Consumer Insights
July 5, 2016

What are shoppers searching for on the mobile phones?

Understanding the device from which different online searches originate can mean the difference between closing a sale and not. That’s because especially for traditional brick and mortar establishments, the smartphone has become an indispensable shopping tool providing consumers—sometimes within feet of a register—with information or offers that could seal or jeopardize a transaction.

I recently wrapped up an in-depth analysis in which I looked at hundreds of thousands of online search variations across numerous industries to identify the themes and topics that were disproportionately more likely to be the focus of searches initiated on a mobile device as opposed to a desktop and vice versa. According to that analysis, which was conducted using the AudienceView platform, 56% of searches resulting in a visit to the Hitwise Retail 500 (a collection of the top 500 retail websites) now come from smartphones or tablets.

Location-based searches in retail, as in every other industry, are among those most highly skewed towards mobile devices. These include searches that incorporate the words “near me,” “hours,” “24 hour” as well as those that start out with “where to buy…” Likewise, comparison searches that have the potential to close a sale, such as those focused on “return policy,” “price match” or “reviews” were initiated on a mobile device at least 77% of the time in my analysis, well above the industry average.

retail mobile search themes

Deal-seeking is solidly mobile

Deal-seeking is also the focus of retail searches that are frequently initiated on a mobile device. This further illustrates the fact that consumers are in-play even after they cross over the threshold of a store. According to our analysis, 77% of retail searches that mention “coupon” are initiated on a smartphone or tablet. So are 73% of searches seeking a “sale” and 68% of “discount” searches. Of course, deal-seeking searches for online purchases, like those looking for a “promo code” are more likely to be initiated on a desktop, as traditional computers are still the preferred device for conducting most types of online transactions.

In addition to searches tied to in-store shopping and deals, searches for items intended as gifts or other items that a consumer may want to keep under wraps, like “jewelry” and especially “engagement rings,” are focused more heavily on a personal mobile device. This device choice minimizes the risk that a significant other or older child will find evidence of such surfing through the browser history of a shared computer thus spoiling the surprise.

With so much shopping activity occurring online, including when consumers are shopping in physical stores, online search may be one of the best ways to influence shoppers. Understanding the device from which different types of searches typically originate and then formulating a strategy for engaging the consumers behind those searches is critical and the risk of not doing so—lost sales, unhappy customers, missed opportunities, etc.—are enormous.

For more detailed findings from this analysis, including those specific to the Travel, Banking and Food & Beverage industries, download the free report Mobile Search: Topics and Themes. Or watch our webinar, Improving your mobile search strategy for more high level insights from the report and tips for actioning this information.