How to Use Google Trends to Start and Run a Retail Business

How to Use Google Trends to Start and Run a Retail Business

Google Trends for retail business | Shopify Retail blogIt’s no secret that Google knows how to find the information you need. The massive search engine is the most popular in the world, receiving more than two trillion search queries per year.

There’s a lot of data that runs through Google. And that includes data you can use to successfully start and run your own retail business.

How? Let me introduce you to a free tool that can give you a world of insight: Google Trends.

Google Trends uses data from Google search to display how much a particular phrase is searched. This is relative to total searches made across the world in various languages.

Sounds simple enough, and Google Trends can give you a good, broad overview of trending words, phrases, and searches. But it’s also able to give you so much more.

From comparing different trends over time to evaluating how various regions behave, this tool can give you the information you need to formulate a business based on what people actually want and are looking for.

Here’s how.

Validate Your Ideas First

As a business owner, you want to add value to your customer’s lives. You want to delight them or solve a problem for them — or both!

You start with good intentions. But there’s a trap that trips up many entrepreneurs when trying to provide your market with what they want: Assuming you know what they want instead of researching and interviewing first.

Before you launch your retail business (or before you launch a new product, service, or branch of your brand), use Google Trends to validate the ideas you start with.

Maybe you have a general idea for a company that sells subscription boxes. You can plug that term into Google Trends to evaluate interest from search engine users over time.

If interest is low, demand might also be low — or that could indicate that you have an uphill battle ahead of you in making the market aware that your product even exists.

If you see a huge spike in interest at some point, followed by an equally steep decline and then a steady volume of search interest going forward, this might not be the best business idea. The jump in searches could suggest that this was a fad that flashed by and is unlikely to be a sustainable product to sell.

You could also see cyclical interest, where searches periodically rise and fall. This could indicate your business might deal with high and low seasons. Or perhaps you see a general, steady increase in interest — as is the case with subscription boxes:

Subscription box, Google Trends | Shopify Retail blog

Taking a closer look allows you to see most of the peaks happened in December, ahead of Christmas. From this graph, you might conclude:

  • There’s a gradually rising demand for subscription box services over the last few years.
  • Subscription boxes make great last-minute Christmas gifts.
  • Breaking into the industry now might be challenging, as 2016 has seen less rise in interest as previous years.

When it comes to validating what kind of subscription box, you can look at searches by categories to see what kind of data Google provides. Here are different results for “subscription box” in the context of travel, health, and games, respectively:

From this, you might want to explore creating a subscription box service for people who are interested in receiving monthly deliveries of health products over people who might like items that related to travel or games.

Follow Up with Real Conversations

Once Google Trends helps you validate some of your initial ideas, take it one step further. Identify real customers and talk to them. Conduct interviews. Have customer conversations.

This doesn’t need to be an expensive focus group. It can be in a casual setting, but choose your interviewees well. Make sure they represent both demographics and psychographics that your target market contain.

You also want to design your questions so that they are open ended, but aren’t leading. Ask customers questions that allow them to tell you about what life is like for them right now. What are their problems, challenges, and struggles in their own words?

You can also ask what would change in your customer’s ideal world if they could do anything to improve or solve their problems.

Let potential customers have the floor, and let them paint a picture for you.

Giving your customer this space will help you gauge whether your ideas actually line up to what your target market needs from you. This process, combined with your Google Trends research, gives you a great starting point for launching a business, new product, or service that people actually want.

Run Your Business Better with Google Trends

Staying in touch is a great way to continue running a successful business after you launch. Google Trends can help you stay on top of what people search for across the U.S. and even other parts of the globe.

Understanding specific phrases, comparing terms, and knowing where people are searching from and what they’re specifically looking to buy can help you make better decisions about what to offer.

Let’s walk through each of these to better understand how you can access this data and use what you find to inform your sales strategy in your business.

Specific Phrases

Google Trends can help you get a sense of what’s popular among consumers over time and throughout various physical regions. If you run a retail clothing or apparel store, you can use the tool to see what fashion is on the rise — or on the decline.

You might run a search for “athleisure” and see that interest in the specific phrase has increased over time:

Athleisure, Google Trends | Shopify Retail blogLooking at this graph, you can see interest spiked in early 2016. While search volume did settle down, the overall trend is still rising. The spike could indicate the point at which the general public gained awareness of athleisure as a new fashion, and the continued upward trajectory could show that people are steadily searching for athleisure fashions of their own over time.

Searches by Location

You can also use this to inform your sales strategy on where to expand physical locations. If you’re an athleisure brand, you can see specific locations where the search for the term is most popular.

You can also evaluate related topics and queries:

Search by location, Google Trends for business | Shopify Retail blogBased on this information, an athleisure brand considering where to open a new store should look seriously at New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

Look at Shopping-Specific Searches

Say you sell hiking equipment. You could run a search in Google Trends for the general term “hiking” and filter your results by looking specifically for people who searched in Google Shopping.

This can help you narrow down to searchers who would likely be interested in purchasing products, because they have a specific intention around the term.

Hiking, Google Trends | Shopify Retail blogYou could then drill down to your exact location to understand what your local market searches for when they’re interested in making a purchase. This can deeply inform your sales strategy because it allows you to customize your inventory based on what people in your area need in their physical location.

People in Massachusetts who want to search hiking via Google Shopping, for example, are looking for related terms and making queries like:

Related topics, Google Trends for business | Shopify Retail blog

But looking at related topics and queries from people in California indicates they have a slightly different intent when they shop for hiking equipment:

Related topics, Google Trends for business | Shopify Retail blogKnowing the context around phrases and what people search for is important in understanding what they want to buy.

Gain Insight for Your Marketing and Business Copy

Whether you use outbound or inbound marketing techniques, Google Trends can help you get your messaging just right. You can compare different phrases and keywords with the tool, which makes it easier to narrow down to the specifics you want to use in your copy and marketing materials.

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Let’s say you’re in the financial advice industry. There are no regulations around terms like “financial planner,” “financial advisor,” and “financial adviser.” There aren’t any rules that say who can use what title.

So how do you know what title resonates best with consumers you want to reach? Compare the phrases in Google Trends to see what people actually look for over time.

You can start with one of the phrases that you want to consider using, like “financial advisor.”

Financial advisor, Google Trends for business | Shopify Retail blog

This graph doesn’t mean much without any context. Hit that “compare” button and then you can start making sense of what direction to take with your copy.

Financial advisor, Google Trends for business | Shopify Retail blogNow you have more information with which to make a smart decision about what people actually look for when they need someone in financial services. Over the past five years, “financial advisor” generated a higher volume of searches and is clearly the most popular way people search for someone in this profession.

Or say you want to create an inbound marketing strategy for your retail business that sells pet supplies. You want to attract more cat owners to your website, so you start a blog and create content they want to consume.

But what should you write about? Would potential customers be more interested in learning more about cat care in general or cat toys specifically?

Google Trends allows you to know instead of guess, since you can compare terms:

Cat toys, Google Trends for business | Shopify Retail blogIt’s close, but cat toys is consistently a more popular search term. You can use this to inform your content strategy to boost sales by optimizing your site — and your store’s products — for specific toys.

You can translate this to your industry and retail business by identifying a handful of terms commonly used for the same item or product. Compare those in Google Trends to help you understand the language people use when searching for that specific thing.

That allows you to use the specific language that resonates most with shoppers — and that will connect their searches with your products.

What search terms resonate with your customers? And how have you used Google Trends to inform your business decisions? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Photo of Kali Hawlk

About the Author

Kali Hawlk is a writer passionate about using her skills and knowledge to help others make, do, and create more. She’s been featured as a financial expert for Millennials in many online publications including Forbes, Fast Company, US News, and Mashable.

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