Local Search Brings Consumers Home

Staying close to home can likely generate $2.5 billion. That’s how much The Kelsey Group (TKG) and ConStat Inc. predict local paid search advertising to earn by 2008 in the U.S. Roughly 25 percent of online buyers seek merchants that are near their home or work locations, according to TKG and BizRate.com, as 44 percent of survey respondents revealed that were performing more local searches than they were one year ago.

The importance of local search came to the forefront as Yahoo launched SmartView on Yahoo Maps, which Greg Sterling, senior vice president, managing editor, and program director for TKG’s Digital Directories: Interactive Local Media program, says, “takes maps to the next level.”

Sterling calls SmartView an evolutionary concept, whereby users can plan a whole trip around the proximity of a single location. “What’s interesting is being able to see the hotel in proximity to the convention. SmartView brings together lots of content that Yahoo has distributed throughout its enormous site, making it available through its map format, which makes this visual presentation very interesting.”

How will local search affect e-commerce, just as Internet users have become more comfortable patronizing a global marketplace? Sterling believes geotargeting search will aid those that shop online and pick up the item in the local store, as well as those that research before buying. “You’re in your local store and you see the blender on the shelf. You can use a wireless device to instantly comparison shop before buying,” remarked Sterling.

TKG and ConStat’s collaborative survey revealed that 60 percent of small businesses (SMEs) reported that at least 75 percent of their customers came from within a 50-mile radius, and 80 percent of SMEs indicated that at least 75 percent of their buying and/or selling of products and services occurs within 50 miles. While local search will help Internet users who like to patronize local businesses, Sterling notes that “consumers will continue to look for the best prices.”

TKG and BizRate.com’s early 2004 survey of more than 5,500 mostly U.S. users found that 64 percent used search engines as the primary method for finding things on the Internet, and BizRate.com says that shopping searches account for more than one-third of search activity. A large majority (80 percent) of survey respondents rated commercial search results as good or excellent.

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