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Rethinking search in the mobile age

April 1, 2015 by Experian Marketing Services

The following post is an excerpt from the article Rethinking search in the age of the ultra-connected shopper, which can be read in the Internet Retailer 2015 Search Marketing 500.

When consumers shop and research products online, they use search as their primary tool for discovery. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: Search has consistently been one of the top drivers of web site traffic over the past decade. Times are changing, however, largely because of increasingly mobile and ultra-connected shoppers. According to research conducted by Expe­rian Marketing Services on behalf of Internet Retailer, about 40 percent of all visits to the Internet Retailer Top 1000 web sites are currently driven by search, which is declining. Our analysis found that as visits to retailer web sites from mobile devices increased, the share of search-driven visits to those sites dropped 4 percent in a single year.

Does this mean search is becoming a less important channel? No, but today’s increasingly mobile audience requires a different search experience. With less real estate on mobile screens, marketers have fewer oppor­tunities to capture eyeballs in “above the fold” links. The decline in search traffic suggests retail marketers have not yet cracked the nut on how to optimize their search strategies for mobile.

In retail more than in other verticals, marketers need to reexamine their search approach because the implications of mobile are more pronounced in busi­ness-to-consumer e-commerce. Across all web sites, nearly 30 percent of online visits come from smartphones and tablets. When we consider visits to the Internet Retailer Top 1000 web sites, the percentage jumps to 36 percent.

Rethinking search: mobile makes a move

According to our research, more than 50 percent of market­ers don’t know where to focus when it comes to their mobile strategy.

Retailer tips:

  1. Move beyond the mobile app. Mobile apps are a great way to engage your already loyal customers, but most retail apps have high development costs and relatively few downloads. Furthermore, they are often the first to get deleted when the user needs to free up space on their phone.
  1. Invest in responsive design. Consumers generally get to know a brand through its web site after an online search. With more shopping-related search occurring on mobile devices, retailers need to make sure they make a good first impression to the mobile shopper. A mobile-friendly site will also result in better search rank in Google, which has started identifying in search results those pages that are best optimized for mobile devices.
  1. Invest in paid search. To keep search traffic from eroding further, marketers should increasingly leveraging paid search, to better guarantee a top-of-the-page listing particularly on real estate-challenged mobile screens. Many retailers have already figured this out: Experian found that among the top retail sites, 65 percent saw their share of paid search clicks grow by at least 5 percent from 2013 to 2013.
  1. Target search based on audience behavior. The most successful search campaigns are highly targetable using a combination of first- and third-party data sources, such as demographics, platform type, behavior, time of day, social interest, geo-location and hyper-location. With this single customer view in hand, marketers can invest in the tools, channels and keywords that drive consumer behavior and create personalized digital experiences that are relevant to shoppers.

As mobile traffic inevitably continues to grow, retail marketers need to adopt more targeted and custom­er-centric search strategies, both paid and organic. Further, search marketing and optimization can no longer remain “siloed” strategies. The most effective search strategies will be fully integrated digital customer experiences and contact strategies that uniquely appeal to their customers’ shopping preferences and the discovery preferences of their prospects.

Learn more about how Experian Marketing Services can help you develop high performance digital strategies with insight into what consumers do online across both desktop and mobile devices.