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Mobile Stakes Its Claim on Local Search

Apps are gaining share of local searches

Mobile internet users reach for their devices to route their trip home, read reviews of local restaurants and find the location of a nearby business. And as more consumers convert to smartphones and tablets, the number of local searches is rising fast.

Between April and December 2012, comScore conducted a study on behalf of 15miles and Neustar Localeze and asked mobile phone and tablet users about their search activity. In conjunction with comScore’s analysis of total and local web search activity, and local mobile content consumption, the study found that in only eight months, the number of overall US searches on mobile phones and tablets rose 21%. Total searches totaled 113.1 million for mobile phones and 38.7 million for tablets in December 2012.

And of those conducting searches, many are seeking out local information.

By December 2012, comScore found that nearly 86 million people searched for information on local businesses via mobile, a 25% increase over the beginning of the eight-month period. More than half of these mobile local searchers said they researched on the devices because they were on the go and needed immediate information.

This is not to say that local search has wholly moved onto mobile devices. 15miles’ study found that the majority of PC local searches were conducted at the beginning of the search path. But another one-third of searches on PCs happened throughout the information-gathering process.

Mobile phones and tablets, meanwhile, were more evenly split in the percentage of searches that happened at the beginning of and throughout the search process. Where mobile phones and tablets really showed their specific utility was in the share of local searches that ended on the devices—18% for each, compared with 4% of PC searches.

It’s notable that while tablets are increasingly seen as at-home rather than on-the-go devices, for local business searches, activity was very similar to mobile phones.

Apps are also becoming a more popular means of conducting local searches, a further indication of mobile’s growing role in local search. 15miles found that the number of app-based local searches nearly doubled in the past two years.

What are local searchers looking for via those apps?

Getting directions was a prime app search activity on mobile devices. Google Maps was the No. 1 app used for local searches on phones and tablets, at 35% and 25%, respectively. Interestingly, Facebook’s app ranked second on both devices. Bing led the general search engine apps, with 17% using the portal on mobile phones and tablets.

Again, on apps as well, local search activity on mobile phones and tablets continued to mirror each other somewhat closely.

In terms of the features users want on local business search sites, address, phone number, hours of operation, maps and directions ranked high across PCs and mobile devices.

Interestingly, compared with the PC, more consumers on tablets and mobile phones wanted to see ratings and reviews on local business search sites. This is likely because on mobile devices, users want to do the least amount of clicking. They want reviews front and center when they conduct a search. Similarly, respondents gave precedence to seeing promos and online discounts on local search sites on mobile devices over PCs.

But perhaps what makes local search the most critical to businesses: conversion—especially on mobile. Around 77% of those who conducted a local search on either a mobile phone or tablet went on to make a purchase either in-store, online or over the phone. A lesser, but still notable, 59% of local PC searchers also converted.


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