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Local Mobile Search Spurt Offers Customer Engagement Opportunities

Local online search activity continues to grow in usage and intensity, according to a new survey, but the real action is in mobile local search, which jumped by a third this past year. This significant growth provides opportunities for local businesses to engage with potential customers via the mobile platform.

Local searches now account for 13 percent of all core search activity on top Web search portals, a new study by comScore released by the Local Search Association shows. Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) and local search sites also exhibited strong growth, with 5.6 billion local searches last year, a 15 percent increase.

Portal searchers were more likely to conduct local searches as part of broad information gathering, while primary IYP searchers reported conducting searches to look for contact information with specific products or services in mind.

It was the skyrocketing growth in mobile local search use, though, that caught the researchers' attention. In January 2011, 77.1 million mobile subscribers accessed local content on a mobile device, up 34 percent from the previous year.

An analysis of core mobile usage behaviors showed local content dominating, as mobile subscribers increasingly turn to their mobile phones for information on maps, weather, traffic, retail and other local content.

Online daily deal offers and discounts have also emerged as an additional customer acquisition channel for local businesses. The comScore study found that primary IYP searchers were less likely to report purchasing online daily deal coupons for local businesses than business researchers on other sites.

"The market is changing so rapidly that small businesses need a trusted advisor to help them sort through the complexity," said Neg Norton, Local Search Association president. "This is particularly true with trends in the mobile space and daily deals. Small- and medium-size businesses are still working to understand how to be effective and use these tools to their advantage."