Don’t Overlook the Mobile Searcher

The mobile browser is not dead, exactly, but if it were an animal it might be on the endangered species list.

Mobile users are spending more time using mobile apps and less and less time surfing the Web from their mobile devices, based on recent statistics from Flurry.

Apps took up 86 percent of the average U.S. mobile consumer’s time online, or 2 hours and 19 minutes per day, the firm reported.

By contrast, time spent on the mobile Web averaged just 14 percent of the U.S. mobile consumer’s time, or 22 minutes per day.

Rethink the Browser

In the face of such data, it would be tempting for a marketer to throw everything at an app strategy and ignore mobile browsers — and the consumers who use them. To date, that has not happened, though.

Mobile search ad spending has been doubling on a year-over-year basis for several quarters, suggest data from Ignition One.

U.S. mobile local advertising revenues will reach US$4.5 billion in 2014, up from $2.9 billion in 2013, BIA/Kelsey recently reported.

Mobile local ad revenues will have more than tripled by 2018 to reach $15.7 billion, it projected.

As apps gain a wider footprint on the mobile consumer’s screen, some rethinking about the browser and mobile search is in order.

About the Mobile Searcher

The first question to ask is this: Who is using the mobile browser? How can a mobile advertiser connect with those consumers?

The mobile searcher turns to a browser when looking for unstructured data or for the answers to certain questions.

Which data, exactly, and which questions?

Certainly, a desktop user bored on a slow workday may search for any subject that’s of remote interest. My recent desktop search history, for instance, includes “advice columnists” (my daily addiction has grown to the point where it requires more than Dear Abby and Dear Prudence to satisfy it now); “Noah’s daughters-in-law” (after reading a spirited discussion on Facebook about how the recent movie starring Russell Crowe is not biblically accurate and stinks besides); and “can fleas survive a day long car trip to go on to infest the destination” (don’t ask).

Of all these, only the latter is vaguely goal-oriented, which is the primary driver of mobile search requests.

Goal-Oriented, Ready to Buy

Forty-five percent of mobile searches are “goal-oriented,” and are done with an eye to accumulating information to make a decision or purchase in the near term, according to a study Google and Nielsen conducted last year.

A mobile searcher will be more likely than a desktop searcher to continue to research the question and visit a retailer’s website. The goal-oriented mobile searcher is more inclined to share information with friends on social networks.

The mobile search is an important indicator of buying intent. It is not the only signal, to be sure — desktop plays an important role as well — but it increasingly is becoming part of the “last mile,” meaning a searcher who goes to mobile to seek out information typically is close to pulling the trigger on an action.

That’s something for marketers to keep in mind, as local-mobile ad technologies continue to enter the digital marketing ecosystem.

Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.

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