Local Offers, Relevance Drive Mobile For Restaurants, Travel, Cars

xAd | 08 / 08 / 2012

How does the use of mobile phones as on-the-go research tools relate to mobile advertising and impact local businesses? A new study conducted by Nielsen and commissioned by xAd and Telmetrics underscores the close link between mobile and local.

In particular, the study focused on mobile activity across three categories: restaurants, travel and automotive. These verticals are expected to show major mobile growth in the next few years.

The research showed cars are the most popular on-the-go location for mobile searches, with activity often spiking around highway exits as people look for nearby restaurants or other venues. Information like phone numbers, directions and maps were key for mobile users.

Depending on the category, 30% to 70% of those surveyed reported looking up a business phone number and subsequently contacting the business. A quarter to three-quarters looked up a business location and/or pulled up a map and driving directions.

When it came to mobile advertising, people cited local relevance and local offers as the top reasons for interacting with ads. The study also indicated that two-thirds of mobile searchers overall notice mobile ads, and a third click on them. Among the three industry categories, users wanted the most immediate results when it came to restaurants. Almost two-thirds (64%) of smartphone users and 44% of tablet users want to make a decision about where to eat within an hour.

Specifically, 84% of those visiting a mobile site or app on a smartphone said they eventually made a purchase based on that research. For auto-related searches, that conversion rate — including purchases via mobile, online or offline — was about 49%, while travel came in at 43%. Conversion rates were roughly the same on tablets.

Restaurant searches were more likely to take place on smartphones than tablets. Users in the auto category were also more likely to be active on smartphones, looking up business locations and getting directions. For travel, price comparison was the most common activity across devices, followed by looking for coupons and reviews.

The findings were drawn from an online survey of 1,500 U.S. smartphone and tablet users in June combined with data from Nielsen’s smartphone analytics panel of 6,000 iPhone and Android users.

Given the study results, Monica Ho — VP of marketing at xAd, which operates a local mobile ad network — said advertisers need to understand the different types of consumer behavior and intent within each vertical before deciding the best approach to take to connect with users. “You have to advertise where you’re audience is,” she said.

Likewise, xAd founder and CEO Dipanshu Sharma said the findings suggest a restaurant might want to invest more heavily in mobile marketing because of the strong correlation between search activity and conversions. For a major car brand like BMW, which may spend the bulk of its ad dollars on TV, the research could help them target their mobile budget more wisely. Educating the marketplace about local mobile advertising is still a key focus for the company, he said.

Among other findings from its study:

*Across all three vertical categories, tablet owners mostly used their devices at home (65%), while smartphone owners used theirs mostly on the go (68%).

*Among smartphone owners, local directory apps are the most popular for restaurant and automotive users (53% and 34%, respectively), while branded mobile sites are tops for travel users (47%).

*For tablet users, branded sites are the most popular across all categories.

This article originally published in MediaPost – August , 2012

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