Mobile and Tablets Increasingly Used to Search Businesses

Mobile Engagement
Customers are increasingly using their mobile phones to search for businesses, with mobile phone and tablet users being more likely to make a purchase.

There is no doubt that mobile has become a major part of our lives. As I mentioned in an article earlier this week, the fear of being without a mobile phone is such a reality that our friends across the Atlantic have coined the word nomophobia--a phobia of being without a mobile phone.I, for one, am a prime offender--or sufferer of nomophobia. My phone is never beyond reach and I have the bad habit of checking my emails if I wake up in the middle of the night. You can say that I'm addicted to my phone, and I'm sure there are many others like me.

We're not going to delve into the psychological implications of our mobile-dependent lives, but rather look at the opportunities that this dependence on mobile creates for organizations, especially small, local businesses. According to a study released yesterday, mobile device users are more than ever using their phones for Internet searches.

The sixth annual Local Search Usage Study carried out by Neustar Localeze, 15miles, and comScore, which analyzed the behavior, attitudes, and intentions of online local business searchers, found that searches on the PC in the United States dropped 6 percent year-over-year in November 2012. On the other hand, searches on mobile devices grew by 25 percent between March and November 2012.

Local searches, which are geographically constrained to a particular location, are playing an extremely important role, and the researchers found that almost 86 million people look for local business information on their mobile phones, with half of them using their smartphones for searches while on the move.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, restaurants are the most common local search conducted, with 23 percent of respondents to the survey saying their last local business search was for a restaurant. These were followed by auto service or car dealerships and clothing and accessories stores. The most specific searches take place when a customer is looking for a pharmacy, doctor, or hospital, as well as banking and finance institutions, while those looking for jewelry stores are the least likely to be conducting a specific search.

While customers tend to start their search on a desktop computer or laptop, mobile phones and tablets are more likely to be used in the middle or at the end of the process, especially when users are on-the-go. Mobile phone or tablet use leads to a higher conversion, with local business searchers using these devices more likely to make a purchase as a result of their search. The researchers also point out that tablet ownership is growing at an unprecedented pace. In fact, while it took smartphones close to 10 years to reach 40 million owners, tablets have crossed that threshold within two years from the launch of Apple's iPad.

Social media also has an important use in local searches, despite a slight decline between 2011 and 2012. According to Gregg Stewart, president of 15miles, this is likely because searchers are looking for rating and reviews, which are easily found on social media. During the launch of the report earlier this week, Stewart said this is an area of opportunity for local businesses which should consider putting ratings and reviews on their websites since customers are actively looking for them.