Commentary

Near Me Searches On Rise

Major towns in Southern California -- even Los Angeles -- have begun renovating downtown and business districts to build up housing intermingled with local shops. Consumer behavior has prompted the change. We're seeing much more of this in Huntington Beach, near colleges and outdoor shopping centers, where condominiums and apartments reside side-by-side with local shops, creating a neighborhood feel in the middle of larger communities. The Internet enables consumers to find these local shops, especially for new residents or visitors who are not familiar with the surroundings.

Local search is fascinating. Google -- one engine that is working to build out local search services -- analyzed its data and conducted online surveys to explore behavior that feeds off this trend, which the engine calls want-to-know, want-to-buy, and want-to-do moments. Want-to-go moments are on the rise, with the searches specific to location when trying to find something nearby, per Matt Lawson, director of search ads marketing at Google.

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Lawson tells us that words like "near me," "closest," and "nearby" are increasingly common across the billions of queries on Google every month. More often, people are looking for things locally, such as a gym, mall, plumber, or coffee shop. The search term "near me" rose 34% since 2011, and nearly doubled since last year. The majority came from mobile -- about 80% in Q4 2014.

Some 50% of consumers conducting a local search on their smartphone visit the store within one day, and 18% of those searches lead to a purchase within a day. Interestingly, if they're not sure where to eat, nearly half of people searching for a restaurant won't search for one until they are within an hour or less of going. That number jumps to nearly 60% for millennials.

Lawson explains that once they arrive at the destination, people continue to search on food ideas to help them make good choices. Another Google survey showed that 40% of millennials looked up information about their food while in a restaurant in the last month. 

Immediacy creates "micro moments," but it doesn't mean brands can't plan for them. The data suggests that "near me" searches are more common when people travel, but that's also true for new communities such as the one I described in Huntington Beach.

Google's data suggests that "near me" searches are more common when people travel, spiking at 55% during both Christmas and New Years. The data also shows they are more common on weekends, when people step outside their usual workday routines. Location-­based searches show that people on Saturday are likely to look for movie theaters and nail salons. Saturday night is all about finding drinks and late­-night pizza snacks.

Aside from data insights, the post makes suggestions on how marketers can capitalize on local searches and the "new me" behavior that consumers seem to adore. 

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