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Google’s Impact in Portsmouth 2020

Key Facts

  1. In 2020, Google’s core search and advertising tools helped support an estimated £136 million in economic activity for over 1,600 businesses in Portsmouth.

  2. Over 350 businesses have started selling online for the first time as a result of the pandemic.

  3. 72% of Portsmouth residents under 30 have used Google Search to look for a job in the last year.

  4. By helping them find information faster and collaborate easier, Google Search and Google Workspace are saving Portsmouth workers an estimated 2.5 million hours a year.

  5. Since the start of the pandemic, two thirds of Portsmouth residents have used Google Search to find out if local shops or businesses are open.
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In 2020, the Internet was more important than ever: keeping us connected and informed, entertained and productive. From checking whether your local shop was open to keeping up to date with changing lockdown rules, or trying out a new fitness video to discussing work plans with colleagues, we turned to Google services to keep us going.  

In this short report, Google commissioned us to quantify how their products helped British workers, businesses, content creators, and families in Portsmouth throughout 2020. 

In total, by making it easier for them to connect with customers, we estimate that Google’s core search and advertising tools helped provide an estimated £136 million in economic activity in 2020 for over 1,600 businesses in Portsmouth

Economic activity supported by Google in South East Hampshire by Parliamentary constituency (£ mn)

What is your favourite Google product?1

Google Mail because I use it every day for my emails. I find it easier to use.

Woman, 72

Google Assistant, a device [product] that keeps your daily schedule up to date and easy to handles with reduced control.

Man, 25

Google Maps - a great help when travelling about the country visiting friends and relatives.

Woman, 75

I like Google Search as I can find out information on what I like and which is interesting to me.

Woman, 60

Gmail has helped me become paperless which I think is great for the environment.

Woman, 47

Youtube. My favourite go to for entertainment.

Woman, 20
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Helping Workers Get Things Done

Workers in Portsmouth agreed that online tools had helped keep them productive:

When we asked how hard their job would be to do without access to core online services:

A 2015 Forrester Consulting study estimated that the deployment of Google Workspace, including tools like Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Meet, Docs, Sheets and Slides had the potential to save employees between 15 minutes to two hours per week at work, in more efficient collaboration. 2 

Based upon this, and other research on the time saved by Google Search,3 we estimate that in a given year, Google services could be saving workers in Portsmouth over 2.5 million hours. That is the equivalent of producing a £119 million improvement in productivity for the British economy.4

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Helping businesses adapt during lockdown

With Covid-19 forcing many physical stores to have to repeatedly shut, online sales and advertising became ever more important in 2020. Independent estimates suggest that the share of online retail increased from 19% to 30% as a result of the pandemic. 5

Based upon our business survey, we estimate that:

At the same time, tools like Google Search, Google Maps and Google My Business helped keep Portsmouth’s residents connected with their local shops, and up to date with who was open. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic:

By helping businesses shift to online sales for the first time during 2020, we estimate that Google helped support £7 million in economic activity.


of businesses said that online search was an important way that customers found their business, second only behind word of mouth

of businesses said that Google Docs / Workspace were useful or important in helping their business adapt to remote work. 37% of businesses say that it would not have been feasible for their employees to keep working remotely without online tools

of businesses said that they had use Google Search to keep up to date with the latest government advice

of businesses said they are likely to continue selling their products or services online after the economy and society return to normal
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Helping Families in Everyday Life

Throughout 2020, Britons turned to Google services to help keep them informed, up to date, and safe. Google Search was one of the most important platforms through which Britons kept up to date with official advice and adapt to live during the pandemic:

In our polling, we found that Google products are now essential household tools - helping us around the home, learn new skills and keep learning:

Google’s model, free at the point of use, makes it possible for everyone, no matter their background, to benefit from the power of digital search and online information. This information can be incredibly valuable. The consumer surplus of a product looks at how much it is worth to a user - in other words, how much you would have to compensate somebody for them to voluntarily give it up.

In 2020, we estimate that Google’s core services are creating a consumer surplus worth a median of £60 per person per month in Portsmouth.

Chilli Mash Co


Chilli Mash Co. was formed in 2016 when two hot sauce companies teamed up after being dismayed by the lack of quality chilli ingredients in the U.K. Five years later, the company is working to empower and train Rwandan farmers and suppliers, and is on track to be the U.K.’s largest independent chilli mash, puree, and ferment producer. 

“When we started out, the only chilli purees available in the U.K. were mass-produced stuff that use lots of salt and harsh, powder-based acids,” explains co-founder and company director Natt Boarer. “There just wasn’t a source for high-quality chilli ferment products here. We set out to change that, using traditional grassroots fermentation processes and working with local vinegar producers to keep the flavour unaffected.” 

The focus on authenticity was welcomed with open arms by the spice industry.

Prior to 2020, the business had taken an organic word-of-mouth and SEO approach to its marketing, but the pandemic saw the company increase digital ad spend in order to pivot its focus from restaurants to retail and commercial audiences

“Things like the Royal Mail project wouldn’t have happened without Google Ads and you really can do it yourself. We started with running basic Google Ad campaigns. When I realised it was really working, it made sense to work with a specialist to generate better keywords and audience sets so we can go for things that are really specific without spending hours and hours doing it.”

Natt says the Chilli Mash team now regularly see an almost 5,000% ROI on their Google Ad spend — but it’s not just about advertising, he explains: “Literally everything we do is based on Google software or data in some way.”

“I love the versatility of Google Sheets. It gets better the more we use it. Similar products we’ve looked at are pretty stagnant in comparison and there isn’t much innovation.” 

Natt Boarer, Co-founder and Company Director

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How we quantified Google’s impact in Portsmouth

In this paper, we used a range of different methods to quantify the economic impact and helpfulness of Google Search, YouTube, Android and other Google products:

  • Building on the precedent of previous Google impact reports from markets including the UK, the United States, and Europe, we used traditional economic modelling built upon third-party estimates of Google market size in the UK, and standard returns on investment (ROI) to measure the economic activity driven by Google’s core products.
  • Working with independent providers Dynata and Kantar, we conducted extensive polling of a representative sample of over 5,000 individuals representing every region in the UK.
  • As part of this, we ran a decided poll of 250 adults in Portsmouth, weighting this by age and gender. 
  • At the same time, we polled 1,000 senior business leaders from small, medium and large businesses, representing a range of different industries across the UK.

All polling numbers in this report are taken directly from our Portsmouth poll, which in turn has been used to produce estimates of the consumer surplus and business productivity impact created by Google products in Portsmouth.

In order to estimate the business benefits and economic impact of Google in Portsmouth, we apportioned out our national estimate based upon:

  • Portsmouth’s business demography, taken from ONS data
  • Relative use of Google advertising services by business size
  • Relative use of Google advertising services in the South East region

To learn more about our modelling approach, please see the Methodology section in the national report’s appendix. 

Public First is a member of the Market Research Society. The full tables for all the data used in this report is available to download from our website.

While Google commissioned this report from Public First, all economic estimates are derived from official, third party and Public First’s proprietary information. 

  1. Answers have been edited for clarity and grammar but are otherwise unchanged.
  2. The Total Economic Impact of Google Apps for Work, Forrester Consulting, 2015
  3. Economic Value of Google, Hal Varian, 2011
  4. Public First estimate built upon Forrester Consulting (2015) and Varian (2011).
  5. ONS