Use of mobile devices continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and local business owners should be taking notice now more than ever. A new “Mobile Path to Purchase” study conducted by Nielsen tracked what consumers are doing with their mobile devices. According to the study, consumers show a strong preference for finding information related to local contact and purchases, such as looking up a business location, accessing map and driving directions and calling a business.

Depending on the category and device used, as many as 73 percent of mobile users report looking for a business phone number and subsequently calling the business. In addition, up to 84 percent of mobile searchers report looking up a business location and accessing driving directions.

Those, quite simply, are huge numbers that are driving a great deal of activity and leads for local businesses. For business owners, of course, the implications are clear:  You need to be visible in mobile search, and your ads or listings should always include a phone number and directions.

The key to success in mobile is to provide information that has local relevance along with local offers. “If an ad or listing doesn’t have local relevance at the time of action, the consumer will move on to the next business, so including local phone numbers rather than toll-free numbers is helpful,” says Bill Dinan, president of Telemetrics, a firm that provides call tracking services.

The Nielsen survey shows how the mobile device has become the “go-to” tool for millions of individuals to find, contact and visit local businesses. Mobile users cited local relevance and local offers and promotions as the top reasons for engaging with mobile advertising.

But consumers use their mobile devices differently depending on the specific product or service they are looking for. In general, when someone searches for business information on a mobile device their so-called “purchase intent” is strong. But the exact timing depends on what they’re looking for.

For example, about 87 percent of people searching for a restaurant on a mobile device plan to go there the same day – often within the hour. In the travel category, however, most mobile searches are research based and don’t always result in immediate buying decisions. In the autos category, searches are a mixture of quick purchases and research type activity. About 49 percent of searchers intend to make a purchase the same day.

Overall, about 85 percent of mobile restaurant searchers, 51 percent of mobile auto searchers and 46 percent of mobile travel searchers ultimately make a purchase. The study focused on restaurants, autos and travel because they rank as three of the top categories projected to show major mobile growth over the next three to five years. But results are similar in other categories as well.

Growing popularity of tablet type devices such as the iPad is also producing some differences in how consumers use these devices compared to smartphones. Here are some highlights from the Nielsen study:

  • Across all vertical categories, tablet owners mostly use their device at home (72 percent) while smartphone users mostly use their device on the go (68 percent)
  • Among smartphone users, local directory apps are most popular for restaurant and automotive users, while brand websites are most popular for travel users.
  • For tablet users, branded websites are the most popular among all categories.
  • Consumers go to apps and mobile websites they are familiar with. Smartphone users in all categories go directly to the app or website 45 percent of the time rather than searching via a browser.

To help consumers find you in mobile, make sure your website is mobile compatible or consider creating a dedicated mobile site, get listed in mobile directories and Google Places, and include mobile advertising in your marketing mix. xAd ( is among the largest mobile-local ad networks in the U.S. and one of the few that offers the ability to target ads by both location and search context.

Keep in mind that mobile users greatly favor ads and listings that include specially-tailored offers and deals. For best results, also include a strong call to action and stress local exclusivity.


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About the Author(s)

Daniel Kehrer

Daniel Kehrer, Founder & Managing Director of BizBest Media Corp., is a nationally-known, award-winning expert on small and local business, start-ups, content marketing, entrepreneurship and social media, with an MBA from UCLA/Anderson. 

Founder & Managing Director, BizBest