Think With Google, the educational arm of the search giant, recently released its take on Google’s Year in Search for 2016. The annual retrospective of all the biggest search trends from the previous year showed that consumers were feeling unsettled by political upheavals and epidemics. Simultaneously, consumers also embraced “near me” and similar searches like never before. These two combined, Think With Google claims, to produce a new consumer focus: the “micro moment.”
A micro moment is the point at which a consumer searches for nearby information, for things to do, buy, or learn in real-time. For example, a consumer may be in a new neighborhood and look for the nearest coffee shop, or a couple decides that they want to watch a movie spontaneously – so where’s the nearest cinema? Essentially, it’s a description of a new consumer mindset: one that has switched from regularity to spontaneity in shopping and learning habits, due to ubiquity of smartphones. Consumers are no longer dependent on particular stores, locations or outlets, and they do not need to plan as much as they used to – they can simply find a new grocery store or shopping mall that’s near to them, or find out what they need to know online, instantly. The only thing they are dependent on is the smartphone.
Is a rise in micro moments really attributable to a general consumer need for certainty? Yes and no. “Near me” searches were on the rise anyway (82% of smartphone users search for businesses near-them, and the number of searches had doubled between 2015-16 and 2016-17), and an increased need for certainty may have helped bolster those searches – but of course, there’s no immediate way of proving that. There’s simply a correlation between consumer anxiety and “near me” searches. So it’s important for marketers to figure out how to use these micro moments.
Brands need to intervene in consumer micro moments. This means anticipating the needs of consumers at the point of search. Furthermore, this intervention needs to be natural enough to fit seamlessly into the search experience. This entails knowing about the ways consumers search for goods and information, and what is relevant for them in their research process. Properly understanding these will enable businesses to be findable in search results when consumers look for something near them, and to respond quickly to brand mentions across all online platforms. It will also enable enable businesses to become more relevant in a local sense, providing consumers with certainty and stability in a nearby, accessible, stress-free way.
There are four different kinds of micro moment businesses need to know about
“I want to go” moments
Not only has there been an exponential increase in the number of “near me” searches in the past year, 82% of smartphone users use a search engine when looking for a business. This means they are looking for things in their vicinity, and expect businesses to appear on Google Maps around them, or at least Google search to return with relevant details on their nearest store.
This requires a number of things to be in place. Data for all your store locations needs to be structured, so that it is consistent across all directories. This will help push businesses up in search results. With the addition of rich data and information about individual store locations, it is highly probable that individual store locations will increase in their search rank, when consumers look for businesses near them. Since consumers are twice as likely to click on a link above the fold, it makes sense to make your business as micro moment friendly as possible.
Not only do 65% more consumers look up information online than they did just a few years ago, two-thirds of all smartphone users search for information specifically for brand-reinforcement knowledge. That is, they search for things they want to know about a company, a brand, a business or an area that they may have previously heard about through online or television advertising. This micro moment comes as a result of a rich mix of media and repeat advertising, and requires businesses to only slightly adjust their marketing plans.
As consumers commonly search for information about brands on their smartphones spontaneously, it indicates that they may have recently seen a store. This means in addition to their current marketing, brands should look to create different kinds of thought-pieces about their business and service, to give consumers relevant information about the business. This should help cement the initial advertising target into a more lasting success. For example, create and publish media which highlights how and why your business is relevant to a particular area.
“I want to do” moments
The internet has made consumers, paradoxically, more active than ever. They are keen to get out and acquire practical skills they can use for themselves — whether it’s putting up a shelf, or learning how to easily pop the stone out of an avocado. Over 100 million hours of “how-t”’ content was watched on YouTube, and an astounding 91% of smartphone users look to their devices to acquire skills — suggesting they want to know how to make or do something on the move.
You may already be thinking: “My good or service isn’t exactly the kind consumers want to know about.” But, actually, consumers want to learn how to do everything in the simplest way possible. While it could be learning a new recipe on the bus home, or watching a video about how to replace a bike tire, so they won’t have to make the bus journey the following morning, it could also be: How to get the most out of your pension, or how to sleep better. This is a great opportunity for brands to showcase their products, as well as demonstrate a little creative flair.
“I want to buy” moments
Ah the favorite one. This is the easiest one to describe. 82% of consumers use their smartphones to search for goods they want to buy, and there’s 29% increase in mobile conversion rates from 2015. This means it’s already worth your while to be findable in search results (which means having as much relevant and consistent information available for locations). Consumers want to research online and buy offline — and they want to buy from stores near them. While this micro moment is simply an extension of existing SEO practices, with a proven conversion rate it’s more important than ever.
To maximize the impact of your locations, it’s important to be able to offer consumers your products in a way that makes use of location. This means also carefully configuring your data so that search results can reflect the different kinds of search. For example, if you brand sells shoes in neighborhoods A and B, you not only want your site optimized so that results will find “your brand in neighborhood A,” but also “shoes in neighborhood b,” as well as “shoes near me.”
Florian Huebner is co-founder and MD of uberall. He was previously a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, and studied at the universities of Karlsruhe, Southern California and Sydney. He tweets at @flohuebner.