Each month, we analyze aggregated, anonymized Google Business Profile (GBP) performance data of over 206,000 U.S business locations that use Rio SEO local search software. By breaking out these local metrics – Views, Clicks, and other conversions from Google Search – across different verticals, we can see how local consumer search behavior is trending across different industries.
Consumer behavior is constantly evolving as technology progresses, and can also be influenced by events such as the pandemic, politics, socioeconomic factors such as employment and housing, and more.
This monthly series is designed to give you a high-level look at what’s currently happening in your industry, to give your own Google Business Profile insights much-needed context. Here’s how consumer behavior shifted in retail, financial services, restaurants, multi-family residential, and more consumer behavior trends December 2021 presented.
Local search performance metrics for service businesses were up slightly in the month of December, with the exception of a minor dip in total clicks and a more significant decline in clicks to website. Similar to November, year-over-year (YoY) gains are still mostly on the rise, especially in terms of total views and searches.
Service businesses, which include businesses such as postal services and facility management providers, see influxes during certain times of the year. The holidays is one of them – especially for postal services, which experience their peak shipping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. An estimated 12 billion-plus letters, cards, and packages are processed and delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
After a tough November in terms of search performance, financial services saw small gains across every metric in December. The value of loans granted by U.S. commercial banks has grown substantially month-over-month and year-over-year since 2014 and reached a value of approximately 16.37 trillion U.S. dollars at the end of December 2021.
And, despite the surge of Omicron cases, mortgage rates were expected to rise in December. Further, the current level of housing market demand is predicted to remain competitive into 2022. Year-over-year, financial services saw both minor increases and decreases across all metrics.
The beginning of the year is a great time to check over your brand’s Google Posts inventory. If you do not yet have a process in place for removing outdated offers and information in previous Google Posts, this should be a priority for 2022. Trustworthiness and information accuracy are not only a customer experience factor but also a regulatory requirement in many segments of finance, as well.
Despite the consistent increases in COVID-19 cases, MoM figures for sit-down restaurants were up in December across the board. Sales grew slower than in the strongest week in November, yet the first week of December still marked a higher growth rate than in August, September, or October.
Year-over-year figures continued to rise as well, with an impressive 75% increase in total views and a 64% increase in searches when compared to 2020.
The restaurant industry as a whole still has a lot of recovering to do; sales are nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. Still, the average check grew in the first week of December by 7%, with fine dining, family-style and fast-casual leading the way. Full service, dine-in restaurants are getting a double whammy of lost alcoholic beverage services proportional to declines in food sales.
Quick-service restaurants faced their own unique challenges all throughout 2021. Labor shortages and supply chain interruptions plagued fast-food chains, while frontline employees bore the brunt of the frustrations of impatient and sometimes angry customers. Increased volume at the drive-thru and for mobile orders added to the workload for already-stressed fast-food workers.
Despite all of this, the quick-service sector saw both MoM and YoY increases almost entirely across the board.
If your hours differed during the holidays on your listings, ensure they are accurate and up to date for the month of January if you’ve not done so already. Delivering positive customer service experiences begins in search, where customers count on the information they find to be accurate and complete.
Hotel figures were down just slightly MoM across all metrics except clicks to call which grew 2.3%. However, we saw significant double-digit increases across every metric measured over last December. Topping the list is a massive 82.4% increase in requests for directions to locations, while total clicks across all conversion methods are up 69.4%.
Shutdowns and travel advisories were far more prevalent in December 2020. Despite the current rise in Omicron cases, vaccination rates and pandemic fatigue have more consumers willing to venture out and stay in hotels. AAA estimates that 34% more people traveled more than 50 miles from home the week between Christmas and New Years Day this year, as compared to 2020.
When we look back to pre-pandemic figures using the week of December 12 to 18 2019 as an example, we find that occupancy is up 7.7%, average daily rates have increased 11.6%, and the revenue per available room has grown 20.2%. These increasing rates and revenue are essential in the hotel industry’s recovery after an extended period of losses.
As with subsequent months, retailers continue to see a nice lift in search and conversion metrics. While consumers were clearly searching and engaging with retailers, fast-growing inflation seems to be having an impact on their willingness and/or ability to spend. Bloomberg reports that in December U.S. retail sales slumped by the greatest degree in 10 months, with a 1.9% decrease in purchases from November.
Overall, retail sales of $626.8 billion last month mark a 16.9% improvement over December 2020. It’s essential that retailers use all GBP features available to them in order to not only outrank competitors but provide compelling local search experiences that convert searchers to in-store or online sales.
Monitoring for and responding to all reviews, in particular, is increasingly important as both a local ranking factor and becoming an integral part of the customer experience.
It’s no surprise that local search activity in the healthcare sector was up both MoM and YoY in December. As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeps the nation – and the globe – consumers’ informational needs about vaccines and testing are spiking. There are now over 59.8 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 75,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
The largest YoY increases we see for December are in total views (+53.3%), followed by total searches (36%). Clicks for directions are also up 34.8% and together, this all indicates that Americans are seeking out and visiting clinics, pharmacies, testing facilities, and similar healthcare services far more often than last December.
For monthly growth, we see that clicks to website were up 25.3%, and clicks to call grew 17.8%. Americans are on the hunt for information and facilities can proactively provide this, perhaps reducing the burden on frontline customer service and reception, by ensuring hours, location, photos, and attributes on Google Business Profile listings are complete and up to date.
Our chart for multi-family residential GBP performance metrics is completely inverted for this past month, as all figures were down significantly both MoM and YoY. The greatest monthly declines were in clicks to call, which were down 37.2%, while the great drop in yearly figures was for clicks to website which declined 38.7%.
This is not out of character for rentals in the cold season, when asking rent growth tends to decelerate. Even so, rent growth reached record highs throughout 2021, with asking rents up 13.5% on average to $1,594 per month (just $2 of that growth is attributed to December).
See more local search trends by vertical for previous months: