Offline Conversion Benefits of Local Search: 68% Contact by Phone after Online Search

Search engines have become an increasingly important part of the online experience of American internet users. As consumers find online search more convenient than traditional yellow pages to find local services, local search is experiencing strong growth. 
  • An estimated 68 million U.S. Internet users performed an Internet Yellow Pages search online in July, according to comScore Networks analysis. 
  • Global local search revenues (Internet Yellow Pages, local search and wireless) will increase 30.5% from $3.4 billion in 2005 to $13 billion in 2010, according to The Kelsey Group.

A recent Nielsen//NetRatings and WebVisible study that explores how consumers use online local search to look for local services found that the local service providers are significantly benefiting from "offline conversion" -- the act of shopping online and purchasing offline. 

The report titled, "I Searched, I Clicked, I Contacted... I Transacted", highlighted some key insights on local search consumer: 

  • 70% of Internet users reported using search engines to find a local service
  • Nearly 90% are happy with the results they get when they search for local services

“The act of ‘search it and find it’ is a convenience that Internet users expect from the Web. Searching locally for a business is organic to that behavior. It’s popular because it succeeds in marrying established consumer search behaviors with a powerful advertising opportunity,” David Reeve, Marketing Manager at WebVisible told Metrics 2.0

More significant findings of the study are on how consumer contact the service provider after they find them through local online search and the data seem to supports the "offline conversion" theory. 

  • 68% would use the phone number on the website to contact
  • 16% would contact by the e-mail address on the website
  • 11% would contact via an online form found on website
  • 6% would visit the vendor in person

The survey also revealed clear indications of latent actions in contacting a local service vendor after finding them using local search, as:

  • 35% had saved the phone number.
  • 27% searched a second time.
  • 23% has bookmarked a service vendor's website.
  • 5% used a phone book to find the service vendor.

Word of mouth buzz for local services is another key benefit of local search that the study uncovered. Some 54% of those that had searched for a local service in the past 90 days had referred a friend to a local business or service provider that they found through online search. A majority (59%) of them verbally recommended the service to a friend or a family member, while another 38% e-mailed a link. 

When consumers are ready to transact, nearly half of them were likely use sponsored links and an average 72% of those that clicked a sponsored link also called the vendor. 

To a question on what improvements to expect from local search, David Reeve said  “we’re seeing vast improvements in the way search engines index and retrieve material from the web. Ask.com and MSN are now said to be competing with Google in the quality of the search results they provide. At WebVisible, we’re using local search to power a number of tools to benefit small business advertisers and we often work hand-in-hand with the search engines in getting these tools distributed. Banners, landing pages and proxy pages are just some examples of how the Web is presenting an abundance of opportunities for advertisers.”

The full report is available at WebVisible.

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