There Isn’t One Kind Of Local Search; There Are Eight (Roughly)

Factor in the number of devices, the demography, the locations, and the number of consumer behaviors can get complicated. YP and IDC attempt to sort it out.

Context is king when it comes to connecting advertising and the right search results to consumers, particularly when it’s directed at the local level.

As part of a continuing research conducted by IDC and local marketing platform YP, a survey of 750 consumers were asked to “map out” eight search scenarios. “While any one scenario showed a variety of patterns, there were only marginal distinctions and few differences across demographic distinctions such as gender, age, education, and household income.”

A Zigzag Quality To The Purchase Path

In an attempt to gain some focus of what these various ways consumers find local businesses, Luke Edson, YP’s SVP for its national markets group, has looked at the disjointed landscape and identified a certain “zigzag pattern” that prospective shoppers inevitably take.

“Today’s consumers are zigzagging from device to device, platform to platform, online-to-offline when searching for products and services,” Edson wrote last month.  “The fragmented customer journey makes it harder than ever for brands to be where local consumers are looking and to gauge success.”

IDC.YP Zigzag Graphic 121815In terms of devices, when asked how many screens they look to when it comes to finding a local merchant, retailer, restaurant, or service, the majority (64 percent) say they use one device (primarily mobile). But a sizable amount (36 percent collectively) searched via two or more devices, including their smartphone, tablet, desktop, and laptop.

The zigzag looks something like this: 36 percent of searches start with typical search engine, while the most common second action (32 percent) tends to involve visiting a specific site, with reading customer reviews making up the final local shopping decision.

Location naturally adds another layer of complexity, but it also helps narrow down how businesses get found. Asked if they tend to search for things from home, work or school, shopping, or “on-the-go,” (the latter two situations naturally pointing to “mobile” as the intersecting device being used), more than a third of searchers (35 percent) searched from two or more locations, and the net average was more than one.

Social Rises, Search Declines

Lastly, YP examined how “offline” local searches are done. The traditional method of contacting a business directly by phone (though email and text were also included) remains the most common. That was followed by contacting a friend, looking at flyers/printed material, using a phone book, and using another type of printed directory.

Most searchers (66 percent) did at least one of these activities, while 27 percent did two or more.

It’s worth noting that these numbers also show a perceptible shift going on when it comes to the local discovery process. For example, while search advertising has been the dominant form of marketing on the web for years, eMarketer is reporting this week that 2016 is the year that display will eclipse search ad spending for the first time.

That research — and others — have recently been pointing to local marketers looking more toward social media and “native” ads, primarily driven by Facebook.

To be sure, YP has been enhancing its own display capabilities over the past year with the addition of ypDisplay Mobile and ypDisplay online, following the April rollout of the YP Audience Extension, which was built managing that “zigzag” connection between desktop searches and real-time display ad targeting at the local level.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.