For Local Info, Users Turn to Search Engines, Yellow Pages; Mobile Search Up

October 21, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

B2B | Local & Directories / Small Biz | Paid Search | Retail & E-Commerce | Search Engine Optimization

Total US searches have grown by 25% over the past year, but while consumers use a combination of online and offline resources to find local information, most of their purchases are still made offline, according to the second annual Local Search Usage Study from TMP Directional Marketing, conducted by comScore.

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The first sources that Americans turn to for local business information are search engines (31%), print Yellow Pages or White Pages (30%), internet Yellow Pages (IYP) sites (19%) and local search sites (11%).

Those results differ from last year’s study, which ranked Print Yellow Pages first (33%), followed by Search Engines (30%).

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Consumers Research Online, Buy Offline

Although the online channel is the primary source of local research, purchases are most often made offline. Following online local searches, consumers most often contact a business over the telephone (39%), visit the business in-person (32%) or contact the business online (12%).

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More consumers in 2008 contacted a business by telephone than in-person after a successful local business search than they did last year. In 2007, local business searchers were equally likely to contact the business via telephone or in-person. This could be a result of rising gas prices and more consumers unwilling to drive, comScore said.

Mobile and Voice Search on the Rise

The study also found that 1 out of 5 local business searchers with an internet-accessible cell phone have conducted a local search on the mobile web. Smartphone owners and those who own wi-fi enabled devices (such as the iPhone) are most likely to conduct local business search via the mobile web, with more than half of these respondents reporting mobile local business searching.

also, 22% of these respondents reported that they’ve called directory assistance from their mobile phone, with 411 acquiring the highest reach (64%) followed by free directory assistance provider 1-800-FREE411 (29%).

“There are 228 million mobile subscribers in the US, up 6% from August 2007 to 2008. Also, we are seeing tremendous growth in mobile browsing, up 45% over the same time period,” said Serge Matta, SVP of comScore. “We can expect mobile Web penetration and engagement to keep rising as connection speeds increase, data plan prices decrease and smartphones become more mainstream.”

Additional findings:

  • 30% of respondents still rely on directories as their primary local-business research source, despite a 3% decline from 2007 to 2008.
  • 90% of those surveyed find directories a valuable source for business information.
  • 86% of respondents have a print directory in their home.
  • While respondents are more satisfied with the business information provided by online sources, 73% are extremely or somewhat satisfied with print Yellow Pages – a 4% increase from last year’s study.
  • Traditional IYP sites such as Superpages.com, YELLOWPAGES.COM, Yahoo Yellowpages.com, and others account for 60% of local IYP business searches, while local search sites such as Google Maps, MapQuest, Yahoo Local, etc. account for 40% of local IYP business searches.
  • Usage of consumer reviews by IYP and local search site users increased to 22% among IYP searchers ( up 6% from 2007) and to 32% among local searchers ( up 6% from 2007).
  • Resource use varies by category. Home services, auto services and moving/storage receive the most number of searches on IYP.

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“As consumer local search grows with online and offline resources, national advertisers must develop strategic plans for integrating the various media into their national programs,” said Gregg Stewart, SVP of interactive, TMPDM. “Our 2008 study again confirms that consumers do a majority of research online, but continue to make purchases offline with a phone call or in-store visit. Additionally, marketers need to pay close attention to mobile search and sites that offer consumer user reviews, as they are growing in popularity.”

About the study: The research is based on an online survey of 3,000 respondents. The study monitored shifts in consumer usage and opinions of general search portals, local search sites, print and internet Yellow Pages and mobile search as they relate to finding local business information.

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