DUBAI: Every year, Google releases its “Year in Search” report featuring the top searches and trends throughout the year.
2021 was the year that people looked forward to connecting with others in real life, from small events like meeting at a café to finally being able to get married in the presence of loved ones. There was a 30 percent increase for the term “search planner” in Saudi Arabia and a massive 130 percent increase for “open wedding halls” in Egypt.
Still, the popularity of virtual events that connected people in 2020 never fully went away, with a 70 percent increase globally in search phrases containing the term “games with friends” such as “online games with friends” or “virtual games with friends.”
People also wanted to go out and enjoy different experiences as evidenced by a 100 percent increase in search interest for “picnic chair” in the UAE and a 100 percent increase for “zoo tickets” globally.
As going out became more normal, people were willing to brave the crowds to be able to enjoy movies and music in person. In Saudi Arabia, search interest for “movie cinema” grew by 125 percent, and “live music near me” grew by 40 percent globally.
With stay-at-home orders becoming the norm in 2020, people started focusing on their health — beyond just fitness and diet — and these habits were continued through 2021. Global search interest for “sunscreen for face” and “best time to take vitamin” grew by 100 percent and 40 percent respectively, indicating that people were continuing to take care of themselves even as they returned to normalcy.
Many took to baking and painting as ways to occupy their time and cultivate new hobbies during the pandemic and these behaviors continued in 2021 with a 35 percent increase in search interest for “drawing lesson” in Saudi Arabia and for “education centers” in Egypt.
Working from home and hybrid work models led to many people making changes to their homes in the last two years — whether that’s moving to a new home or renovating their current one. In Egypt, for example, there was a 40 percent increase in search interest for “furniture moving companies” and a whopping 400 percent increase globally for “budget small bathroom ideas.” In fact, between August and October, search interest for “home loan calculator” grew by 200 percent globally.
The pandemic brought to light that consumers favor brands that stand for something. A global study by US-based communications Zeno Group found that consumers are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust, champion and defend companies with a strong “purpose.” In the UAE, too, shoppers started veering toward sustainability with search interest for “cruelty free” jumping up by 40 percent.
While consumers were favorable toward brands that cared, they were also interested in caring for community members themselves with global search interest for terms that contained the words “volunteer opportunities” and “donation centers near me” soaring by 100 percent.
The biggest restriction during the pandemic was travel and as restrictions eased in 2021, search interest in the UAE for “can I travel” increased by 100 percent and search entries containing the words “for international travel” grew by a massive 300 percent.
However, some habits that became conveniences during the pandemic stuck, with search interest in “staycation deals” in the UAE increasing by 170 percent and “food delivery” growing by 70 percent globally.