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Google Sees Smartphones As Advertising Goldmine

Smartphones are used by consumers when they are shopping to help make buying decisions, according to a Google survey.

Smartphone users find their devices to be a versatile tool, according to a Google survey of 5,000 U.S. adult smartphone Internet users conducted at the end of 2010. The main uses include Internet browsing (81%), general search (77%), app use (68%), and mobile video consumption (48%). When it comes to search, many users also rely on their smartphone to find general information, local information, and specific retail information regarding products/services.

Google found that 72% use their smartphones while consuming other media, with a third while watching TV, and 93% of smartphone owners use their smartphones while at home. In other words, we're multitaskers. We use our smartphones everywhere, all the time, and often use them while (supposedly) participating in some other activity.

But of course, Google is most interested in how we use our smartphones to search for businesses and how those searches affect our purchasing decisions. Breaking down search patterns, Google identifies several key groups. First are the action-oriented searchers, then the local information seekers, and finally, the purchase-driven shoppers.

Looking at each in detail, Google discovered that the action-oriented searchers hit up search engine websites (Google, Yahoo, Bing) most often. Following search engines, the next most visited were social networking, retail, and video content web sites. Amazingly, 90% of respondents indicated that a smartphone search resulted in a direct action, such as visiting a store or making a purchase. One in four respondents recommended a brand or product to others as a result of a smartphone search.

Almost everyone--95%--said that they use smartphones to look up local information, such as the location of a restaurant or other business. Many--88%--use that information to take some form of action within about a day. Three-quarters of respondents admitted to contacting a business as a result of a search, with 61% making a phone call and 59% traveling to the business in question.

Perhaps the most telling results from Google's survey tell us what we do with our smartphones when shopping. Four out of five respondents indicated that they used their smartphones to aid shopping, such as looking up prices. I did this just yesterday after I noted a price discrepancy at a local retailer. Three-quarters of people who use their smartphone while shopping end up making a purchase, and 70% actually use them in the store.

With so many people paying attention to their devices while shopping, Google wanted to know what sort of role advertising plays in the decision-making process. About 82% of respondents indicated that they notice mobile advertising, and 33% say they notice the ads that accompany mobile searches. Of those who notice the ads, half take some form of action, whether it is visiting a website or making a purchase.

What does all this data tell us? Advertising on mobile phones has the potential to pay off big, as Google believes there is a direct correlation between advertisements and purchasing.

"The findings of the study have strong implications for businesses and mobile advertisers. Make sure you can be found via mobile search, as consumers regularly use their phones to find and act on information," said Google.

On a personal level, I never click on mobile ads. If I do, it is by accident because the ad and nearby content are positioned to close to one another. If I do accidentally click on an ad, I close the browser, hit the back button, or do whatever I need to do prevent the ad from loading on my phone.

It would be great to have similar data points from Yahoo and Bing to see how their users take advantage of mobile search. Would they exhibit the same behavior patterns? The answer to that question would give advertisers and marketers all the information they need to run amok with ad campaigns on our phones.

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