“Near Me” Google Searches On A Rise- Have gone up by 34 Times!

Apr 16, 2015 | 1,757 views | by Ritu Sharma
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In a new article on Think with Google, Matt Lawson- director of search ads marketing in Google, says, "We want things right, and we want things right away. As a result, the consumer journey looks markedly different than it did just five years ago. Instead of a few moments of truth, it’s a series of 'micro-moments' when we turn to mobile to act on a need."

To comprehend how widespread these micro-moments are, Lawson analyzed the Google data and conducted certain online surveys, exploring the behavior from a number of angles. He focused on I-want-to-go moments — searches specific to location when users are trying to find something nearby.

"Near Me" Searches Are on the Rise

Gone are the days when people used to refer to Yellow Pages to find places or things nearest to them. Thanks to the powerful devices in their pockets, users can now quickly and easily find things around them. And they are, in massive numbers.

Search shows that words like "near me," "closest," and "nearby" are increasingly common across the n number of queries on Google every month. Majority are looking for things in their vicinity — be it a gym or a mall, a plumber, or a cup of coffee. Google search interest in "near me" has increased 34 times since 2011 and nearly doubled since last year. The vast majority come from mobile — 80 percent in Q4 2014.

"The consumer has never been more informed because that information lies in the phone in their pocket, in their purse, or on their body," says Annie Zipfel, senior vice president of marketing at REI, in Lawson’s article.

Moments of Truth

Consumers aren’t just getting information, they’re making decisions, often heading straight to stores. "We love when someone comes into the store holding their phone and saying 'I want this tent,' 'I want this bike,' 'Help me find this, I’ve read about this, I’ve researched it,'" says Zipfel.

Facts show that 50 percent of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day, and 18 percent of those searches lead to a purchase within a day. If they’re not sure where to eat, nearly half of people won’t search for a restaurant until within an hour of going (that number jumps to almost 60 percent for Millennials). And it doesn’t stop there. Once at their destination, they’re searching to help make good choices. Another survey showed that 40 percent of Millennials looked up information about their food while in a restaurant in the last month. Similarly, "coffee near me" is a popular search on mobile, but so is "macchiato calories."

Consumers have heightened expectations for immediacy and relevance, thanks to the world of information at their fingertips. They’re confident they can make well-informed choices whenever needs arise. It's essential that brands be there in these moments that matter — when people are actively looking to learn, discover, find, or buy.

"The consumer today, especially with the technology they have available, they expect immediacy," says Serena Potter, group vice president of marketing strategy at Macys.com. "I think search is really one of those tools that allow her to quickly find exactly what she's looking for and better understand where it's available."

I-Want-to-Go to YOUR Store!

Brands should plan for these moments. Winning in these moments means thinking through the situations when people will look for your store and making sure you are there. To figure out when these situations are likely to arise, digital marketers use a combination of hypotheses, observations, and data to validate your hunches and dig deeper.

Lawson suspected that "near me" searches are more common when people travel, which turned out to be true — they spike 55 percent during both Christmas and New Year’s. They’re also more common on weekends, when people step outside their usual workday routines. And on any given weekend, there are many moments, as new contexts spark new needs. Taking a closer look at location-based searches over the course of a recent weekend, we see that, on Saturday, people were more likely to look for movie theaters and nail salons etc. Saturday night was all about finding drinks and late-night pizza.

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Ritu from PageTraffic is a qualified Google Adwords Professional and Content Head at PageTraffic. She has been the spear head for many successful Search Marketing Campaigns and currently oversees Content Marketing operations of PageTraffic in India.