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Improving Retailer Visibility in Mobile Search

Smartphone. Tablet. Desktop. The real value in understanding these different interfaces is not about differentiating the device — it's about differentiating consumer intent, context, and the impact each device has on the consumer’s path to purchase.

Merkle surveyed over 2,000 consumers to better understand their expectations of retailers in the digital age. It may come as no surprise that over 80% of shoppers own a smartphone, and smartphones have quickly become the #1 consumer internet connectivity device. What is interesting is that while nearly 50% of consumers indicate a desire for a totally mobile path to purchase, conversion data shows that mobile purchases don’t occur at the same rate as desktop or tablet purchases. This suggests that consumers still prefer to complete their purchase on a larger device or offline. The Merkle | RKG Q4 Digital Marketing Report indicates that as many as 23% more conversions are allocated to mobile when conversions are compared across devices after a search on a mobile device. In order to take advantage of this behavior, retailers need to have a strategy that ensures visibility of their brand across devices and ensures connectivity of those experiences to close the gap and drive more new customers and more sales for their brand.

So, what does this mean for your brand?

Across all retailer types we see an increase in smartphone usage in the store. The primary usage is for pricing comparisons and discount management, as well as for information relating to product selection (reviews, research, etc).

Increased mobile usage is confirmed by the latest Merkle | RKG Q4 Digital Marketing Report which shows paid search on mobile has increased YOY on smartphones (+75%) and tablets (+38%). It is also important to note that the share of organic traffic coming from mobile devices continues to grow, coming in at 42% in Q4 compared to 40% in Q3.

This growth in mobile-savvy customers represents a huge advantage for retailers who can rethink their mobile strategy from a simply device-focused strategy to a strategy focused around understanding why the consumer is engaging through mobile at that moment. If you can ensure that you can provide solutions to their mobile needs at the right time, you’ll win that customer’s attention and business.

Here are five key tips for improving connectivity with the mobile customer through search in 2015:

1. Make sure your site and content is easily accessible on mobile.

Sites that are not mobile optimized are not only difficult for the user to read (small font, small images), but can potentially impact your search rankings, too. Google knows that the mobile user prefers a mobile experience, so they are adding "mobile friendly" labels to mobile search results pages and testing this as a ranking signal for their results. (Want to see how your site is viewed in Google's eyes? Check your mobile site on Google's Webmaster Tools.)

2. Mobile needs local support.

As many smartphone users may be searching for your brand when they’re out and about, make sure that your site has location information easily accessible in the mobile interface. Setting up Google Business pages for your locations and connecting those locations to your Adwords account will help searches for your brand to surface location information on the small mobile screen.

3. Leverage Google’s cross device data to understand the full value that your media is driving.

Many consumers may start their search on a smartphone but complete the transaction on a desktop or tablet. In Merkle|RKG’s latest DMR, searches started on a smartphone drive as much as 23% more conversions when conversions are compared across devices. This means that by demonstrating more value than mobile-only conversions, the data should make the case for additional profitable ad spend, yielding more mobile customers.

4. Make the mobile experience easy for the customer.

Brands like eBags understand that their customers may shop their site when they are out and about from a mobile device but not be ready to purchase through that device in that moment. Implement a simple “Email my Cart” function in the cart that allows the customer to send the contents of a browsed cart to an email address with no login needed. This is not only an opportunity for a great customer experience, but it also helps these retailers understand where their customer is discovering their products and seeding those transactions.

5. Explore Estimated Total Conversions.

Google has been testing ways to measure offline conversions in stores that are seeded by searches on a mobile or other device. Much like cross device conversions, this offering allows you to get a better idea of the full value that our search is driving for your program. (Google recently expanded on their approach in their Inside Adwords Blog.)

How customers shop our sites will continue to develop in 2015 and we expect that as mobile phone screens continue to expand, we will see consumers more comfortable in shopping exclusively on these devices. Retailers who take the time now to ensure that they’re positioned to connect and support these customers will be in the position to win in the long run.