Cross-Device Search Trends: Insider Insights

For search marketers, the global explosion of connected devices can only be a good thing, right? More screens lead to more eyeballs, and more eyeballs lead to more sales. Maybe so, but it won’t make our jobs any easier. According to a May 2014 Millennial Media study, a full 70 percent of digital users access the Internet – and with it, your marketing messages – across multiple devices. With more than 1 billion more consumers expected to be online by 2020 thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones (now outselling PCs three-to-one), the marketing complexity is only going to increase.

All of this seamless searching across devices presents a particular challenge to those of us who are working to understand how to best reach our target consumers and attribute value to our marketing spend. Are there patterns in the way they search across devices? Do their habits have anything to do with gender or age, or even which verticals they’re exploring? These are the kind of questions that keep us up at night.

Demographics: A Marketer’s Best Friend

As it turns out, demographics are an important indicator of search behavior – just as they are for any other type of marketing. For things like search queries, spanning both age group and gender, Bing Ads researchers see similar patterns. Thirty percent of all users type exactly the same queries, and nearly half of all users (44 percent) type similar queries on both PC and mobile within 14 days. This ratio stays consistent for users of all age groups and genders.

Examining millions of search query paths over 14-day periods, and using the methodology for identifying related searches, we find that differences begin to appear when you look across devices. Females are slightly more likely than males to start the search funnel with mobile.

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Not surprisingly, the younger demographic (ages 18 to 34), having grown up in the age of mobile, exhibits the most mobile-first cross-device activity.

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What You Sell Determines How They Buy

The type of purchase a consumer is making also proves to be a strong indicator of their cross-device behavior. For larger, more considered purchases – like those in the technology and telecommunications verticals, only 9 percent of PC conversions started from mobile. And these more considered, expensive purchases typically have a larger number of searches before conversion. Conversely, a full 28 percent of mobile conversions started from PCs, which are more heavily used for browsing on these types of purchases. We saw similar behaviors in travel, financial services, entertainment, and B2B services verticals.

For more casual, inexpensive purchases and local purchases like restaurants and foods, 22 percent of PC conversions started from mobile, while 19 percent of mobile conversions started from PCs. In these verticals, users are actively – and frequently – switching devices during the search journey.

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Advertiser Takeaways

Every good search advertising professional keenly understands the importance of audience-based marketing, so it stands to reason that having demographic and vertical insights about how potential customers are making purchase decisions is critical. But what can advertisers do with these insights?

The answer? Have a device strategy. Users often have long search funnels and navigate between devices, which means that the common last-click attribution may be insufficient when evaluating your campaigns. Furthermore, if you hope to reach and influence a younger customer base that tends to bounce around between devices, make sure you have both PC and mobile campaigns running. The same holds true if your business has a short sales cycle and or a lower price point.

As mobile devices continue to proliferate, and a generation raised on smartphones gains more buying power, reaching the right consumers will become increasingly challenging. But armed with the right insights and well-thought-out strategy, optimizing your campaigns becomes a whole lot easier.

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