Survey: Under 40 Percent Start A “Local Search” With A Search Engine


What we widely call “local search” is only partly about search engines. Finding local content and making offline purchase decisions is a multifaceted process that involves several categories of information and devices. That’s according a new survey and report from IDC and YP.

The report is called “Local Search Unleashing Opportunities for National Advertisers” and based on a survey of 750 US adults (between 18 to 44). Roughly 80 percent said they own smartphones, matching overall US smartphone penetration of just under 80 percent according to comScore.

Where Users Start Local Searches

Local search starting points IDC
Source: IDC (2016)

The survey looked at how people go about finding local information on the desktop and mobile devices. It focused on discovery of information tied predominantly to national brands but in an offline/local context across a range of categories:

  • Financial services and insurance
  • Automotive
  • Retailers
  • Travel
  • Casual dining
  • Business services

The research found that “general search engines” were largest single starting point for local search users. However, as the graphic above illustrates, that was only 36 percent of the survey population. Roughly half of searchers (48 percent) said that when they were seeking information on a “familiar topic,” they would start at a vertical or content-specific site (e.g., TripAdvisor for hotels).

Local Research Path: Casual Dining Search

IDC local search report

Source: IDC (2016)

Beyond the various local search starting points there are generally several steps in completing a typical local search, often with variations depending on the product/service category. The dominant local search path to purchase starts at a search engine (for 36 percent), proceeds to content specific sites or verticals and then concludes with user reviews and expert reviews.

Users starting with a vertical or topic-specific site often went to a search engine as a second step, followed by more content and review sites. The graphic immediately above reflects the general path of a “casual dining search.”

Some consumers use more sites and sources, some use fewer. The study identified a category of super users it called “seekers.” These people tend to be better educated, somewhat younger and more smartphone-centric. They conducted more searches on more devices (including in-store searches on mobile) than other categories of users. Seekers are also more social and actively solicit social/friend input on purchase decisions.

Device Usage Among Local Searchers

IDC local search report

Source: IDC (2016)

As one might expect, discovery and search on smartphones dominated when people were not at home. Less expected was the very compressed time frame of most of these local searches. Roughly 85 percent, on average, were completed in less than a day (start to finish). The bulk of those (63 percent) were concluded in than an hour. Only 15 percent took more than a day.

In broad terms the research is consistent with prior studies in a number of ways. But what’s different or new is the convoluted purchase path — what the report calls the “local search zigzag” — and the wide range of sources used accordingly.

If interested in reading further, you can download the full report here (registration required).

The post Survey: Under 40 Percent Start A “Local Search” With A Search Engine appeared first on Search Engine Land.