For the growing number of consumers who rely on their mobile devices to search for local business information, their focus is on making a purchase — and fast.
The latest Google/Nielsen “Mobile Path to Purchase” study, released last week, shows that consumers who use their mobile devices to find and research local products and services do so when they are ready to buy.
The study found that:
- 93% of consumers who used their smartphones to research products and services went on to make a purchase
- 83% of consumers said they wanted to complete their purchase within a day of conducting their search, while 55% said they wanted to do so within an hour
- 69% of consumers said they expected listed businesses that appeared in their mobile search results to be within five miles of where they are located, while 10% said they expected listed businesses to be within one mile
Despite their urgency to make a purchase, however, most consumers who search for local business information via their smartphones choose methods other than mobile to actually complete the transactions they research.
The study showed that only 17% of consumers purchased the product/service they researched directly on their mobile device. Instead, approximately 82% of those surveyed purchased products they researched in-store, while 45% said they bought products they researched on their desktop or tablet.
These results beg the question, what is it about smartphones that is inhibiting consumers from following through with making purchases?
When it comes down to it, many local businesses are not providing consumers with the environments and tools they need to move forward with a mobile purchase.
While this is generally a widespread concern, those local businesses that seize opportunities in mobile conversion now will be well positioned against their competitors in the future.
Here are four key steps local businesses can take today to help spur mobile transactions:
1. Optimize Your Website For Mobile
The Google study found that 59% of consumers visited a business’ website when conducting a mobile search. The study also showed that consumers visited businesses’ websites an average of six times throughout their mobile path to purchase.
In order to leverage mobile website visits and convert them into sales, local businesses need to create mobile-optimized websites that provide clear and accessible ways for consumers to find the products and services they’re looking for and be able to act on making a purchase.
A key starting point is for local businesses to conduct an audit to see what types of consumers are visiting their websites via mobile and what they’re generally looking for. This information will be helpful in structuring the business’ mobile site to best meet the needs for those searching via mobile.
For example, a local pet store may find that customers searching their mobile website are more often looking to buy pet food and to find the number for the dog parlor, while those searching via their desktop more regularly browse one-time, big-ticket items like dog cages and carrying cases. The pet store can customize its mobile website to put the more relevant mobile categories first, and highlight ways for visitors to make purchases or schedule appointments right there on their devices.
Furthermore, local businesses should work with their Web developer to ensure that mobile visitors don’t run into Flash windows or slow-loading pages that will hinder their interest and ability to proceed with a mobile purchase.
2. Use Actionable, Informational & Reassuring Mobile Messaging
Local businesses should ensure the language they’re using on mobile devices demonstrates to consumers that their products and services are available for purchase via smartphones.
Businesses should leverage call-to-action messaging such as “Buy here now” and “Click here to schedule” prominently on their mobile websites, as well as in their mobile search ads, to entice consumers to immediately complete a transaction on their smartphone.
Additional messaging should point out the advantages of mobile purchasing, such as the ease and simplicity of capturing a deal or scheduling an appointment without having to go to the store or log on to a desktop computer. Businesses should also provide short, explanatory messaging including product descriptions, guarantees, return policies and the like so consumers have all the information they may need to complete the purchase. A local business can also offer incentives for consumers who complete transactions via mobile.
Since mobile purchasing is so new to consumers, local businesses need to guide and reassure them throughout the process so they are confident they can and should complete their transaction via their smartphone.
3. Leverage Local E-Commerce Business Tools
Local businesses should take advantage of the growing number of e-commerce tools being made available by local and vertical websites that make it easier for consumers to purchase a product or schedule an appointment via their mobile devices.
In the restaurant reservation and food delivery categories, for example, companies like OpenTable, Seamless and GrubHub have enabled participating restaurants to seamlessly capture mobile transactions.
Not only do these offerings automate the reservation and ordering process for local restaurants — a significant benefit for cash-strapped local business owners — they also provide added visibility for those businesses in key places where consumers are searching for local restaurants via their mobile devices.
For example, sites like OpenTable are being utilized more regularly via mobile, with the expectation that the majority of consumers will login to these offerings from their smartphones in the near future.
This summer, Yelp introduced its Yelp Platform offering, which is focused on enabling visitors to complete local business transactions directly from the business pages on its website and mobile app. The company initially partnered with Delivery.com and Eat24 for food ordering. Initial results are encouraging, with half of the “thousands” of food orders coming in each week via mobile.
And there are more plans in store: Yelp also said it will begin offering appointment scheduling for spas, yoga studios, salons and dentist appointments starting with Booker, Intuit’s Demandforce and MindBody. Additionally, the company announced a partnership with ReachLocal to enable consumers to book home services appointments on the site.
The opportunities for local business to take advantage of affordable purchasing and scheduling offerings, while leveraging seamless integration with top local sites and often their own mobile websites, are growing by leaps and bounds. Local businesses should start to explore how they can use these offerings to effectively drive mobile transactions.
4. Establish Digital Storefronts
Local businesses should look into options for setting up digital storefronts so that consumers can easily search and purchase products directly from their smartphones.
Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Square are among the various companies that provide local businesses with the ability to develop customized storefronts without the hassle of financing their development, management or hosting on their own. Consumers can easily browse available inventory, read product reviews, share products via their social media channels, and pay for transactions all from their mobile devices.
Similar to local e-commerce tools, these digital storefront options also provide businesses with the added bonus of greater visibility for their products within popular shopping channels where consumers are increasingly searching. In many cases, participating local businesses have the opportunity to compete head-to-head with big-box retailers and attract business from across the country instead of just their local market.
In order to truly leverage the opportunity in mobile, local businesses need to establish mobile environments and techniques that not only effectively capture consumer interest in the moment, but also provide the framework for them to complete transactions. By failing to secure that final step, local businesses create the opportunity for nearly converted consumers to go elsewhere.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.