August 21, 2012, 11:17 AM

Smartphone owners rely heavily on mobile search to find local merchants

But purchasing behavior differs based on products and markets, Nielsen finds.

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Local relevance and timing are key influences in mobile commerce behavior; however, consumers use mobile devices differently depending on their specific product or service needs and the various vertical markets they are searching within, finds the “Mobile Path-to-Purchase Study” conducted by Nielsen on behalf of xAd Inc., a mobile-local advertising network, and Telmetrics, a mobile call measurement service.

73% of mobile searchers look up and call a business phone number and 84% look up business locations, maps and directions, the study finds. 85% of mobile restaurant searchers, 51% of mobile auto searchers and 46% of mobile travel searchers ultimately make a purchase.

95% of U.S. smartphone owners conduct searches; 82% once a week or more, Google Inc. says.

While the Nielsen study shows that overall purchase intent among mobile searchers is strong, how much time passes before consumers take action varies based on what they are searching for. Mobile restaurant searchers showed immediate transaction intent as 87% said they were looking to make a purchase decision within the day, the study says. In travel, where 33% of mobile searchers are looking to complete their transaction within the day, most mobile web or app search activities are for research and don’t always result in immediate buying decisions, Nielsen says. Results for the auto category were a mix of both quick conversions and researcher activity, as 49% of searchers intend to complete the transaction the same day.

Mobile search activities in the study show the mobile device increasingly becoming the key to finding, contacting and visiting local businesses, Nielsen says. Mobile users cited local relevance and local offers and promotions as the top reasons for engaging with mobile advertising—66% of mobile searchers noticed mobile ads and 33% clicked on an ad, the study finds.

“The study illustrates that successful mobile advertising campaigns can no longer take a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” says Monica Ho, vice president of marketing at xAd. “Advertisers must understand consumer motivations and intent related to each specific vertical market they are searching within before deciding how and where to best engage them in mobile.”

The study included an online survey of 1,500 U.S. smartphone and tablet users and observed consumer behaviors from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics Panel of 6,000 Apple and Android users.

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