How Mobile Search Has Reshaped the Purchase Journey

Mobile Search Has Changed the Purchase Journey

Giana was in her local drugstore, trying to understand why two brands of the same type of treatment differed in price by $15. (The more expensive option coming in a smaller tube, no less.) “I thought there had to be a difference,” she recalls. So she pulled out her smartphone and searched for product reviews, right there in the store aisle. She ended up going with the higher-rated, yet a higher-priced product. Looking back, Giana realizes that had she not had her smartphone, she probably would have bought the cheaper one.

Erica was at the airport, killing time before a flight when she searched for a mortgage calculator. She wanted to figure out whether she and her husband could really afford a new home. That first smartphone search led to much more in stolen moments throughout her day as she researched the purchase step by step. “Being able to do it at the moment makes it more fun and less daunting,” says Erica. “I can space it out throughout my day.”

For today’s constantly connected consumers, shopping never sleeps. Whether we need to make an everyday purchase or research a big-ticket item, we reflexively turn to our devices. This happens in hundreds of micro-moments throughout the day when we’re making purchase decisions. (What’s the best choice? Can I afford to buy this? Is it worth it?) These I-want-to-buy moments are important moments for consumers, and they’re critical for brands. They’re opportunities to connect, especially on mobile: 93% of people who use a mobile device for research go on to make a purchase.1

Mobile: The new shopping assistant

We don’t go to a store without our wallets; many of us say the same thing about our smartphones. In stores, 82% of smartphone users turn to their devices to help them make a product decision. What they find online can influence their decisions right down to the very last minute before a purchase. After reading something on a smartphone, nearly one in four shoppers has changed his or her mind about buying something while in the checkout line.

From product review to purchase

When searching in the moment, we often rely on reviews. In one study, more than half of millennials surveyed said they check product reviews on their phones while shopping in a store—and YouTube has become a top source for reviews.

There are more than 1 million YouTube channels with product reviews where creators, brands, and experts share their opinions about a range of products, from consumer electronics to cars. These reviews take many forms. For example, “first impression” videos feature creators, such as Lauren Curtis, opening a product and giving their immediate take. In “haul” videos, shoppers show off their new purchases (usually clothes and beauty products) on camera.

These I-want-to-buy moments are important moments for consumers, and they’re critical for brands.

I-want-to-buy moments aren’t just important for low-consideration purchases. As we saw with Erica, they also happen when we’re making big decisions such as investing in a new home, booking a vacation, or buying a car. In the auto category, for example, searches on mobile are growing 51% YoY. “Today’s path to purchase is more dynamic than ever before,” says Dionne Colvin-Lovely, director of emerging and traditional media at Toyota. “Car shoppers leverage mobile at the beginning and middle of their purchase process and continue to research and shop online while at the dealership.”

This constant access to information means that immediacy and relevance are now table stakes for brands. “Mobile’s rapid evolution is changing the expectations of today’s car buyer,” says Colvin-Lovely. “We want to make it easy for our customers to discover the information they are seeking about Toyota as they search, read, and watch auto-related content. To do so, we leveraged a variety of mobile tactics—from high-impact sponsorships and takeovers to dynamic, hyper-targeted, location triggered placements—to ensure Toyota remains top of mind during these key moments,” she says.

How to win I-want-to-buy moments

Whether they’re in a parking lot, in a grocery store, or waiting patiently at the airport, shoppers are using smartphones to help them decide what to buy. Here are five ways brands can win these micro-moments:

1. Identify your consumers’ I-want-to-buy moments. Talk to them—in stores, through surveys, in focus groups and forums—to figure out when and how they’re researching and making purchase decisions.

2. Be there in these moments of need. Create a comprehensive strategy that works holistically across channels such as search, video, social, and display. Keep in mind that consumers may be at home, in store, or somewhere in between.

3. Deliver relevant messaging. Simply being there in these moments isn’t enough. Look at how people are searching—the questions they ask, the terms they use—and create ads and content that provide helpful answers.

4. Make it easy for them to make a purchase. The step from research to purchase should be a simple and seamless one. Give the consumer multiple ways to buy—whether that means driving them to your e-commerce site from a YouTube video or from a local inventory ad to a nearby store.

5. Measure every moment that matters. It’s no longer enough to simply measure the online conversion. With mobile, the path to purchase is now fragmented. As a result, advertisers need to measure results online, across devices, in apps, and even in stores.

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