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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Kevin Jackson, Peter Silva

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Survey Reveals Local Businesses and Consumers Out of Sync on Mobile Search Expectations

More than a decade into the smartphone era, consumers still don’t get the level of functionality they need from the mobile web when conducting searches for local and other businesses. Although four out of five searches via mobile devices lead to purchases, often within a few hours, the mobile search user experience still has a lower satisfaction rate than its PC, laptop and tablet equivalents.

That’s one key takeaway from a comprehensive new survey of digital consumer behavior commissioned by Neustar and 15miles and conducted by comScore, based on a targeted sample of more than 3,000 users who conduct local business searches. The study also reveals that these users interact with local content on more devices than ever, with 63 percent now using multiple devices to find local businesses.

The research also indicates that PC-based searches increased slightly year-over-year in 2013, influenced by a 6 percent decline in searches on non-search engine websites. At the same time, the mobile phone and tablet audience is growing, and it represents a huge potential market: 79 percent of mobile phone users and 81 percent of tablet owners use those devices to search for local business information. As this practice becomes more routine, the less satisfied these users are with the process.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity here for companies to gain a competitive advantage by improving the local search experience for consumers across mobile devices,” said Mike Pycha, executive director at Neustar. “More than half the consumers in this survey, 54 percent, stress the importance of mobile site design. That should be a clarion call to the many vendors who still see mobile as a lower priority than their primary online offerings.”

Searching for Information On the Go

The survey shows that consumers have different uses and expectations for PC/laptop and mobile local searches. Smartphone and tablet searches are driven by a need for information on the go—a top reason cited by 65 percent of smartphone users and 37 percent of tablet users. As a result, mobile phone and tablet searchers don’t want to be overwhelmed with content, but do expect details like addresses (mobile) and basic product/service information (mobile and tablet).

The new research also indicates a divergence between smartphone and tablet local search:

  • Compared with all other devices, mobile phones have the highest conversion rate: Nearly 80 percent of mobile phone searches end in a purchase.
  • Tablet search functionality might be influenced by the time of day—44 percent of tablet traffic occurs after 5 pm, when users perhaps find it harder to reach brick-and-mortar stores.
  • Share of tablet searches that end in a purchase, 64 percent, decreases as the search function becomes comparative in nature.

Bringing Customers in the Door

Additionally, the line between ecommerce and brick-and-mortar retail is blurring. In another sign of the omnichannel retail trend, the study indicates that nearly three out of four mobile phone searches that end in a purchase actually brought the customer into a brick-and-mortar store.

So what are local search users looking for on their mobile devices? The new survey shows that not much has changed since the last such research initiative:

  • Restaurants come out on top with 23 percent, followed by stores in various categories
  • Auto service establishments and dealerships come in at 10 percent
  • Arts and entertainment rank at 9 percent

Just as each device clearly meets specific needs in terms of local search, businesses should in turn consider which device appeals most to their particular audience when developing and executing marketing strategies. In particular, when asked what kinds of businesses they’re looking for when conducting specific business searches, consumers cite:

  • Health and fitness (67 percent)
  • Restaurants (67 percent)
  • Financial services providers (66 percent)

These findings point to a clear opportunity for independent companies to gain an advantage by being easy to find online, whether through PCs/laptops or on mobile devices.

“This research may be our clearest indication yet of the ongoing maturation of the mobile market,” said Brian Wool, vice president of content distribution at Neustar. “On the one hand, consumers will continue to enjoy a wide variety of form factors, operating systems and particularly applications. At the same time, they expect a consistent and navigable search functionality that serves up exactly the depth and quality of information they need. Vendors that can offer such services can gain a clear and competitive advantage.”

“Trends Shaping Local Search in 2014,” a webinar featuring speakers from Neustar, comScore and 15miles on April 9 at 2:00 p.m. ET, will offer most insights from the survey, along with real-world strategies and tactics that independent companies can adopt to draw more business. You can join the conversation by clicking here.

Methodology

The Neustar Localeze and 15miles comScore Local Search Usage Study consists of a targeted sample of more than 3,000 users of local business Internet searchers, broken down by three search categories: Internet Yellow Pages, local search sites, and portal search sites. The report leverages both the quantitative survey and behavioral data from comScore’s U.S. consumer panel.

About Neustar, Inc.

Neustar, Inc. (NYSE:NSR) is the first real-time provider of cloud-based information services and data analytics, enabling marketing and IT security professionals to promote and protect their businesses. With a commitment to privacy and neutrality, Neustar operates complex data registries and uses its expertise to deliver actionable, data-driven insights that help clients make high-value business decisions in real time, one customer interaction at a time. More information is available at www.neustar.biz.

About 15miles

15miles, the local search division of Geary LSF Group, is a leader in local, mobile and social marketing solutions for national and regional brands. Applying the management team's proven expertise and rich history in local search marketing to its services, 15miles offers a variety of solutions that includes social marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, website design and development, Internet yellow pages, local business listing management and mobile solutions. For more information, please visit www.15miles.com or www.gearylsf.com.

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