SS ExplainerThey are everywhere!

Mobile and smart phones dominate our lives, and we need to know how to dominate them. Learning how to improve mobile search performance is at the top of the list of skills to acquire. We are constant purchasers and we want the experience to be pleasant and fast. As for sellers, they need to know how to catch one’s attention and move it to a sale.

Buying online has been called a “consumer decision journey,” otherwise known as the path to purchase. It starts with openness to a product or service encountered through browsing search engine results or via social networks. From here the prospect decides what to buy, does comparison shopping of brands, assesses the deals, and goes for it or not. What is striking in all of this is the degree to which people use their mobile phones.

Sure, it is still easier to use a PC or tablet, but things have sure changed as far as convenience goes. You can shop ‘til you drop while on the road or even in a dental chair. Web entrepreneurs like to see the statistics which show that 10-22% of sales start on mobile devices. They often switch after that, but the search begins here.

Heavy shoppers switch back and forth multiple times while in the search funnel, but no matter. It is the origin that counts to the marketer. Then sequential queries take place in a seamless flow. Online businesses need to target campaigns to where the users are at the start and the finish of the cycle. It is all about a “cross device search” and not separate marketing channels.

What may come as a surprise is how much people still go to a brick and mortar store to finalize the deal initiated online. Nielsen studies (in a digital consumer report) show that 76% of mobile shoppers use store locators while comScore says that one out of four purchases takes place in a real store. Mobile searching is predominant, however, wherever the commitment takes place. The impact on marketing and advertising is not lost on savvy entrepreneurs.

Conversions Happen Fast

What is apparent is that a decision is made in a mobile search in no more than a couple of hours. The capacity to find readily available information helps the user reach the point of purchase fast. There seems to be a sense of urgency when a need must be met with a product or service. It is not uncommon for people to make their queries while on the road.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft research indicates that almost one third of smart phone users and one quarter of tablet users make a purchase within one hour. Grabbing attention with the right advertising is mandatory. You can’t understand return on investment without examining cross-channel searches. A big part of the consumer process is the click-to-call function which may be the best way to getting access to a real store. In effect, the smart phone facilitates the actual visit and final purchase. Marketers take heed! Mobile users spend 25% more in a store upon arrival on average and a whopping 93% make a purchase (Google/Nielsen).

Take the Lead

Getting there first is a critical factor, even more than ad position. It is a mighty competitive atmosphere indeed. Small screens limit the number of visible results from search engines, with only a few ads shown at a time. It is all about click rate, so improving ranking reigns supreme. It takes a keen eye for keyword relevance and a lot of testing of different headlines and copy. It also takes great special offers and bonuses that draw visitors looking for deals. You can also use bid modifiers to boost bids where ads are relevant. Finally test your mobile landing page and check that it looks appealing and works properly in terms of buttons and links.

Smart phones outpace the PC for local searches, especially to brick and mortar stores. This is particularly true for the age 55 and over category. Marketing campaigns have simply got to be mobile-friendly. Remember that searches are often within five miles of a purchase destination on a mobile phone. This means a tight target for advertisers. It pays to do the groundwork to move consumers to action.

Statistics Tell the Story

Small radius marketing is often not done by businesses who hope to reach a larger audience. But it should not be overlooked as a strategy. You can evaluate KPIs for geo-targeted campaigns, test copy for different radius targets, learn to promote in a given location or neighborhood, offer delivery service for areas farther out, and test free shipping offers for distant regions.

Microsoft data helps focus campaigns by revealing how much verticals matter in mobile search conversions. Twenty eight percent of mobile technical, travel, financial services, and entertainment conversions start from a PC with only nine percent of PC conversions starting with mobile. Experts studying the analytics notice that a PC is used primarily for browsing. For restaurants and food it is twenty-two percent of PC conversions starting from mobile and nineteen percent of mobile conversions starting from PC. Active switching between devices is common.

More statistics are in store. Bing reports that mobile-optimized ads get a 97% higher click-through rate on mobile phones compared to non-mobile optimized ads. It is a wakeup call and a slap in the face to marketers who are asleep at the helm. Too bad so few Bing ads are mobile optimized.

Ignoring mobile optimization is like leaving found money on the ground. To get on board, you need to identify and classify mobile and device-friendly web pages and sites. Furthermore you need to analyze documents as seen on a mobile phone screen for appearance and clarity. Is the content compatible and readable with all functionality in operation?  If you optimize your mobile campaign, you will be leading the pack by far.