At this year’s Google Marketing Live event, it was revealed that mobile “near me” searches — when someone searches for a product or store nearby — have reached a new peak. Other data suggests that “near me” searches have grown by more than 200% since 2016. In the current landscape, we’re seeing a new “near me” economy develop — one that’s driven by a store or product’s location above all. It seems that customers are less motivated by brand loyalty and more by proximity and convenience.
With this in mind, here’s a look at three factors responsible for its growth.
The Mobile Explosion
When it comes to search, people have ditched their desktops for mobile. In fact, a USA Today survey found that a whopping 78% of Americans currently own a smartphone. This has been a godsend for retail. Consumers use their devices to search and browse retailers, stores, products and more. The convenience of mobile search has changed the retail game. According to Forrester, mobile devices will be used in about one third of all U.S. retail sales this year. The mobile explosion has changed the shopping experience most by emphasizing consumer location.
People now search for products on the go, and their search habits and shopping preferences revolve around proximity; they look for something near their current location or where they’ll be in the near future. GeoMarketing found that 76% of “near me” searches lead to a consumer visit within a day of the search. For local businesses, this provides a boost that wasn’t possible before.
Mobile phones are equipped with GPS and location service capabilities, and many apps and services deliver a location-specific experience. For years, however, consumers were wary of using them, for two reasons — battery life and privacy. Battery life on smartphones used to drain more quickly with GPS always on. The batteries weren’t robust enough to handle constant usage. Now, however, both phones and batteries are larger and are made to be more efficient. While some battery issues persist — varying from phone to phone — this issue has largely become a thing of the past.
Most consumers are interested in sharing their location to receive a benefit. Verve research found that 73% of people will grant apps access to their phone’s location. Further, 43% say they’ll share personal data in exchange for promotions based on their preferences or account history. These shifts have made consumers more comfortable with location services, driving “near me” searches.
More Profile Listings
Today there are more location-specific profile listings and directories — and accurate location-specific profile listings — for stores, products and brands than in the past. From Yelp to TripAdvisor, there’s been an explosion in the number of local business listings for a given company. The benefit of these listings is their reach. Yelp averages some 145 million unique visitors per month. TripAdvisor has 390 million monthly visitors. And it’s easy to see why they’re so popular. People can get all the information they need in a single spot.
For businesses, profile listings are an effective platform to get a product or service out there for users to see. Anyone using Yelp knows there’s a big difference between three and four-star reviews. A report from the Harvard Business School found that a Yelp rating increase of one star can generate from 5% to 9% more revenue for a restaurant. Since consumers are mainly interested in what’s directly around them, restaurants and other stores should build a strategy that focuses on “near me” searches. These will often yield accurate and useful results.
As ‘near me’ searches continue to grow, brands and marketers need to keep this new front door top-of-mind. Searches are now based around proximity and location. And what’s been true for general organic search holds true for local search — whoever shows up first and in the top set of results will win the day.
Josha Benner is a co-founder of Uberall, where he was leading the enterprise business and responsible for the European expansion. In 2017, Benner launched Uberall Inc. and opened offices in San Francisco to increase the company’s global footprint. Prior to co-founding the company in 2013, Benner worked as Head of Corporate Finance at Rebate Networks — an accelerator company for international Groupon clones. He also worked for close to four years as a Senior Consultant with Europe’s leading management consultancy Roland Berger, where he advised companies from tourism, logistics, and manufacturing industries. Benner holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Industrial Engineering from the Technical University of Berlin.