Last year analyst BIA Kelsey projected that local mobile web searches will surpass those performed on desktop PCs by 2015. This further builds on analysis a year earlier that noted HTML5 technology will mean that mobile websites, such as Durham, North Carolina’s will soon outpace apps. In a new survey marketers agree.
Local searches are important because Google analysis revealed they make up 70% of all online activity and a joint study just released by Google and Nielsen reveals that for many categories, the shift to mobile may be accelerating even more quickly than could be foreseen just last year.
These searches are important to communities because because nearly all business travelers including those attending conventions and 72% of the much larger leisure travel segment use mobile devices to obtain information during visits.
Unfortunately, less than 6% of the websites for small and medium-sized businesses and organizations are currently optimized for mobile. Nationwide, the 94.5 that don’t are losing out on an estimated $24.3 billion.
Those located in communities such as Durham are fortunate because the DMO’s mobile website provides easy access for residents, commuters and visitors to comprehensive, curated information on thousands of businesses, organizations and facilities even if they do not have a mobile site of their own without the need to search category by category.
But the sea-change to mobile searches is becoming even more important to a community’s business climate because the new Google-Nielsen study shows they are more likely to be followed up by immediate action, as high as 55% within an hour. Other studies have shown mobile searches are twice as likely to result in action but that gap appears to be rapidly widening.
Businesses at one time relied on 800 numbers as a means to make access convenient for those without access to phone books etc. but today, more than six out of ten mobile searches result in a phone call, according to Google.
Local phone numbers are now more likely to get a click through than national or toll-free numbers and yet even on their regular websites, 49.4% of small and mid-sized businesses and organizations fail to have it on their home page. Nearly 94% fail to display a contact email address.
Here again, those based in communities where they are listed on a DMO desktop and mobile optimized website are sure to have local numbers listed and the DMO serves as a concierge to answer questions and to facilitate referral.
The Google-Nielsen study doesn’t appear to include visitors to a community unless they are shown under “on the go use” outside home and work. But the study does provide insight into how visitors may be using local searches.
As examples, I’ll highlight findings for restaurants and shopping, by far the two areas with the most visitor activity participation, along with arts and entertainment, one of several activity areas important to visitors.
Local searches involving restaurants are 53% initiated via web browser and via an app 43% of the time. Nearly 80% are purposeful vs. random searches. More than half click on links or then visit to a restaurant with 30% making a purchase.
Local searches for shopping occur via web browsers 56% of the time with 38% accessing via an app. Nearly 68% are by intent and 21% random searches. More than half result in click-throughs with 24% visiting a store and 25% making a purchase. Mobile shopping queries are twice as likely to be in store.
Local searches for arts and entertainment are done 56% of the time via web browsers 56% of the time with 38% accessing via an app. Nearly 30% came on the item randomly and 28% out of need. More than 60% clicked on links, 11% visited the physical location, 21% shared the information and 9% made a purchase.
Sites such as Durham’s mobile-specific aggregator make searches more convenient, with the added benefit that searches for one purpose such as an arts events are more likely to see other activities that are available such as dining and vice versa.
In 2012, a billion people globally used mobile devices as their primary internet access point. In the U.S., 95% of smartphone owners conduct browser-based searches, 82% once a week or more.
The new study emphasizes again that regardless of how visitors or residents initially access content, e.g. a print visitors guide or a desktop, they want that information to be portable and accessible across other platforms including mobile.
The shift to mobile search also adds to the importance of community buy-local efforts. Eight out of ten dollars in household budgets are spent within 50 miles of home. It is estimated that US firms lose $50 billion a year because of problems with localization.
The genius of the web is that localized planning can be spontaneous and activities tangential, which is more the way people live even when they are visiting a community. This also results in more spending and a more authentic experience.
With the migration to mobile web searches from apps underway, it makes sense both for travelers and communities for DMOs to create a mobile-optimized website rather than an app. Even frequent travelers to a destination can simply add a mobile website to their home screen so that it appears much like an app for ready reference, but forwarding the website and selecting home screen.
Savvy community-destination marketing execs are taking heed.