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Mobile search drives in-store traffic and accelerates buying intent

NEW YORK – Mobile search and mobile SEO push publishers, brands and retailers into the forefront, bring consumers into stores and boost sales, according to executives at Mobile Marketer’s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 conference on Wednesday.

When consumers search via mobile devices, they expect immediate results and are often seeking to go somewhere or intending to purchase something within a few hours. It is imperative that mobile Web sites provide those instantaneous answers, especially because proximity drives traffic and mcommerce.

“[Mobile search] is more meaty,” said Michael Boland, senior analyst and vice president of content at BIA/Kelsey, Chantilly, VA. “There tends to be more sense of immediacy. There’s more buying intent. For example, Google reports that 73 percent of mobile searches lead to some form of conversion, and they usually define that by ‘calling the business’ or ‘visiting a store,’ a number of different actions.

“But more importantly, they report that half of those conversions are happening within an hour of the initial search,” he said. “So that’s a pretty powerful statistic with me because it shows that mobile users are very much indeed lower-funneling users.

“So the question is: ‘How do mobile marketers, content providers, how do publishers really align their strategies with a lot of these usage realities?'”

Mr. Boland moderated the “Search: How Mobile is Cannabalizing Desktop Search and What is Means for Key Players” breakout session.

Search and seek
Search is evolving, and all the players are under scrutiny, including Google and other search engines, optimizers and Web designers.

Offerings such as Google’s enhanced campaigns provide tool sets that apply different conditional variables.

Map searches and voice commands and their effects on overall search have to be considered when doing analytics.

Google, the leader in mobile search, is still figuring out how to monetize on the medium, even as Facebook and Twitter increasingly infringe on its territory (see story).

“Google released a new [algorithm] update toward the end of last year,” said ?Doug Platts, vice president of search strategy at iCrossing, New York. “It’s called the Hummingbird update, and it really starts to understand that when people ask questions, what is the intent of that question and how can they better answer that in search results.”

Search algorithms are systems Google, Bing and others use to sort through information and provide answers as part of the search process.

The Hummingbird Algorithm focuses on user intent more so than individual search terms.

Google is rethinking its business model in regards to mobile devices, in part because of devices’ single-column structure.

Search is evolving. Paid searches are decreasing.

Applications enable consumers to interact with retailers via social, loyalty programs and mobile.

Listening intently

Finders keepers
Consumers who feel connected to stores are more apt to purchase from those stores.

Retailers can engage with consumers via mobile and desktop searches, through omnichannel campaigns and in-store.

“You need to make sure you’re available,” said Chicago-based Bryson Meunier, director of SEO strategy at Resolution Media. “You need to understand those nuances.

“It is helpful to address people on multiple screens, at the same time there are differences,” he said.

On a mobile site, bricks-and-mortar retailers could put location information in the foreground, because finding a store’s address is an important aspect of mobile search.

“We don’t always look at desktop, smartphone and feature phones in the same way,” Mr. Meunier said.

For example, Lenovo used a combination of responsive and mobile design to leverage mobile search and drive both online and in-store sales.

At that time, about 10 percent of Lenovo’s SEO traffic was coming from a mobile device (see story).

Search plays a strong role in Macy’s mobile strategy, according to Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer at Macy’s, New York, who spoke during the Mobile FirstLook opening keynote session Thursday.

For example, when a consumer searches for a black dress, she is shown variations of black dresses, not just one.

“We’re trying to make search be much easier for her,” Ms. Reardon said. “She’ll get right to that product she’s looking for.”

Final Take
Kari Jensen is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York