Report Identifies ‘Avid Local Search Users,’ 50% of All Searches

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Twenty-four percent of consumers who conduct “local” searches are highly tech-savvy early adopters who own multiple mobile devices, use mobile shopping apps, purchase daily deals and post reviews of businesses more than the average population, according to a new white paper. The report also notes that this group accounts for 50% of all local searches.

The white paper, “How Consumers are Using Local Search,” was sponsored by local search firm YP in collaboration with Street Fight and researched by Dr. Phil Hendrix, founder and director of immr.

‘Avid Local Search Users’ emerged as a leading indicator of local search trends in the survey of 1,145 consumers. While local search is already a mainstay in the lives of most consumers (40% search daily; 2 out of 3 search 3 to 4 times per week), search behavior among the most active users indicate it will only gain in frequency as smartphone penetration and content volume expands.

“The behaviors of avid users are similar to the behaviors of early adopters,” said Hendrix in a statement accompanying the paper’s release. “It’s crucial to understand early adopter behaviors, as they tend to provide a glimpse into the future of how the majority of consumers will be conducting local searches with multiple devices — which has implications for businesses and the entire local search industry.”

’Avid Local Search Users,’ of which 51% are between the ages of 21 and 35, are disproportionately likely to be fully employed college graduates. These local searchers accounted for 24% of the sample but more than half of all the study’s local search volume.

As more consumers invest in smartphones and tablets, Hendrix says, they are likely to adopt more intensive search habits. Avid searchers are twice as likely as the average consumer to own both a smartphone and tablet; these consumers conduct local searches 40% more often than their non-tablet and smartphone-owning counterparts. 85% of avid-searching tablet owners use the device for local search every day, and 86% of avid-searching smartphone owners use their mobile for local search daily.

This group is also frequently engaged in social media — more than half report use of location-based services and review sites. Furthermore, they’re much more likely to use a mobile shopping app, 91% to 53%, and to purchase a daily deal voucher, 38% to 10%, than the average consumer.

With smartphone penetration at 50% and growing, the sky’s the limit for the mobile-heavy local search industry. Hendrix finds that computer and feature phone owners conduct approximately five local searches a week, computer and smartphone owners about 13.5, and computer, smartphone and tablet users about 21, or three per day. The majority of search remains on desktops, but 83% of smartphone owners report using their handheld for local search, and 42% do so three or four times a week.

Local searchers are primarily looking for basic, NAP (name, address, phone number) business information, but as the content pool widens, the report indicates a more connected, tech savvy consumer base increasingly reliant on reviews, maps, directions, descriptions and deals.

For marketers, Hendrix’s message is simple: don’t underestimate the influence of local search. This may mean managing a website to include properly updated hours and menus, but also responding to complaints on review sites, delivering geo-targeted mobile ads or running deals.

“For local search providers, agencies and consultants, local search represents an enormous market,” Hendrix concludes in the paper. “Not only is the market large and growing, but also changing in ways that are important for businesses and the search industry.”

“Understanding this new segment of avid users can provide insights on the local advertising ecosystem and could help merchants develop multi-screen search strategies for targeting a highly engaged audience,” adds Rohan Chandran, YP’s executive director of consumer products, in the release.

But Hendrix emphasizes that local business should not restrict marketing efforts strictly to consumers within a hyperlocal proximity. Although most generally stay close to home for general goods and services like groceries and hair stylings, a majority of consumers are willing to travel beyond a 20-minute radius for four essential markets: retail, healthcare, movies and live performances.

The paper also finds most consumers search via traditional search engines, but a significant number rely on local (i.e., YP and Yahoo! Local) and portal (i.e., AOL and MSN) search engines as well as review sites, meaning more platforms local merchants must be conscious of to maintain a positive digital footprint.

View the webinar discussing the results or scroll down for a copy of the white paper:

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Patrick Duprey is an editorial assistant with Street Fight.