Consumers Making Most of Mobile Search

Mobile search is on the rise, and this is a missed opportunity for merchants.

According to a study released March 21 by performance marketing agency Performics, more than three-quarters of smartphone owners who use the mobile web more than once a day have used mobile search more than five times during the past month.

What’s more, the 2011 Mobile Search Insights Study shows that smartphone users who search for a product on their mobile devices will make an m-commerce purchase. Nearly half of the 502 consumers polled (49%) who have used mobile search have also made a mobile purchase.

Smartphone users are not just searching for products when they are away from their desktop or laptop computers. According to the study, use of mobile search at home topped the list with 81% reporting evening use, 80% use mobile search on the weekend use and 59% use it before work. Another 61% said they use mobile search at work.

Respondents also revealed dual screen multitasking, reporting at least occasional use of mobile search while watching TV (66%) or using the computer (45%).

But with consumers showing the will to use mobile search, merchants are not taking advantage.

Amy Africa, president of web consultancy Eight by Eight, says there are a lot of reasons for this, many of which center on the fact that it’s still fairly new and people don’t know what to do.

“I think the biggest reason is that the analytic packages suck when it comes to mobile, so companies who are focused on the stats don’t see all the opportunities that are staring them in the face,” Africa says. “They see that less than 1% of their traffic comes from mobile and think that they can wait. Unfortunately, that 1% number is wrong–they just don’t know it.”

Africa says merchants are failing to look at other stats, such as referring URL, browser type and device type, which will shed more light on how consumers are accessing your site.

Michael Kahn, senior vice president-marketing services for Performics, says merchants and brands that employ Google AdWords campaigns are buying mobile search, unless of course they have consciously opted out of the mobile offering.

Kahn says a frighteningly high number of advertisers may not be aware they are engaging in mobile paid search, and they inevitably waste money and miss out on significant opportunity as a result.

“If the merchant is not managing mobile paid search independently from its overall paid search campaigns, heads should roll, and changes should be made,” Kahn says. “General paid-search best practices should be applied to both paid-search channels, but managing each independently can deliver huge cost savings and performance improvements.

For one thing, mobile search costs can be managed to just a fraction of computer-based search costs, Kahn says.

Mark Ballard, a senior research analyst at consultancy Rimm-Kaufman Group, says he’s discovered that mobile cost-per-clicks are a median 41% lower than desktop CPCs for the same term with the same bid, copy, match type, network targeting and landing page.

But Ballard doesn’t think the low mobile CPC will last very long.

“I think we’ll see a big push from the search engines and some agencies to view mobile as more of a branding initiative, which would drive up CPCs,” Ballard says. “The biggest variable for mobile may be changes in device functionality and user behavior. If we see conversion rates begin to improve for mobile, it would definitely drive bids higher.”

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