Real-time in the Real World.

Author DEREK GORDON is a marketing and sales exec with more than 20 years success in integrated marketing and sales strategy and management.

Recent research by Google into the ways in which people use their multiple devices to conduct searches offers some interesting insights. For retailers interested in how they can influence people before, during and after their customers enter their stores, pay attention.

In the report, “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior,” Google says that 90 percent of people move between devices to accomplish a goal, whether that’s on smartphones, PCs, tablets or TV. While folks are watching TV, their smartphone or tablet becomes a second screen used for social networking and searches. For instance, they might see a TV ad for a new car and do a search in real time to check it out online or to see reviews.  If they’re already in the market for a car, they’ll add what they find to their growing body of research. In other words: typical couch activity.

But when people are out and about, smartphones searches are all about the spur of the moment. According to Google:

We found that people often turn to nearby devices to complete spur-of-the-moment activity. In fact, 80% of the searches that happen on smartphones are spur-of-the-moment, and 44% of these spontaneous searches are goal-oriented. We see examples of this in our daily lives, for instance, suddenly realizing that you forgot to make a dinner reservation and reaching for your phone to find a restaurant.  

Google has many, many ways for retailers to sponsor results on mobile platforms that enable the movement of customers from the streets into a business. For instance, Google has talked about the success of its click-to-call ads, which are apparently "generating millions of calls every month."  When combined with other mobile-oriented search ad options offered by Google, such as the map-plus box, location extensions, and coupon offerings, just-in-time search is more just-in-timier by the day.  I recently saw some of this in action. 

A young colleague did a quick check to see where a recently recommended restaurant was located, which he found, and then saw there was a coupon offer, which he noted, and then he clicked on the click-to-call link to see if there was a table.  There was. We enjoyed our lunch and when it was time to pay, he whipped his iPhone out, pulled the coupon, the waiter punched something in (I couldn't see what) -- and voila! Our lunch was half price.

So Google's growing range of mobile-oriented search features means search marketers have more and more opportunity to not only direct mobile users into their stores, but to entice them in with coupons, special offers and the like.  But what the mobile gods giveth, they can also taketh away. The Wall Street Journal recently noted that folks are able to do comparison shopping from the showroom floor and make decisions instantly about whether to buy now or wait and get a better deal. The trend is called “showrooming,” and they estimate 39 percent of walkouts are influenced by smartphone usage. “The four walls have become porous,” the Journal wrote.

Retailers, obviously, have a real interest in stemming the flow of walkouts. The trouble is, mobile searches are distinct and different from other sorts of searches. They’re either at the top of shopping funnel (consideration) or the bottom (ready to purchase). Brick-and-mortar shops would like to see more of the latter than the former, especially if they’re failing to capture the ultimate purchase under consideration.  For Google, the Holy Grail is being able to link mobile device searches with in-store purchases to be able to show the return on search marketing investment for this kind of activity.

A company trying to do something about this missing link is called MotionLoft. They’ve got a technology that monitors pedestrian activity outside of retail locations using digital video cameras and advanced analytic capabilities. The company is able to determine how people behave in the physical environments they’re in. Once they’re able to close the loop on tracking people, their movements, their online behaviors and their purchases – all in real time – they will have another powerful data set that helps retailers do a better job targeting offers and adjust pricing, all in real time.

That’ll be impressive real world results when it happens. 

Author DEREK GORDON is a marketing and sales exec with more than 20 years success in integrated marketing and sales strategy and management. He is the Chief Marketing and Sales Officer for Pathbrite. You can also check out his blog, Daily Casserole.

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