Mobile Searchers Take Action

Mobile marketers have increased their ad spending, while the mobile search picture is not as obvious as it might seem, according to two new reports.

Google and Nielsen teamed to understand when and why people turn to mobile search, and the actions they take as a result. Millennial Media, meanwhile, looked at ad traffic on its mobile advertising platform.

For its “Mobile Search Moments” report, released on Wednesday, Google and Nielsen asked 426 consumers to log their mobile searches over two weeks in a diary smartphone app, followed up each mobile search with an email asking for the results of that search, and then conducted an exit survey at the end of the study.

There were a couple of counter-intuitive findings. First, mobile devices may be replacing desktops as the preferred search tool: 77 percent of mobile searches taking place during the study period took place at home or at work. Respondents seemed to find it easier to pick up the phone for a search than to sit down at a desktop or even fire up a tablet. Nevertheless, 59 percent of mobile searches occurred after 3 p.m., with 22 percent taking place from 8 p.m. to midnight, when people are more likely to be at home or on the go.


Second, consumers were more likely to notice ads when in a store – and they found them useful. At the same time, searchers were 55 percent more likely to notice ads while in a store and to find them useful. Anecdotally, people in the study noticed that ads loaded faster than search results and provided relevant information.

Although the context for mobile searches was not usually when people were out shopping or looking for businesses, three out of four mobile searches did trigger additional actions: additional research (36 percent); a website visit (25 percent); a store visit (17 percent); a purchase (17 percent); or a phone call (7 percent).

Marketers have limited time to capitalize on mobile searches, according to Google and Nielsen, with 55 percent of conversions happening within one hour and 63 percent of all follow-up actions, including conducting more research or sharing information from a search.

The next window of opportunity for marketers is within five hours, the study found. Within that period, 81 percent of conversions and 84 percent of all follow-up actions take place.

Forty-five percent of mobile searches were conducted to help make a decision, and that proportion rose to two-thirds when people were in a store. Not surprisingly, shopping searches were twice as likely to be done in-store, according to Google and Nielsen.

The Google/Nielsen findings seem at odd with Millennial Media’s 2012 Global Mobile Trends report, which found that the restaurants and retail vertical was the top spender on mobile ads, growing 106 percent year-over-year and making up 16 percent of the total brand advertiser campaigns in 2012. It should, of course, be noted that Millennial serves ads into mobile websites and apps and does not handle search.

Millennial’s data showed that not only location-based targeting, but also location information, continues to play a stronger role in mobile advertising. On the Millennial platform, 40 percent of CPG spending included some form of location-based targeting, while 21 percent of campaigns on its platform included a store locator or “view map” option.

Overall, Millennial found 12 different verticals that grew mobile ad spending by over 100 percent year-over-year, with government services growing 860 percent, thanks in large part to election spending.

According to Millennial, the top three most targeted audiences were IT decision-makers, gadget geeks and in-market auto buyers. The company would not disclose what portion of the ads it traffics are targeted by audience.

Finally, mobile searches are rising in the B2B sector. According to a study from, an online business-for-sale marketplace, prospective buyers are increasingly browsing for-sale opportunities via mobile devices. Unique mobile visits to the site increased 143 percent year-over-year, now accounting for 28 percent of total unique visitors. While tablet traffic grew 155 percent in that time period, smartphone traffic still accounts for more than half of all mobile unique visitors.

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