This week, the Local Search Association is releasing our “Local Mobile Search Study,” which overviews the evolving mobile environment in the U.S. and the growing role of smartphones, tablets and other connected devices in the local search experience.
The 2013 study, which features 2012 data compiled from several comScore digital and mobile metrics databases, demonstrates a significant shift in how consumers are accessing the Internet and emphasizes the importance of local businesses embracing mobile platforms as yet another venue to reach consumers.
Rise Of Connected Devices Provides New Paths To Web
Before exploring the latest trends in local mobile engagement specifically, it’s valuable to recognize the rapid growth of mobile and other connected devices and their impact on how consumers are accessing the Internet.
In the third quarter of 2012, the share of smartphones in the U.S. marketplace finally overcame feature phones. This is a major milestone because smartphones provide consumers with easier access to the Web and the ability to use applications, among other advanced features.
Within the U.S. smartphone market, Google and Apple solidified their operating system dominance, with Google’s Android (53.4% market share) and Apple’s iOS (36.3%) representing nearly nine out of 10 smartphones in use at the end of the year. Blackberry lost more than half its market share over the course of 2012, dropping from 16.0% share to 6.4%.
While smartphones reached a majority of the mobile phone market in 2012, the bigger story was multi-device ownership within the mobile space as there is a growing prevalence of other “connected” devices.
In fact, more than one in three (37.3%) of all U.S. smartphone users also owned other connected devices at the end of 2012, including tablets (28.8%), eReaders (10.0%) and other handhelds like portable gaming devices (4.1%). These devices are providing consumers with yet more ways to reach the Internet.
The pace of adoption of connected devices other than smartphones is remarkable. While it took smartphones nearly a decade to reach 40 million owners, tablets crossed that threshold in only two years since the launch of the first iPad. This shows that new technology – both what’s been developed recently and will be developed next – is poised to reposition the marketplace at much faster rates than was once possible.
Online Traffic Patterns Are Rapidly Changing
As you can see in the number of PC users that accessed the Internet between 2009 and 2012, online traffic patterns are changing.
Last year, rapid growth of connected devices drastically changed how consumers accessed the Internet as PC use appears to have peaked. Growth in the number of PC users accessing the Internet flat-lined for the first time last year.
Meanwhile, the share of Web traffic from non-PC devices, including smartphones and tablets, more than doubled to 15% from 7% over the course of 2012 alone.
In another demonstration of how quickly the market is changing, Apple, which once dominated online traffic from tablets with 99% market share at the end of 2011, saw its share in Web traffic drop to 85% at the end of 2012 with the rise of Android-powered tablets (14% share at the end of 2012).
Local Mobile Engagement More Profound Than Other Categories
While local mobile engagement was found to be greater than engagement in other categories, the increased mobile traffic is not equal for all players.
The percentage growth of page hits on online directories/resources from non-PC devices grew much more than overall Internet use in 2012. The share of Web traffic from non-PC devices for directories/resources rose more than 20 percentage points from 6% to 27% of all Web traffic over the course of the year. That rate is more than double the 8 percentage point growth in total Web traffic on non-PC devices.
In December 2012, nearly one in two (48%) mobile users accessed local content, up from 42% in December 2011. The figure will continue to rise with the greater adoption of smartphones: 77% of smartphone users accessed local content, compared to just 14% of non-smartphone users.
As a growing number of consumers use mobile to access local content such as business directories, classified ads, maps, and movie information, they are showing a preference for apps over browsers. Approximately 77 million smartphone owners relied on apps to visit local content in December 2012, up 22% over the course of the year. About 69 million users relied on browsers, up 12% over the course of the year.
However, Internet Yellow Pages sites (IYP) such as SuperPages, YP, DexKnows, Yelp, and Citysearch show different access behaviors currently. Approximately 8% of smartphone users accessed IYP apps in the fourth quarter of 2012, while a larger portion – 12% of users – leveraged IYP mobile sites via their browser.
But, the numbers are more attractive when broken down by demographics. Despite being a small subset of the smartphone audience, IYP app users demonstrated they were highly attractive to advertisers based on their age and income.
Not only were IYP app users more likely to see ads on their smartphone than the typical smartphone user, they were more likely to make purchases via their mobile device and spend more money in a given month in their on-phone purchases.
The results of LSA’s “Mobile Landscape Report” offer some important conclusions for the local business owner contemplating next steps in their marketing plan:
- The rise of smartphones and other connected devices – and the resulting shifts in how consumers are accessing the Internet – demonstrates the continued diversification of the media landscape. Local businesses should be introducing advertising strategies and mobile and tablet-friendly websites to attract consumers increasingly accessing the Web from their handheld devices.
- Yet, as connected devices are more widely adopted, local businesses must also recognize that the “old” PC platform currently commands a much greater share of Web traffic. Adopting a multi-platform advertising approach, which places value on all potential lead sources, is still crucial. Local businesses must keep one foot in the present while stepping forward to what’s next.
- Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS have achieved near-domination of the smartphone and tablet operating system markets. Any mobile campaign, websites, or application must be accessible from both platforms.
- Over 60% of smartphone consumers are now accessing local content on their devices; and, while consumers prefer apps to search for local content, use of browsers is also strong. Local businesses should ensure their mobile efforts include both apps and browsers.
- Growth of non-PC share of traffic for directories/resources is far outpacing growth in share for total Internet.
- The share of smartphone users leveraging IYP apps is small. That said, IYP app users are a very attractive demographic: they’re the right age, more likely to shop on their phone, and more likely to spend more money via their phone.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.