March 13, 2013, 10:42 AM

Mobile consumers search often, and not just when they’re on the go

New research examines how and where smartphone searchers take action.

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55% of the time when a consumer searches on a smartphone and then makes a purchase, that conversion occurs within one hour, according to a new study from Google Inc. and Nielsen. 45% of smartphone searches are conducted to help make a decision, and that number jumps to two-thirds when a decision is happening in a store, says “Mobile Search Moments: Understanding How Mobile Drives Conversions.”

“And when people use mobile search to help make a decision, they’re more likely to convert,” writes Ben Chung from Google’s mobile ads marketing department in a post on Google’s official blog. “So it’s important for marketers to be present during those searches while also creating ads and experiences that are relevant to this immediacy.” It’s also important for marketers to keep in mind that higher bids to ensure a presence during those searches mean higher revenue for Google.

Google and research firm Nielsen asked 416 study participants to log their smartphone-based searches over two weeks in a Nielsen diary smartphone app. Participants logged more than 6,300 mobile searches in total, or roughly 11 per person per day. Google and Nielsen followed up to ask participants what actions resulted from those searches to draw precise, measurable connections between mobile searches and the conversions the searches drive online and offline.

While smartphones have commonly been considered a tool used while on the go, the study finds they are used often, and not infrequently while the consumer is stationary.

“People turn to mobile devices throughout the day to find information because of its speed and convenience, with 77% of mobile searches happening at home or at work,” Chung writes. “What does this mean for marketers? Mobile is always-on for consumers, so marketers should make sure their mobile search strategies are reaching people in these different customer contexts.”

Three out of every four smartphone searches trigger additional actions, the study finds. These range from open-ended actions like additional research (36%) or a web site visit (25%), to more concrete conversions like a store visit (17%), a purchase (17%) or a phone call (7%).

“On average, each mobile search triggers nearly two actions, so in order to understand the full value of mobile, marketers must evaluate the different ways that their customers convert, both online and offline, and measure accordingly,” Chung writes.

The research also shows the types of searches people conduct on mobile are strongly tied to their specific context, like location and time of day, the study says. For example, shopping searches are twice as likely to be done in-store.

“Mobile searches made in stores are a key opportunity for marketers to reach someone who’s looking to take action,” Chung writes. “And since searchers are also 55% more likely to notice ads when they’re in a store, there’s a huge opportunity for marketers to capitalize on these mobile-led moments.”

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