To help retailers better understand shopper search habits in the US at the local level, Google is opening up more of its cache of product search data in a new visualization tool called Shopping Insights.
Currently in beta, Shopping Insights highlights search intent trends for roughly 5,000 of the most popular products on Google Shopping. The tool lets users see product search trends over time in heatmaps, but it also goes beyond what is offered in Google Trends, allowing marketers to drill down to device level and the cities that can be targeted in AdWords.
Shopping Insights also combines related product queries, rather than itemizing individual keywords as in Google Trends. For example, “Elsa costume,” “Frozen Elsa costumes” and “Elsa from Frozen Halloween costumes” are aggregated under one item in Shopping Insights.
Retailers will be able to compare product demand at the local level where they have stores to help inform inventory needs or regional budget and bidding strategies for their online campaigns.
As an example of differing local trends, Google shows that for a short time after the release of new trailer footage for the upcoming Star Wars movie, search interest for Star Wars costumes surpassed that of Minion costumes in late August nationally. At the city level, though, the data show that Star Wars costumes were nearly three times more popular than Minion costumes in Berkeley, California, whereas in Madison, Wisconsin, Minion costumes were three times more popular than Star Wars costumes.
The Minions vs. Star Wars costume battle is one of the “featured stories” Google has highlighted in the new tool. Another story highlights the growing trend of Emoji Joggers (leggings adorned with emojis — really) that took off first in Atlanta and spread to New York and Florida but generated little awareness/interest in West Coast or Southwest regions. Overall interest peaked in early 2015, but there remain some hot spots on the East Coast.
Because it focuses on the most popular products — as does the new Assortment report in Google Merchant Center that shows retailers popular products they may not be advertising or carrying — Shopping Insights is designed to pick up major trends. That said, you can also search by product type, not just a specific product. For example, you could compare search trends for “engagement rings” to “princess cut engagement rings” (which shows up in the auto-suggest) and see that Princess cut searches are more prevalent in Chicago than Los Angeles.
One drawback of the beta version is that it’s very manual. You have to search by city separately, and there is no way to export data. You can, however, share or send a link to a heatmap you’ve generated or a featured story. At the macro view, it will seem as though much of the country isn’t searching at all due to population concentrations. Dig in to the city level, though — say Boise or Oklahoma City — and you’ll often see data. Of course, this tool doesn’t tell retailers what products searchers actually bought or will buy, and it relies on the keyword as a proven indicator of shopping intent.
The beta version includes data from April 2014 through September 2015. Google says data will be updated monthly, and it plans to continue adding products to the tool.
Here’s the demo video from Google on the new tool: