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Mobile devices top online searches for local products: report

Consumers are increasingly turning to mobile devices over desktop when searching for information for local services and products, with 60 percent turning to smartphones and tablets for initial research, proving that brands must leverage geo-targeted advertisements to ramp up mcommerce, according to a report from the Local Search Association.

Sixty percent of adults in the United States now prefer using a mobile device to receive information before purchasing a product or service, giving brands ample reason to bolster their mobile search rankings and also add click-to-call and item suggestion options onto their mobile sites or applications. Geo-targeted ads are also of the utmost importance, as approximately 70 percent of the United States’ $18 trillion gross domestic product comes from consumer spending occurring within 20 minutes of work or home.

“If brands are not doing local SEO and SEM, as well as pursuing other mobile strategies (e.g., social) they’re definitely at a disadvantage,” said Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insights at Local Search Association, San Francisco, CA. “In fact if they offer a suboptimal or poor mobile experience to consumers (non-mobile friendly site) they risk not only sending people to competitors but eroding the perception of their brands.

“Local-mobile searchers in particular are in most cases the most qualified consumers out there, looking to make a purchase often within hours.”

Local search
Consumers’ tendencies to browse products on tablets or smartphones has contributed to the insurgence of local search options. The Local Search Association calls this shift from desktop to mobile a new segment titled “Mobile Fanatics.”

The Fanatics are users that partake in at least 10 searches weekly on a minimum of two devices from several locations. Brands must be cognizant of these kinds of consumers, as understanding how they receive their information is critical to mapping out journeys to purchase.

Because Mobile Fanatics are constantly browsing and shopping, this opens up the window of opportunity to reach them at anytime and anywhere. Marketers’ challenges lie in sending relevant and engaging messages.

The association saw a nine percent decrease in users seeking local information online, which suggests that the customer purchase journey is no longer as linear as it has been previously. Instead, brands should be ready to target consumers as they are on the tipping point of buying.

“Marketers must consider mobile the primary platform for consumers looking for offline information (and younger users in general), whether the location of a Home Depot or a local dry cleaner,” Mr. Sterling said. “Most brands and marketers are still not giving mobile the attention it demands.”

Omnipresence of mobile
Offering geo-targeted advertisements should be a top priority for brands and marketers seeking to bump up their search rankings. The Local Search Association found that 52 percent of smartphone owners look up local information while on-the-go or in the car.

Localized ads are also optimal to leverage for in-store shoppers, as 90 percent of users surveyed revealed they have used their device while shopping, with 54 percent looking up deals and 51 percent using a smartphone to compare prices.

When more stores begin rolling out beacon technology, these sorts of targeted offers and ads will become commonplace, especially in shopping centers and malls where the competition is tight.

Forty give percent of Mobile Fanatics also tap store apps for product information while at a bricks-and-mortar location, suggesting that brands should offer a “store mode” capability for each of their apps.

Meanwhile, 70 percent of those surveyed that view mobile ads are fuelled to later make a purchase, with 80 percent of users completing the checkout process within 72 hours of seeing the ad.

“Brands must pursue a multifaceted mobile strategy, as suggested,” Mr. Sterling said. “Depending on the brand, it should include mobile friendly site design, a mobile app, use of Facebook, and mobile search and display advertising, including video.

“Of course, the specific strategy and approach will depend on the brand and its objectives.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York