasonal is still important
In each of the months covered, seasonal searches still performed well — Easter, Father’s Day and Rakhi all featured at some stage. Not missing out on the promotion of your products during a particular festival will be very important, especially if there is a close match between your product and the theme of the festival. If not, it may be worth trying to make it fit better.
Make space for the novel
The gummy bears story shows that news stories can generate clicks. It seems likely that people searched on Amazon to read the comedy reviews. Whatever the reason, the trick is to be able to pick up on these events and react quickly. Gummy bears are already slipping down the top 10 list — the advertising window of opportunity has closed.
Worth noting: The click thru rate for the gummy bears search term was in the top 3 for Grocery in July. Almost 50% higher than for sweets. Curiosity can generate clicks and sales.
Searches depend on where you are in the COVID wave
Looking at the search results in three target markets, we have been able to break down the main growth search terms into “Protection”, “Home working”, and “Out and About”. We also think people in the UK are searching for some back-to-college products.
The Vector robot has been included in the Home working group for Canada, which may not be totally fair. It also appears to be one of those news/event-related occurrences as it has quickly disappeared from the recent rankings.
UK, US, Canada Search Terms Comparison
While the UK and Canada are beginning to embrace the great outdoors again, there are no outdoor products in the US growth searches. This could be an indication that the US is battening down the hatches while the virus is on the increase.
Interpreting the data
As countries go into and out of lockdown, search terms become more volatile. The good news is that they also seem predictable. Watching how search terms change in another region could give you an edge in preparing your ad campaigns to meet an increase or decrease in interest or demand.
Making sense of it all
Targeting and advertising your products relies on your understanding of customer data. In turbulent times, it’s crucial to monitor this data continuously, spot trends and changes, and react appropriately.
Our two free eBooks can help you understand how you can access and use this data on Amazon to define your strategic and tactical options. If you haven't already, make sure to check out:
And most important, watch out for those gummy bears. If you want specific advice tailored to your brand, get it touch today