Mobile Commerce

What Exactly Do Customers Search For On Their Mobile Phones?

Mobile Apps Go In-Store
A new study details what terms shoppers search for on their mobile devices.

We all know that consumers are using their mobile phones to shop and search for items more than ever before (and it’s a market that is only poised to grow in the future).

But do we know what exactly they are searching for when they use their smartphones or tablets?

Well, thanks to a new study by Hitwise that analyzed the search data on 3.5 million smartphones and tablets from mid-April to early May, now, we sort of do know exactly what consumers are searching for on their mobile devices.

And when those search results are broken down even further into the retail sphere alone, the results are pretty interesting.

Hitwise’s study found that more than three-quarters (77 percent) of all retail search results containing the word “coupon” were initiated on smartphones or tablets, with “sale” at 73 percent and “discount” at 68 percent.

So, from this data, we can infer that mobile shoppers are mainly using their phones and tablets to search for deals while they shop or while preparing to shop, habits that savvy brands and retailers can definitely use to their advantage.

“With so much shopping activity occurring online, including when consumers are shopping in physical stores, online search may be one of the best ways to influence shoppers,” said John Fetto, author of the Hitwise study. “Understanding the device from which different types of searches typically originate and then formulating a strategy for engaging the consumers behind those searches is critical, and the risk of not doing so — lost sales, unhappy customers, missed opportunities, etc. — are enormous.”

Breaking down mobile search terms further, however, finds that “layaway” was actually the most searched term at 89 percent, as Fetto theorizes that “mobile may be the only connected device of struggling consumers” most likely to have to use layaway to afford purchases in the first place.

Two other popular search terms, “24 hour” and “reviews,” both came in at 82 percent, suggesting that consumers are interacting with their mobile devices like never before to determine in the moment where to eat, shop or even workout.

“Location-based searches in retail, as in every other industry, are among those most highly skewed towards mobile devices. These include searches that incorporate the words ‘near me,’ ‘hours,’ ‘24 hour,’ as well as those that start out with ‘where to buy…’” Fetto said. “Likewise, comparison searches that have the potential to close a sale, such as those focused on ‘return policy,’ ‘price match’ or ‘reviews’ were initiated on a mobile device at least 77 percent of the time in my analysis, well above the industry average.”

Possibly the most interesting and surprising search term that popped up on the list — also coming in at 82 percent, above even “coupon” or “sale” — was “engagement rings.” Items intended as gifts, like “jewelry,” were highly likely to be searched by retail consumers on a mobile device.

“Items that a consumer may want to keep under wraps, like ‘jewelry’ and especially ‘engagement ring,’ are focused more heavily on a personal mobile device,” Fetto said. “This device choice minimizes the risk that a significant other or older child will find evidence of such surfing through the browser history of a shared computer, thus spoiling the surprise.”

So, jewelry retailers might be wise to invest in more mobile and location-based advertising in the future if they want to attract mobile consumers.

But retail shopping was far from the first thing on most consumers’ minds when they are on their mobile devices. That instead would be “food and beverage” queries, coming in at 72 percent, meaning that “when hungry consumers are out and about and looking for somewhere to eat, they turn to their smartphone.”

“Health” and “sports” topics both came in as searched by 68 percent of all mobile device users during the period of study, and “news and media” was fourth at 64 percent. “Retail” was actually seventh at only 56 percent search saturation.

Still, here is yet another study that tells us that, if retailers, brands and marketers aren’t using mobile and location-based advertising to target potential customers, they are really missing the boat.

“In a short time, mobile devices have surged ahead of traditional computers in consumer demand and online traffic. More mobile devices are being shipped than desktops and laptops, and soon, mobile will account for the majority of website visits overall,” Fetto said. “For many sites and industries, mobile has already crossed that threshold. Marketers who think there is still time to prepare before the mobile tipping point occurs should take note that mobile devices already account for a majority of online searches and the time for action is now.”



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