Study: 64 Percent Of Mobile Restaurant Searchers Convert “Immediately Or Within An Hour”

Yesterday at SMX East, during the “How to Play in the Exploding Mobile Ads Universe” session, Telmetrics’ Bill Dinan previewed some of the mobile restaurant search data being released this morning. This is the third tranche from a study conducted earlier this year by Nielsen and commissioned by Telmetrics and xAd.

The research was based on “an online survey of 1,500 US smartphone and tablet users and actual observed consumer behaviors from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics Panel of 6,000 Apple and Android users.” Accordingly it reflects both attitudes and actual user behavior. My write-ups of the data previously released are available here:

Restaurants are consistently the top local and mobile search category according to considerable query log data from multiple sources. The Telmetrics-xAd study reinforces this.

The study found that 95 percent of smartphone users conduct restaurant searches. It also found that 90 percent of these users “convert within the day,” meaning they go out to eat. Perhaps more striking is the fact that 64 percent were found to covert either “immediately” or “within one hour.” This is reminiscent of the 2010 statement by Microsoft-Bing that 70 percent of mobile search users complete a search-related task within an hour vs. one week on the PC.

Tablet and smartphone user behaviors are not the same, however. While that may now be common knowledge, the study documented some specific differences in the restaurants category:

  • While 64 percent of smartphone restaurant searchers convert within an hour, just 44 percent of tablet owners do so
  • In the context of restaurant search most smartphones are used “on the go” (outside the home) while tablets are used primarily in the home.
  • Tablet users are more likely to look for reviews and menus; smartphone owners are more likely to look for directions or call restaurants

As indicated, the top activities among restaurant searchers varied by device. Among smartphone owners the hierarchy of activities was the following:

  1. Call a restaurant
  2. Look up directions
  3. Look up locations near me

Tablet owners were much more in “research mode” and were more likely to do the following:

  1. Look at ratings and reviews
  2. Find online coupons and promotions
  3. Research menu / specific food items

The study also discovered that more tablet and smartphone owners used mobile websites more often but considerably more time was spent with mobile apps. Accordingly, 70 percent of total time spent with restaurant content on mobile devices took place in apps. In other words, the mobile web saw greater reach but users were much more engaged with  mobile apps. This is a microcosm of larger mobile user behavior patterns.

One of the more interesting findings — one that is positive for mobile advertisers — is that “3 out of 5″ mobile restaurant seekers had no particular place in mind upon embarking on their research. In addition, 75 percent of study participants reported noticing mobile ads. So the capacity for marketers to influence mobile user behavior in this category would appear to be great.

The top decision criteria or key reasons among mobile users for choosing a particular restaurant were the following:

  1. Location or proximity — smartphones: 65 percent; tablets: 52 percent
  2. Price — smartphones: 48 percent; tablets: 48 percent
  3. Good reviews — smartphones: 27 percent; tablets: 43 percent

There are two big “takeaways” here. The first is that smartphone and tablet user needs and behavior are often different (and it may vary further by vertical). As a generalization tablet owners are closer to PC owners in their behavior though they’re typically categorized as “mobile” users. The second observation and generalization is that smartphone owners typically have more immediate needs and are thus “lower in the funnel” than users of other screens.

The Telmetrics-xAd research (as well as much of the other recent mobile research) holds implications and makes implied recommendations for both content publishers and mobile advertisers.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats | Stats: General | Stats: Search Behavior | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    A mobile search presence is essential for brick and mortar businesses like restaurants. As the stats show, someone looking up restaurants in your area is looking for a place to eat now–you need to be well positioned to capture that foot traffic.

  • http://twitter.com/gsterling Greg Sterling

    Yep. No question that if you’re in the restaurant biz you’ve got to be focused on mobile customers as well as getting your data into popular restaurant apps such as Yelp and Urbanspoon.

  • http://steveplunkett.com @steveplunkett

    Thanks.. very good info =)

  • Shawn Lippert

    This is why getting those citations increased in social apps and sites are so important to marketers and SEO’s since the integration of social signals, what I find interesting is that 3 out of 5 searchers had no particular place in mind, I have been optimizing my local clients for those popular 1 to 2 Word keywords, as most mobile users are using the auto-complete search feature (faster & less typing) on their mobile devices. Looking into their analytics on their Google places page now Google+ Local, I’m already seeing this strategy working as it shows most are clicking on maps for more on directions or a click to call phone number action.

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