As states continue to lift pandemic-related restrictions, businesses are being challenged to rebuild and regain lost customers. Historic marketing data has proven unreliable for informing present-day campaigns thanks to dramatic changes in consumer behavior over close to two years of continuous instability.
Google Business Profile (GBP) metrics give brands and their locations real-time insight into how local consumers are interacting with locations near them. And, when we aggregate and anonymize this data, we gain valuable insight into how consumer behavior is trending as a whole in various industries.
That’s why we compile and analyze aggregate GBP performance data from over 200,000 U.S. business locations each month. Here, you’ll find both month-over-month and year-over-year local consumer trends to help give your own performance data much-needed context. Here’s how consumer behavior shifted in retail, financial services, restaurants, multi-family residential, and more consumer behavior trends January 2022 presented.
Local search performance metrics for service businesses were down across the board in the month of January. For the purpose of our research, service businesses include postal services and facility management providers, both of which experience peaks in December around the holidays. This aligns with the declines seen in this sector in January GBP reporting.
Year-over-year (YoY), however, service businesses are seeing double-digit gains across most metrics, including a 35% increase in total views and a 42% increase in total searches. Clicks to website and calls to locations were down, which may point to consumers becoming more comfortable with trusting the information found on Google Business listings. This is in contrast to what we observed in 2020 when temporary closures and uncertainty still loomed.
Financial services brands have seen slight changes from month to month recently. However, this was the general trend from the holiday season to January as most metrics declined to a small degree in January.
Consumers are avoiding paying with cash, having in-person meetings with their financial advisor, and even using ATMs which could also coincide with these minor declines. Even so, the declines seen by the financial services vertical were minimal compared to other verticals studied.
Finance is increasingly becoming more technology-enabled and now, about half of Gen Z and Millennials say it’s important they can schedule branch appointments and reach the contact center through their bank’s mobile app. This also facilitates communication via other methods beyond Google Business listings.
Annual figures show declines from January 2021, particularly in clicks to call a financial service’s location or clicks through to the website from local search results. Ongoing lockdowns, changing office hours, and closed locations made it much more difficult to access financial services a year ago and consumers’ informational needs were far greater as a result.
Dine-in restaurants saw declines in local search views and all conversion metrics from the holiday season, which makes sense as consumers were out and about far more in December while shopping.
There is also the issue of Omicron to contend with, which is undoubtedly fueling the declines in dine-in sales being experienced across the industry. January is typically a low month for the restaurant industry and this year is no exception as sales and in-restaurant traffic growth slowed to the lowest levels since late February 2021.
Our year-over-year comparison shows that search views are up. Conversions to call the sit-down restaurant location or click through to the website are down substantially but requests for driving directions have increased suggests that consumers are finding sufficient information provided on Google Business listings – hours of operation, local reviews, menu items, and more – sufficient to make a decision. Industry trends suggest consumers are not only ready to return to dine-in experiences but looking to treat themselves as we see that fine dining sales are up 57%.
Restaurants need to optimize their listings and can take advantage of a variety of new identity attributes to help stand out in competitive search results by speaking to customers’ values and new expectations.
Quick Service Restaurants
Month-over-month performance in January 2022 for quick service restaurants closely mirrors that of their sit-down counterparts. Overall, however, quick service saw smaller declines across all metrics measured.
The best performing segments for the restaurant industry in December were fast-casual, quick service, and fine dining. Quick service and fast-casual were the only two segments able to improve traffic growth compared to the third week of January 2022. In the last two weeks of January, only limited-service segments (quick service and fast-casual) achieved positive sales growth.
Again, we see in a comparison of annual figures that overall, search volume is up substantially for quick service restaurants and that diners seem content to get directions and head straight to the location of their choice.
Quick service restaurant sales have been growing in recent months and by mid-October, sales were showing a 15.2% increase over the year prior. Drive-thru sales, in particular, were up 46.96% and delivery made massive 84.5% gains. It is clear local customers are still in the market for contactless ways to enjoy their favorite quick-service meals.
A downturn in total clicks, clicks to call, and clicks for directions suggest the usual trend of increased mobility in the holiday season has played out this year, as well. Slightly higher search volume and clicks to website could indicate that would-be travelers are browsing their options and planning for staycations or even traveling further afield when possible.
U.S. hotel occupancy remains low, with a 50% occupancy rate reported for the second week in a row for January 9th to 15th. Omicron continues to impact travel, particularly for those who would normally travel for business during the week or attend conferences.
All GBP metrics show impressive lift year-over-year, showing that despite concerns of Omicron transmission, the general level of travel anxiety is lower than in January 2021. Meetings are up 350% YoY, bringing meeting metrics close to returning to 2019 volumes.
The sharp decline in local marketing metrics for retail is in line with typical seasonal trends. After a holiday season in which prices were up and products in short supply, Omicron settled in to once again disrupt the retail sector. The biggest sales gains made in January this year were by non-store retailers (14.5%), furniture stores (7.2%), and auto dealers (5.9%).
Year-over-year growth in the retail sector has been impressive. January’s YoY local search performance metrics show us substantial gains not only in search interest but in all conversion actions tracked, as well. This has translated to an overall gain in retail sales of 13% over January 2021, when the retail experience was far more impacted by lockdowns and business closures.
Retailers must focus on optimizing every available field in their GBP to improve local rankings and appear more often on relevant shopper queries.
Search interest and conversion actions are down for the healthcare industry when from December 2021. This could be partially attributed to sweeping changes in how outpatient care is being delivered, as health care providers are deferring elective and preventive visits in an attempt to slow the spread of Omicron. Telemedicine continues to negate the need for consumers to find their way to a local practice, as well.
A surge in in-patient hospital cases of COVID-19 could be contributing to elevated YoY local performance metrics, as we see increases in search volume and views as well as clicks. Omicron has driven about 95% of increased cases recently and on January 10, the U.S. reported a record 1.35 million new COVID-19 cases. The following day brought the largest influx in COVID-19 hospital admissions since the pandemic began, with 146,000 patients admitted for in-patient care.
Multi-family residential local marketing metrics saw the biggest increases MoM, as to be expected coming out of a winter seasonal slowdown. The national average rent rate grew by $8 in January 2022, bringing average rents to a new all-time high of $1,604. Local searchers are searching for and viewing online listings but also clicking to call or visiting the business’ website, and even getting directions to view rentals in person or attend showings.
The same source shows us that average asking rents are up 13.9% YoY. Expect to see search activity stay strong as consumers evaluate and compare their options.
See more local search trends by vertical for previous months and stay tuned next month for more local consumer search insights.