As ‘Near Me’ Searches Spread on Mobile, Consumers Trade Loyalty for Convenience

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Location marketing is changing the way people shop in the real world, potentially decreasing the role loyalty plays in purchasing decisions as consumers prioritize convenience.

According to the results of a new study commissioned by the location marketing platform Uberall, 82% of shoppers have done a “near me” search on their smartphones. The practice is even more common among millennials. Ninety-two percent of consumers in that group said they have tried “near me” searches on their mobile devices.

A “near me” search is a localized mobile search for a brand or product close by. For example, a consumer might search for “Chinese food restaurants near me” or “Bank of America locations near me” on their smartphone or tablet.

In surveying more than 1,000 smartphone users across the U.S., Uberall found that consumers are most likely to conduct “near me” searches when they’re looking for food—for example, “hamburgers near me” or “Panda Express restaurants near me”—followed by entertainment, banking, apparel, and personal care.

“What really jumps out to me is that more people care about proximity than brand loyalty,” says Josha Benner, CRO and co-founder of Uberall.

Although shoppers are still more likely to enter the name of a business than a product category when they conduct “near me” searches, Uberall’s study found that nearly 30% of these searches include generic keywords, indicating that marketers should be building search strategies that lure in-market shoppers who might not be searching for their businesses directly by name.

“For the longest time, brand loyalty was king. If someone found a brand they liked, chances are they would stick with them,” Benner says. “Now, it seems that people are willing to trade this loyalty for convenience. I think this trend will continue to grow as proximity-based searches remain in the spotlight.”

These results are particularly striking given the recent explosion in mobile “near me” searches. According to Google, there’s been 200%+ growth in mobile searches with the terms “open,” “now,” and “near me.”

Uberall found that 60% of shoppers are “very likely” to click on the first couple of results in a proximity-based search, and 33% were “somewhat likely,” which shows just how important it is to appear at the top of a set of search results on mobile. 

Looking forward, Benner says he hopes brand retailers identify the growing importance of “near me” searches and develop their marketing strategies accordingly as this type of search becomes more prominent.

Consumers are continuing to spend more and more time on their smartphones, and as they care about what’s close to them, it’s increasingly important that brands optimize for local, proximity-based searches.

“The survey’s results show that ‘near me’ is here and only going to get even bigger. With more people choosing to keep their GPS and location services on while using their phones, a greater percentage of consumers are taking advantage of proximity-based searches,” Benner says. “Marketers will follow the behavior and seek to deliver against that demand. We will see that play out in a variety of formats like traditional search, store listings, voice assistants, AR, and beyond.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.