Search marketing firm iCrossing just released the results of a mobile Web usage survey with 1,001 US residents over the age of 16. The study found that about 30 percent of mobile users access the Internet, but among that population 75 percent used search. Assuming the survey methodology is sound and statistically valid, the findings are striking and have powerful implications.
Here are some of the top-level findings from the report:
30 percent of mobile users access the Internet on their mobile devices, with 50 percent doing so several times a week and 75 percent of those who access the mobile Internet conduct searches on their mobile devices
Search engines rule over carrier search functionality: Mobile searchers prefer navigating directly to mobile-specific versions of major search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Ask to using carrier-supplied search functionality
Maps/directions, weather and local information are the content categories of greatest interest to mobile searchers
As one might expect, the device matters. Smartphone ownership, with QWERTY keypads and large screens, translated into more frequent mobile Internet usage. But more significantly, search market share online seemed to translate directly into market share in mobile:
Google is the engine of choice among mobile searchers, preferred by 90 percent of those surveyed. Yahoo! and MSN were a distant second and third, respectively, while Ask and AOL ranked in the low single digits. These results should come as little surprise, as they largely parallel users’ preferences on the wired Web, making Google’s dominance of search share roughly proportional on both wired and wireless Internet. In fact, 96 percent responded that they use the same engine to conduct searches on their mobile device as they use on their PC.
Mobile Internet users are thus largely bypassing carrier search and going directly to their search engine of choice (preferred by a margin of 2 to 1). The report confirms mobile carriers’ worst fears and reflects that they will have to do something dramatic to get users’ attention. But partnerships with search engines might also be implicated by these findings. (Sprint and Microsoft have such a relationship already.) According to iCrossing, convenience was the main reason for those who preferred carrier search.
One thing is certain: mobile searchers have little patience for digging deep into search results. Most will browse at most two pages, with 25 percent of respondents saying they will look at the first page only, and 51 percent saying they will go as far as the second page.
There are many other interesting aspects to the iCrossing findings. But the bottom line appears to be that online consumer behaviors, conditioned by use of search engines, are translating directly into mobile among Wap users. And on mobile devices local search content appears to be of even greater importance than online.