(Originally published in MediaPost Magazine)
Yahoo and Reprise Media plan to release findings from a six-month study Wednesday on how mobile devices influence search behavior across handsets, tablets and desktop devices. It turns out that devices, desire and demographics change search behavior. MediaPost got an early peek.
It should not come as a surprise that walking and typing on qwerty keyboards creates a different need than tapping the glass on a touchscreen. One thing is certain — the experience churns out very different results that will influence paid search, search engine optimization and display campaigns.
Men, for example, are between 7% and 9% more likely to search on mobile devices, compared with women. Taylor Schreiner, senior director of strategic research and insights at Yahoo, says it’s important for marketers to understand the nuances of the change and that their brand campaigns will connect with searchers on a mobile device, even before the desktop. Consumer reaction to the message could turn out considerably different.
The findings from the study show the desktop drives the highest percentage of searches on branded terms, followed by iPad and mobile phones. On mobile devices, fewer brand-based searches, along with nearly 50% less keyword terms, compared with desktop searches make up a search query.
On mobile phones, in general, the focus turns to proximity and terms such as “shoes” rather than “Cole Haan,” unless the consumer wants to find a store like the “Gap.” Most people will use one word to search on mobile phones, whereas iPad and desktop users prefer two words.
While mobile searches remain relatively consistent among all age groups, the percentage of branded searches on a desktop rises for those ages 25 and older. Typically, as people age, they are far more likely to search on branded terms on a desktop, but that’s not true on mobile and tablet devices. As users search more on mobile devices, companies also could see a shift to branded terms.
Today, the share of subcategory searches on mobile devices includes general merchandise, retailers, apparel, restaurants, home, books, luxury items and toys. Searches on the desktop shake out a bit different as general merchandise still tops the list, followed by retailers, home, apparel, books, restaurants, toys and luxury items.
In a blog schedule to post later Wednesday, Schreiner points to iPads, which get more searches per user on TV and movie topics than any mobile device — nearly as many as the desktop. It makes sense because the iPad offers a better video experience. But just months after its launch, the iPad got more searches per user on investing and real estate, compared with PC searches. He suggests that early adopters are likely more affluent and want information on such topics.
The mobile Web might show promise, but analyst firm eMarketer points out that speed, size and design cause frustration among early adopters. “Users under age 45 were significantly more likely to complain about the speed of the mobile Web, and respondents under 55 were frustrated by the size of mobile Web displays,” according to the post. “Only one group reported greater frustration with any aspect of the mobile internet: Fully half of adults age 18 to 24 were annoyed that some Web site designs did not work at all on their phones.”
The bottom line: marketers need to pay more attention to change and how search campaigns will play out across a variety of devices hitting the market.