Search May Be A Teenager, But It's Still Learning How To Walk

Google AdWords turns 17 this month, with its official birthday on October 23. It has been a long haul for Google, whose executives have been working diligently to bring search advertising to the masses. The ads began serving on desktop devices and made their way to mobile, but the biggest challenge now is the inability of those ads to be seen.

A large swath of U.S. consumers living in the heartland and rural areas are unable to see search advertisements or search for nearby businesses on mobile devices when they are not within the range of WiFi. (Most businesses lack a website and rely solely on Facebook pages to connect with consumers.)

A recent Fluent study titled Marketing to the Heartland, 2017, conducted with 1,670 consumers ages 18 and older in the U.S., found that 57% said they made an online purchase in the past six months and 43% made that purchase on their smartphone, 

Still, as Google puts more focus on the small portable devices that fit in our pocket or purse, those living in the heartland and rural U.S. areas will see even less. It's no wonder that consumers who live in these areas have been slow to adopt mobile commerce.



I'm learning how to work around dead zones and slow internet access that keeps me from reading emails on my phone, especially when outside a WiFi zone. From California, traveling to and from our home in rural Wyoming helps me to better understand how much of the U.S. goes without internet access that runs 24 hours a day, seven days per week on the West and East Coasts.

The study from Fluent suggests that online shopping has become ubiquitous, but physical stores are still the preferred way of shopping for nearly half of U.S. consumers for those living in the Heartland and Coastal areas. For those living in rural areas, however, the internet is the only means to shop at traditional stores without driving at least an hour.

The other option is finding someone or a local store to make a handmade item such as a table or chair. Those living in rural areas are not concerned with brand names, but they want value for the money spent.

Jordan Cohen, CMO of Fluent, said the study shows that consumers living in rural areas pay more attention to price compared with brand, which is the reverse of Americans living in urban areas.

Since urban and suburban consumers are more likely to prioritize brand quality when making a purchase, it should not be surprising that they are also more likely to believe advertising has an impact on their purchasing behavior when they see the ads online.

Only 36% of those living in rural areas will purchase the product after seeing a mobile notification, compared with 47% in suburban areas and 48% in urban areas. 

As time goes on, I am debunking many of the assumptions I had about the ability to view a simple search ad or search for a nearby store to get a phone number since I am spending more time in the heartland. Marketers have a ton of opportunity to reach more consumers across the U.S. -- but they will need to start thinking about how to reach them a bit differently.

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