For several years now marketers have been monitoring the convergence of social, local and mobile (SoLoMo) factors in the way consumers research and decide on purchases. Foursquare capitalized on SoLoMo with their “check in” features, and businesses began rewarding frequent visitors and “mayors” with special discounts and prizes.
While the local and mobile components often sufficed in promoting visibility to mobile consumers through localized ads and offers, maps, directions, etc., the social media component is becoming increasingly important as well.
The 15miles/Neustar Localeze Sixth Annual Local Search Study conducted by comScore revealed that more than 113 million consumers used a mobile device to search locally in December 2012.
What does the continual emergence of SoLoMo mean for businesses? According to the study: “Consumers now expect accurate, easy-to-absorb information on local businesses on a variety of computing platforms, and companies that can adapt to this new world have the most to gain.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Mobile Consumers More Likely to Buy
The study revealed that search is the number one activity performed on mobile devices. More than half of consumers with browsers on their smart phones accessed search through the browser.
Although both are considered mobile, tablets and smart phones are being used differently. Tablet owners are becoming less mobile, more home-based, and less concerned with the ease of their device. Searches on tablets have increased, but local search activities from tablets have decreased. Conversely, local searches from smart phones have increased. About 86 million people in the United States now seek local business information on their mobile phones.
While mobile search is increasing, PC/laptop general searches and local searches have declined in the past year. PCs and laptops are primarily used in the beginning stages of local business search, while mobile phones and tablets are more likely to be used in the middle or end of the search process.
A key finding of the study is that mobile phone searches are more likely to end in a purchase. Compared to PC/laptop searches, successful local searches conducted by mobile phones were more likely to end with an in-store visit. Local business searchers who used a mobile phone or tablet were more likely to make a purchase as a result of their search. Part of the reason is that mobile phone users are closer to the end of the research process; the other is that they are out and about and can easily pop by a local brick and mortar location.
Apps and Maps
As consumers change how and where they conduct searches, they’re still using search engines to research what products and services to meet their needs. However, consumers are less likely to return to these “portal” sites to obtain local business information, while relying more on Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) sites. As fewer people are using consumer ratings and reviews on portal sites, the helpfulness of those ratings/comments declines as well.
The study clearly shows that search via apps is on the rise. Consumers who use mobile phone apps to search for local business information rely heavily on map-based applications – with Google Maps the dominant leader. Mobile phone users say maps, driving directions, and distance to the business are helpful features.
As many local business searchers utilize the navigation systems on their portable devices, they’re also cognizant of “Points of Interest” that appear on their maps.
Social Networks Still Influential
While most consumers don’t regularly use social networking sites as a source for local business information, they are still exposed to brand messaging on social media platforms. Local search is influenced by social connections on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram and Google+.
When friends and connections check in or post photos, comments, reviews, etc., those interactions from people you know are more influential than anonymous reviews.
If it becomes widely adopted, Facebook’s new Graph Search will be highly influential. Not only will it let users search locally, they can also see any related posts, reviews, comments from their Facebook friends – instantly.
The dynamic changes slightly for social media apps. Surprisingly, Facebook is the number two mobile app for local search, only slightly behind Google Maps. This may be due to the prevalence of the Facebook app, which is the most popular app in the world. The Facebook app has more than half a billion users worldwide, who average 400-plus minutes of usage per month. No wonder that Facebook app users are using local search features like Nearby in record numbers.
Brendan Morrissey is the CEO at Netsertive (netsertive.com).