Local Search Gaining, Driving Offline Transactions
Just two days after Yahoo released research that showed how the Internet is driving offline retail transactions in increasing numbers, ad agency TMP Directional Media conducted an online survey with comScore that showed a parallel phenomenon in the service sector. The survey, which had 3,000 respondents, sought to capture consumer attitudes and behavior toward traditional local media (print yellow pages) and local search.
The data were collected during Q1 of this year. One of the important “takeaways” is that 82 percent of online local searchers contacted a business offline and 61 percent of those people made purchases. The survey also found accelerating growth of local search usage online.
Here are some of the high-level findings:
- 82% of Local Searchers follow up offline via an in-store visit, phone call, or purchase, emphasizing the importance for marketers to integrate their on and offline information. Of these, 61% made purchases.
- 33% of all consumers still consider print yellow pages as their primary source of local business info, and 90% feel it’s valuable because it gives more information such as accurate phone numbers.
- The LS business grew 20% this year, 40% faster than general searches on Google, Yahoo, MSN and others.
- Internet Yellow Page and local searchers are savvy and fairly affluent.
The print yellow pages showed strength in the study. As indicated, it was the preferred medium for local business information among 33 percent of users, which is striking given that this was an online panel and, one would imagine, biased toward Internet usage.
The flip side of that is that two-thirds of respondents used the Internet, but they were fragmented across general search engines, local search engines and Internet yellow pages sites. This fragmentation, together with the ongoing relevance of print, creates challenges for advertisers, agencies and publishers: what’s the right mix and spending allocation? The market also appears to be segmenting around income and education levels, with Internet users being somewhat more affluent than print yellow pages users according to the data.
Tracking remains a central challenge in local search: capturing what happens after consumers leave the Internet and go into the “real world.” According to the study, a significant number of local search and online yellow pages users simply went into local businesses or stores and conducted transactions without first contacting the business.
What’s now been repeatedly documented, however, is the fact that the overwhelming majority of transactions (goods or services) happen locally, but the Internet plays an increasing role in consumer decision making. What’s also clear from this study is that traditional media aren’t marginalized, although they don’t have the control and influence they once did. It’s a much more complicated and fragmented marketplace for everyone.