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How Consumers Search for Products on Desktop, Tablet and on Smartphones



Fred Thiel
Chairman and CEO
Local Corporation

Local Corporation is a local advertising technology company that connects consumers and businesses through products and services such as Local.com and Krillion, a local shopping platform aggregating data from 120,000 stores. Chairman and CEO Fred Thiel spoke with eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser about mobile search and the evolution of retailing.

eMarketer: What is your sense of how consumers are using smartphones vs. desktop computers for search?

Fred Thiel: Consumers are definitely conditioned to use Google or another search engine for search on desktop—excluding travel searches. For travel, we see more mobile usage, and in that case, they’re usually using an app which is specific to whatever travel site used such as KAYAK or TripAdvisor. That category is pretty much the first to be “appified,” as some have termed it.

When it comes to shopping and general discovery, on desktop it’s still Google or a search engine, or a particular shopping or deal site when the customer wants something specific. To quantify, 73% of product research is done using a search engine, 33% is done through specific shopping sites, and 24% is through apps.

“People prefer to use apps if they’re searching on their smartphones, and that’s partly because that search happens right there in the store.”

eMarketer: Why do you think that’s the case?

Thiel: The reason is people prefer to use apps if they’re searching on their smartphones, and that’s partly because that search happens right there in the store. The tablet looks more like the desktop in this way. On the phone, the generic search engine has a small amount of real estate, and it’s kind of clunky and not the best user experience.

We see that eventual transition happening on desktops—as desktops really just become tablets—and that transition will go into appifications, or specific sites for visitor function.

eMarketer: So when consumers search on mobile, what’s the retailer’s goal? Is it to get consumers to buy something online, to get them into the store, or show them an mcommerce ad, perhaps?

Thiel: Most of the top 100 retailers have omnichannel programs in place, with sophisticated and well-developed ecommerce sites and brick-and-mortar stores.

More and more, with retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, the brick-and-mortar location is becoming a localized distribution center. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying online, picking up in-store, having something delivered in a store or ordering it online for home delivery. Retailers just don’t care. What they care about is that the purchase is made, and they’re setting up their systems so that omnichannel becomes the core mantra.

“More and more, with retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, the brick-and-mortar location is becoming a localized distribution center.”

I think that’s the reason we’ll see retailer appification. Branded retailers are going to try to build retailer affinity among consumers so the purchase is made, whether it’s online or offline.

eMarketer: How do you see this evolving, or the potential repercussions for the industry?

Thiel: I think it’s going to create some very interesting dynamics in the marketplace relative to how Amazon and other ecommerce sellers adjust. A brand manufacturer doesn’t necessarily care whether you buy a TV from Amazon or Best Buy, as long as it’s their product. Best Buy, meanwhile, doesn’t care which manufacturer’s TV set you purchase, as long as you get it from Best Buy. I think it may come down to which retailer is willing to spend more money to influence the consumer at that particular moment.

Ultimately, as a company we’re very focused on providing a consumer-centric, not channel-specific experience—and definitely a nonsiloed experience—relative to a specific brand or retailer.

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