Searches For 'Virtual' Skyrocket As Online Media Takes On Virtual Reality

Microsoft Bing and Google Search both report spikes in searches related to the word “virtual" as people searching online continue to celebrate and experience the world virtually while the United States remains in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The keyword “virtual” related to Mother’s Day queries appeared for the first time this year on March 22, according to Microsoft Advertising. Overall “virtual” related searches jumped 25 times year-over-year between March 31 and April 6, 2019 and March 31, 2020 through April 6, 2020.

Queries were related to experiences such as baby showers, Easter egg hunts, birthday parties, baby showers, weddings, gifts, and Passover.

Brands are finding a way to stay in touch with consumers. For the Cards & Greetings category, increases in recent click activity drove a 29% lift in clicks and searches after March 10.

Top queries included custom photo book and card brands such as birthday and thank you cards. The top queries under the category of occasions and gifts drove a 29% increase of clicks and searches.

The keyword “virtual” also continues to spike in Google Trends data. The highest spike occurred on March 15 and slowly descended from its highest level.

Udayan Bose CEO at NetElixir says some of the queries can be classified into two broad segments: web conferencing on Zoom, and experiences such as virtual school field trips, museum tours, Easter egg hunts, or virtual tip jars bands or entertainers use to supplement their income while venues remain closed.   

People are still thinking about friends, gatherings and places such as Disneyland. Some of the fastest-growing search queries on Google include zoom virtual background images, virtual games to play with friends, zoom backgrounds, zoom virtual backgrounds, virtual backgrounds for zoom, nascar virtual race, virtual disneyland rides, and virtual disney rides.

Virtual happy hour games jumped 4,650%, while zoom virtual backgrounds rose 4,450%; virtual happy hour ideas jumped 3,700%; museum virtual tours, 3,600%; british museum virtual tour, 2,900%; virtual zoo tour, 2,250%; and virtual field trip for kids, 2,200%.

Shopping categories are experiencing the same spikes. “One possible interpretation of the trends is as we adapted to this new normal, we had to quite literally move our lives to the virtual world and Zoom became our new meeting spot for office, school and [life],” Bose wrote in an email to Search Marketing Daily.

Virtual has expanded to more than a takeover of online searches. Philadelphia-based Virtual Reality for Rent recently began seeing a demand for a different type of entertainment with virtual reality. Its VR Oculus headsets are being mailed to individuals. The technology allows users to visit carnivals, while twenty-somethings can dance at a club. The company has seen use grow sevenfold compared with before the outbreak

The VR Zone DC also is seeing a new wave of interest, reports Bloomberg. The company operates virtual-reality play spaces that are now temporarily closed because of the virus. So, the owner is renting gear. The setup is done over video chat. 

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