The Key to Leveraging Local Search: Understand Customer Behavior [Report]

The Key to Leveraging Local Search: Understand Customer Behavior [Report]

By: Shelly Kramer
March 6, 2016

The Key to Leveraging Local Search: Understand Customer Behavior [Report]Here’s a riddle for you: What part of your business makes it profitable, yet remains out of your control? Your customers, of course! It’s a scary proposition, isn’t it? But, it’s true: You lack control over the single most important factor keeping your doors open. Local search plays a big role in helping you mitigate that lack of control and it also plays a big role in attracting and converting the customers you seek. And when it comes to success with local search, it’s all about understanding consumer behavior.

While you can’t force consumers through your doors or to your site, you can seek to know, understand, and serve them better. What are their habits? How do they shop or do product research? How often, when, and on what device do they search—and what exactly are they really looking for? By asking the right questions and paying attention to the answers, you can use local search marketing and tailor your company interactions with target customers in a way that inherently lends itself to profitability.

It boils down to this: You can keep your company relevant in the eye of your consumers by understanding their local search habits and catering to behaviors they already exhibit. You’re not asking customers to do you a favor by making an in-store purchase or visiting your site—rather, when you make it your business to know their preferences ahead of time—you can reverse conventional roles and actually provide utility with the delivery of your products and services.

Of course, this requires some work on your part. The good news? Google, in partnership with Ipsos MediaCT and Purchased®, has already provided a bunch of the legwork by way of their latest report on understanding local search behavior. Let’s discuss the results of this report and what it means for you.

The Study Group

The 4,500 study participants were over the age of 18 and reported using their smartphones for searching at least a few times per week. Of the verticals identified, participants had recently made at least one purchase, and, in addition to these purchases, also used search engines to do research. In total, the study analyzed 3,431 smartphone searches and over 2,000 store visits.

Let’s explore how you can can use the information gleaned from this study to learn about the behavior of active, engaged, tech-savvy consumers—who also happen to be many of the same folks you’re looking to attract.

How Prominent is Local Search?

Local search—inquiries based on proximity and relevance—holds a lot of weight with consumers. Every day, millions of people search locally for directions to places of business, check in-store stock at nearby locations, or look up store hours.

The report found that four out of five consumers use search engines when looking for local information—88 percent report doing so from a smartphone and 84 percent cited a computer or tablet as their preference. They’re using smartphones to conduct local searches from a variety of locations: Home (53 percent), in-store (41 percent), on the go (51 percent) and at work (33 percent).

Throughout the purchase process, survey respondents reported using devices to conduct local searches as follows:

  • Fifty-seven percent got purchase inspiration on a smartphone, while 66 percent used a computer or tablet.
  • Fifty-three percent did research on a smartphone, while 83 percent used a computer or tablet.
  • Forty-three percent made the purchase on a mobile device, while 64 percent used a computer or tablet.
  • Thirty-seven percent used a smartphone for post-purchase purposes, while 40 percent used a computer or tablet.

What Did We Learn About Consumers’ Local Search Behavior?

This part is so important, you might want to read it twice—consumers are more likely to purchase, and purchase quickly, after searching locally on a mobile device. In fact, 18 percent of respondents made a purchase after conducting a local search (compared to only seven percent who conducted a non-local search). Within one day of conducting their local search, 50 percent of smartphone users and 34 percent of computer/tablet users had visited a store.

To that end, it’s important to note that proximity matters. Many consumers prefer to make in-store purchases rather than doing so online, as long as their store of choice was nearby. Thirty-five percent of respondents reported that getting the product quickly was the biggest draw to in-store purchases, and 31 percent felt they were getting better pricing.

How Can I Apply This Information to My Business?

As we’ve discussed, local search, and it seems, shopping in general, tends to be about the here, the now, and the close by for consumers. It follows, then, that businesses can reach and engage customers with the use of location-based ads. Seventy-two percent of computer/tablet users and 67 percent of smartphone users in particular reported they would like to see ads customized to their cities and zip codes.

What can you do to take advantage of these preferences? Start using location-based marketing tactics to produce ads that cater to consumers’ immediate surroundings. Some 70 percent of computer/tablet users and 61 percent of smartphone users say that’s what they prefer. Want another statistic that will cause you to do a double-take? Thirty-two percent of consumers exposed to location-based ads made a purchase, and 19 percent made an unplanned purchase because of a location-based ad. The case for this strategy, I’d say, is pretty strong.

Note that if you build an attribution model for local searches, you can reach consumers already within a specific radius of your location. This tactic—as proven by the report—can lead to more and quicker consumer purchase decisions.

The Takeaway

Today’s consumers are on-the-go and incredibly tech-savvy. When it comes to the local market and products and services they want and need, they’re looking for businesses to make it easy for them. Combining a solid understanding of consumer behavior with smart local search marketing is your recipe for success.

How does your business utilize the power of local search? Do you agree with the findings in this customer behavior report? What proactive, measureable steps can you take in the next quarter to help leverage the power of local search for your business? I’d love to hear your thoughts on consumer behavior, local search, and how you’re leveraging them for your business.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

How Behavior [and Intuitive Apps] Are Driving Mobile Search
5 Observations From Local Search & Marketing Practices That Reveal Opportunities For Improvement
How To Earn A ‘Top 3’ Local Business Listing In Google Search