2020 – what’s been happening so far?

We talk through the biggest digital marketing updates from January to April 2020.

The start of 2020 has been a rollercoaster ride. Domestic politics and Brexit squashed consumer confidence at the start of the year. Fast-forward two months and a worldwide pandemic catapulted retailers and consumers into even more uncertainty. 

The team at Green Ginger Digital have taken time to reflect on the first quarter of 2020 and have rounded up the retail and digital highlights for you.

Covid-19 severely impacts UK retailers

It wouldn’t be a review of the last 4 months if we didn’t mention Covid-19. With many countries still in lockdown, it will remain a talking point for many months to come. 

Covid-19 has been a story of 2 halves for retailers. Categories such as home and garden, electricals and even beauty saw huge uplifts in demand in the first weeks of April, according to the latest figures by IMRG. On the flip side, we saw clothing retailers struggle, particularly in holiday related categories. Analysis from GlobalData published at the end of March declared UK retail could lose £12.6bn this year.

Announcements of immediate closures came from Warehouse, Next and Quiz. As well as administration for Debenhams and Cath Kidston. Covid-19 has been the final nail in the retail coffin for those who were teetering on the brink.

For some retailers, it has forced diversification. Local restaurants and takeaways have changed strategies to ensure they continue to make money. Large corporations and supermarkets such as Aldi have also been forced to do the same. Aldi announced they would now sell groceries online for the first time. Ensuring those who are vulnerable and self-isolating, can have a box of essential goods delivered to their doors. 

We’re sure retailers and marketeers alike are keeping a watchful eye on Primark. The fast-fashion giant has gone from generating £650m, to nothing overnight because of their lack of online presence. Only time will tell whether they will bow down to pressure and start trading online, or stick to being a store-only experience.

Large shifts in digital consumer behaviour have occurred

Of course, large shifts in customer behaviour have been observed over the last couple of months due to the pandemic. Sales plummeted at the end of March when retailers closed stores to protect employees and customers. eCommerce was reported to have gained its largest-ever share of retail spending, at 22.3% of total sales. Essential purchases were front of mind for customers. Online food sales grew by almost 20% in March, yet online clothing sales were down by 4.4% vs. the previous year, according to a report by InternetRetailing

A study by Ecommerce agency Melody suggests that the changing behaviour consumers are displaying may continue into the future. 12% of surveyed customers said they are likely to continue buying items online that they previously bought on the high street. The role of Amazon has become ever more prominent, with 19% of consumers turning to the online giant to fulfil their purchases. The breadth of product offering combined with quick and easy delivery, will this further grow Amazon’s share of the market?

Both streaming services (the likes of Disney+ and Netflix) and social media have benefitted from the lockdown. There has been a 25% increase in engagement on key platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. This has, of course, led to brands increasing their investment through Paid Social, with a 72% increase on #ad content by influencers.

Google receives pressure to reduce any new algorithm updates

Almost 60% of the SEO community in a recent poll think Google should pause changes to Google SERPs, including algorithm updates during the pandemic. Of course, at the start of the year who could have predicted the situation, we would be in today? The first core update of the year was on January 13th, following strong peak 2019 trading. A broad core algorithm update of this type is one which impacts many factors, with its primary focus being to better match user queries to search engine results. 

According to Moz, the categories hit most by the algorithm update were ‘health, family and community’ and ‘beauty and personal care’. With sites such as www.verywellhealth.com, finace.yahoo.com and www.dictionary.com fairing pretty well from the update. 

As this was a core update impacting all algorithm factors, if you were harmed in January there is nothing specific to ‘fix’. You can read our beginners guide to SEO to understand more about the ranking factors that influence your performance, plus the actions you can take to address any ranking fluctuations. 

Google delays changes to agency partner accreditation criteria

Within the paid space we have also seen updates, with Google announcing it would be changing how it gives agencies its ‘partner’ accreditation. These changes definitely received mixed emotions when they were announced in February 2020. Many agencies feel that this is another attempt by Google to force compliance and the use of Google’s own technology.

The key changes Google announced are:

  1. Google Ads accounts must maintain a quality score of 70% or higher. This will be impacted by the amount of machine learning recommendations an account adopts from the Google interface
  2. Google Ads accounts must maintain a spend of at least $20,000 over a 90 day period (twice the current criteria amount)
  3. At least 50% of the users with access to Google Ad accounts must have passed Google Ads examinations (vs. the current rule of just one user)

Thankfully it was announced on 8th April 2020 that Google is delaying the review process of its partner’s badge programme. Agencies across the country breathed a collective sigh of relief as they now have until 2021 to hit Google’s criteria.

Free Google Shopping listings announced

Way back in 2002 shopping on Google was known as Froogle. A platform for advertisers to list their products for free. Fast forward a few years to 2012 and Google Shopping was launched. Charging an auction-based CPC for listing individual products. 

Google announced at the end of April 2020 that they would be rolling out free Google Shopping listings in the US. With a global launch to follow shortly after – read our thoughts on the announcement here.

The free listings will be shown within the organic section of the SERPs as we’re used to seeing today. With auction-based paid for ads occupying the top spots in the search engine results pages. The results? More choice for customers and increased competition for advertisers. As businesses who didn’t play in this space before due to budget reasons, add their product feeds to the auction. 

Google is further cementing this announcement with a partnership with Paypal. Focusing on keeping users within the search engine results pages rather than off to websites to make their purchases. This is an interesting move from Google. Particularly when you consider the fine they received in 2017 from the EU, for monopolising the search results pages. 

So, all in all, an interesting start to the year. Nobody could have guessed the impact Covid-19 would have on digital and retailers alike, and we’re sure the fall out will be seen for years to come. 

Sign up to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss our next round-up at the end of August! 

Searching for the Coronavirus: What can Google data tell us about the pandemic spreading across the world

Since the start of the year, one topic has dominated headlines across the world. Covid-19 or Coronavirus was declared a global pandemic in March. It has brought the world to a standstill with over 148,000 cases and 5,500 deaths (as of 14th March).

But what can a global issue tell us about search behaviour in different countries? How do people within these countries react to such news? Do people across the globe demonstrate different search intent?

We’ve taken a look using Google data to see the key insights.

The UK saw increased searches from the first reported case. Italian searches only increased following the first death.

The first death from the virus in Italy was reported on the 21st February 2020. Despite the first case being reported in the country 3 weeks earlier on the 30th January, people were seemingly unconcerned by the virus at this point.

Before the first death was recorded, searches on Google in Italy were minimal. Following the announcement of the first death searches for ‘Coronavirus’ surged over 1,800% in a single day – by far the biggest response shown online across any country at any point throughout the pandemic.

UK vs. Italy Coronavirus search demand

Interestingly, search behaviour in the UK doesn’t appear to react to this news in Europe. Rather, searches increased gradually from the 22nd February. In fact when the first death was announced in the UK on the 5th March, this appeared to have no impact on online searches – a complete contrast to behaviour in Italy.

People in the US are focused on symptoms and self-diagnosis, in the UK searches show more of an educational intent

In the UK, top Google searches over the last 90 days are focused around the virus itself. In fact, only 12% of the ‘Top 25 Search Terms’ show intent around the symptoms of the virus.

UK coronavirus searches

When comparing this to the US, the search intent differs significantly. In the US 76% – or 19 of the Top 24 Search Terms are related to specifically understanding the symptoms.

US coronavirus searches

There are many possible reasons for this difference in search intent. One potential hypothesis could be that those in the UK have been better informed of the potential symptoms through the media compared to those in the US.

UK cases are growing significantly faster than search volumes

When the first case in the UK was announced on the 31st January 2020, the rise in search volumes were minimal. Search demand actually continued at relatively low levels until the 24th February despite there being 9 confirmed cases in the UK by this point.

Coronavirus cases and search demand

Not until a number of cases were reported on the Diamond Princess cruise ship did searches show a step-change in volume – this was also reflected (on a smaller scale) in the US. It could be argued that people only really started to take notice and understand the potential pandemic of the virus from the 24th February following the media coverage around the Diamond Princess and the quarantine of 30 Britons in Merseyside.

The increases in the number of cases was inevitable, but it’s important people continue to stay updated with the latest news and advice either through digital or offline media channels.


Regardless of how people are searching online, one thing is clear. The world is taking notice and is united in the fight against the virus. The fact search volumes are consistently increasing across the board can only be positive, it indicates people are looking for more information and the more educated people are on the subject the better.

The latest information from the UK government can be found here.

Get in touch today to see how we can use Google trend data to help your business growth.

Sources: Google Trends, Arcgis.com both accessed 14th March 2020

TikTok: The new social media app where Gen Z flock

TikTok launched in international markets in September 2017. But it was not until 2019 that it saw its huge growth. From the beginning of 2020 interest from brands and digital marketers alike has peaked and continued to grow. 

So what is it? Who is using it and how do you advertise on it? The paid social experts at Green Ginger have taken stock and are here to tell you all you need to know about TikTok. 

So what is TikTok? 

Taking 200 days to develop in China, TikTok is a video-sharing social media platform. Owned by the Chinese company ByteDance it has recently surpassed one billion worldwide installs. Its popularity has been surprising, particularly when you compare to apps such as Vine and Musical.ly.

You’re probably thinking who? Vine and Musical.ly are the apps who started the trend of creating short videos to be shared, but they both crashed and burned. TikTok is a merger of Music.ly and has a unique proposition in that it allows anyone to become a content creator. Whilst Vine was used for high quality, unique content. TikTok can be used by anyone, supported by its easy to use editing and camera filters. This means users are both consumers and creators, which has been important for the growth of the app vs. its predecessors. 

Who is using TikTok?

At Green Ginger Digital, we believe in an audience-first approach to marketing. Targeting specific consumer groups to ensure efficient media buying. When hearing about the app our first question was ‘who is the audience within TikTok?’.

Data from Statista shows the users on TikTok are 18-24-year-olds, with the group accounting for 26% of the total audience. Whilst Instagram tends to drive more female users, the TikTok gender split is relatively equal. The audience is highly engaged, driven by its personalised content which is algorithmically curated, as soon as the app is opened. 

How can I target the TikTok audience?

TikTok lends itself to brands and businesses targeting generation Z. Passionate, creative and innovative, this generation is highly influenced by social media. Creating partnerships with key influencers and showcasing engaging content is key. Plus a natural way of building a relationship with your audience through TikTok.

Like all social apps, TikTok is not missing an opportunity to offer paid advertising through the app. Which could be an opportunity for those wanting to invest media into an app not owned by Facebook. TikTok’s goal is to “connect the brands of today with the consumers of tomorrow”. Offering a less saturated market than Twitter and Snapchat, there are opportunities to target specific audiences through the app. Advertising options range from:

  • Brand takeovers – where ads appear as soon as a user opens the app
  • In feed ads – native ads placed at the bottom of organic videos or in the TikTok feed
  •  Hashtag challenges – creating a sponsored hashtag which encourages users to share content on TikTok for your brand

Big brands such as Nike and Guess have jumped at the chance to target a younger audience for their products. It must be noted that the ads are relatively rare and as such come at a premium. With minimum investments and an average $10 CPM. Understanding the impact of TikTok and ensuring there is a tangible audience for your brand is key before investing. 

To TikTok or not?

At Green Ginger Digital we are focused on results and driving a return for our digital marketing activity. The success of implementing a campaign is reliant on the audience you target and the metrics and measurement you put in place. 

It is crucial to understand its role in the customer journey and measure this accurately, to understand the investment and associated results of every campaign.

Need help with your social media strategy? Or if you want to chat more about the opportunities within new social media channels, get in touch today!

Clients Testimonials

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Harrisons of Hull Ltd

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Adult Planet

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