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Consumers Head Online for Local Business Information

stewart-gregg
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It's time for the release of TMP Directional Marketing & comScore's Annual Local Search Study results. Before we dive into the data, full disclosure: I preside over an interactive division at TMP.

ComScore has administered the study each of the last three years with the purpose of identifying media trends and consumer behavior relative to local search. Trending data provides good insights on how this has changed over those three years.

The study is comprised of two components: an online questionnaire completed by 4,000 respondents and a behavioral component courtesy of comScore's more than 2 million users. The behavioral component is especially interesting because it provides direct observation of actual local search behaviors.

And Now, the Results...

Year over year, more digital channels become available to more consumers. So it's no surprise that they're increasingly being relied on for local business information. Search engines remain the "primary source" of information, while print media usage continues to decline.

Also on the decline is the number of local business searchers who own print directories. In 2009, this represented 84 percent of searchers, down from 89 percent in 2008. Print yellow pages (PYP) usage may be down, but Internet yellow pages (IYP) usage is up, possibly from loyal PYP users migrating online.

Primary Source of Local Business Information

The rise of online media as a local business resource is expected. Also expected is the survival of offline media. There is still significant usage.

This illustrates the need for a diversified approach toward media investment in order to nurture maximum lead flow. This is especially true if you're targeting mature adults (45 years and older). Offline media is still their primary local business resource, 40 percent prefer print directories while only 24 percent prefer search engines.

To understand usage declines, and also identify growth opportunities, it's helpful to look at the frequency with which media is used.

For example, in the previous graph social media and mobile as "primary sources" of local business information represent 1 percent and 3 percent respectively -- not something to get really excited about. However, consider that consumers use them every day or a couple times a week and you begin to take them more seriously (see below chart). Frequency indicates growing reference activity, and in this case it's a reason to keep emerging advertising opportunities in social and mobile channels on your radar.

Primary Source of Local Business Information

Google Maps: Number 1 with a Bullet

Google made significant gains in its share of local searches. Google Maps usage grew from 15 percent market share in the fourth quarter of 2008 to the number one local search site in the second quarter of 2009 with 24 percent market share, according to the comScore IYP/Local Combo Report.

IYP/Local Site Search Share

Interestingly, the ascension of Google Maps usage almost directly corresponds with the transition from what was the 3-Pack last spring to what's now the 10-Pack. Also exacerbating this trend is Google's use of implicit searches early in 2009. This illustrates the need for national and local businesses to claim their local business listings, and also to ensure that they're accurate.

Importance of Ratings and Reviews

From 2008 to 2009, usage of consumer ratings and reviews increased to 25 percent (+3) among IYP searchers and to 27 percent (+5) among general searchers. Additionally, people who use social networking sites for local business information are more likely to use consumer reviews (53 percent).

It's interesting that, while overall usage of ratings and reviews is only 24 percent, its importance during the business selection process is 57 percent! Because users of ratings and reviews heavily rely on them to select a company to do business with, they should be a serious component of any marketer's online strategy.

2010 Will be the Year of Mobile

Just kidding, it's still a few years out. The data reveals that mobile search continues to grow as more consumers have access to smartphone devices. Sixty percent of smartphone users say they have conducted a local search on their phone, versus 19 percent of standard cell phone users that have data connection.

According to comScore, only 12 percent of the mobile devices in today's marketplace are smartphones. As consumers upgrade their existing devices, we should begin to see the mobile segment become more important to local search.

In closing, a greater percentage of local business searchers expect business results to be within 15 miles from their starting location (63 percent, from 52 percent in 2007). Marketers already leveraging local search know this and have seen its benefits: leads that convert both online and offline.


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