Avid Local Searchers A Powerful Subset

by , Nov 21, 2012, 6:15 AM
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According to results from a recent National Survey by YP, described in a detailed whitepaper by Dr. Phil Hendrix, Director immr, local search is not only pervasive and growing, but also changing in ways that are important for consumers, businesses and the search industry. With smartphones and tablets in hand, consumers are using mobile devices to search at work and school, on the go, and even while watching TV.

Within the broader category of search, searching via the web for local businesses is:

  • A near-daily ritual For consumers: 4 in 10 individuals use local search once a day, while two-thirds use local search at least 3-4 times per week
  • A vital supply line for local businesses and brands for attracting new customers and responding to existing customers. When searching for “retail stores,” 4 in 10 are looking for “hours of business.”
  • An enormous market for local search providers, consultants and agencies, valued by local media analyst firm BIA/Kelsey at $5.7B in 2011 and projected to nearly double in size to $10.2B by 2016.

Individuals use local search for many different reasons, including simple (“where is the nearest ATM?”) and complex (“are any nearby restaurants offering a special today?”). The survey measured a number of characteristics useful in “sizing” local search. Based on device(s) owned, three key segments can be distinguished:

  • Consumers with PCs
  • Consumers with PCs and Smartphones
  • Consumers with PCs, Smartphones and Tablets

The frequency of local search varies markedly across these three segments.

On average, the first segment, with “PC’s only,” averages about five local searches a week. With the addition of Smartphones, the volume of local search nearly triples, to 13.5 local searches per week. Consumers with all three devices do more than 21 local searches per week, or an average of three a day.

Average Number of Local Searches Per Week by Device

Device(s) Owned

Avg. Searches Per Week

Total Searches Per Week

PC only



PC & Smartphone









PC, Smartphone, Tablet












Source: immr/YP, October 2012

In the survey, respondents provided details on their local search activity across 11 product and service categories shown. The measure in the report is referred to as the incidence of local search within a category. For example, of the 41% who purchased “Transportation” in the last year, 80% of those had done a local search for transportation.

The incidence figures in the chart reveal the importance of local search:

  • Across all 11 categories, local search incidence is high, ranging from 6 to nearly 9 out of 10
  • In the four most frequently searched categories, 8-9 out of 10 purchasers have done a local search. Even in categories where the incidence of local search is lower (Groceries, Healthcare and Financial Services) a majority of consumers still do local search
  • Local search is prevalent in frequently purchased categories, such as Entertainment, Restaurants and Dining, and Retail, as well as in less frequently purchased categories, such as Transportation, Contractors and Professional Services

Incidence of Local Search by Product Category (Among Purchasers in Category; % Searching in Previous 12 Months)


% Purchasers Searching

% Purchased




Restaurants & dining









Retail store






Professional services



Personal & fitness



Financial services









Source: immr/YP, October 2012

The term “local” is often used without a precise definition. In each of the eight categories the results show that a majority of consumers shop with businesses within 15 minutes of their home or work, and nearly all within 20 minutes. Naturally, in product and service categories purchased more frequently

Groceries, Hair Salons, Restaurants, etc., consumers tend to shop at businesses closer to their home or office. Conversely, boundaries are wider for product and service categories purchased less often.

Results confirm that a large percentage of consumers use local search on a regular basis. Within the population there is a subset of that uses local search even more extensively, relying on local search daily (on average), and across a range of product and service categories (at least six out of the eleven examined).

This segment, “Avid Local Search Users,” is important for a number of reasons, says the report. Although just 24% of the sample, Avid Users account for over half of all local search volume. As “heavy users” this group is clearly vital to the success of local search providers, advertisers and merchants.

Equally important, this segment provides a glimpse into the future of local search, concludes the author. While Avid Users are more likely to own both smartphones and tablets (1.2 – 2x), they are much more likely (4-6x) to use those devices for local search. As more consumers adopt and use smartphones and tablets, the average user is likely to gravitate toward the usage patterns of Avid Users.

Local Search User Segments (% of Segment Respondents)


User Segment


Average Local Search User

Avid Local Search User

Percent of sample



Local search ≥ daily



Categories searched

5 of 11

8 of 11




Age 21-35



Employed full time



College grads



HH income $75K



Search on PC ≥ daily



Own Smartphone



Search on Smartphone ≥ daily



Own tablet



Search on tablet ≥ daily



Source: immr/YP, October 2012

Local search is one of a number of interconnected behaviors that span mobile, social and local, says the report. On all of the dimensions above, Avid Users score significantly higher than average users, by as much as two to four times. In the profile of Avid Local Searchers, all of the data reflect behaviors in “the last 30 days.” Shown in parentheses (e.g., 2x) are indexes comparing Avid Users to Average Users.

Avid Local Search users have embraced M-commerce:

  • Of those who own a smartphone, 9 out of 10 have used a mobile shopping app in the last 30 days. Avid Users are much more likely than Average users to use mobile shopping apps (91% vs. 53%, or 1.7x).
  • Nearly the same number (85%) have used their smartphone to shop at a retail store (via the retailer’s website or mobile app) (2.1x)
  • With the mobile Internet and price comparison sites available at their fingertips, Avid searchers are not hesitant to “showroom” (view a product in a store, only to purchase the product online), since 4 out of 10 have done so. By comparison, this practice is uncommon among Average Users – only 10% have engaged in showrooming. (4.2x)

Avid Local Search Users are also active participants in social media and commerce:

  • 3 out of 4 have posted a review of a business or product on a review site (2.6x)
  • 7 out of 10 have liked or followed a brand or company on Facebook (1.9x)
  • Over half have checked in at a location using Foursquare or similar service (2.7x)

Avid Local Searchers engage with brands frequently and in a variety of ways:

  • 8 out of 10 clicked on a mobile ad for a product, service or business (2x)
  • 3 out of 4 downloaded a mobile app published by a brand (2.6x)
  • 4 out of 10 purchased a new product or brand for the first time (3.4x)

Avid Local Searchers are also using digital promotions and technology at point-of-sale:

  • 3 out of 4 have scanned a QR or barcode
  • 4 out of 10 have purchased a “daily deal”
  • 3 out of 4 have used a coupon stored on their mobile phone

Not surprisingly, Avid Local Searchers also actively shop and interact with local businesses:

  • 3 out of 4 read their local newspaper (online) (1.5x)
  • 2 out of 3 have shopped at a local merchant (e.g., not a chain store) (1.6x)
  • 1 in 3 have purchased a service from a business for the first time (5x)           

The report concludes by opining that for local search providers, agencies and consultants, local search represents an enormous market. Not only is the market large and growing, but also changing in ways that are important for businesses and the search industry. Innovation in local search is likely to continue unabated.

For additional information about the study, including a series of charts and graphs, please access the PDF file here.

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