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Long gone are the days where you'd sit at your computer, impatiently waiting for the sounds of the dial up Internet to connect. Today, Internet access is possible within seconds, and can be accessed anywhere in the world.

And it seems like everywhere you look these days, the majority of people will have a phone in their hands doing just that. Travelling on buses and trains, in airports, walking down the street, sitting at cafes, bus stops... jumping online from your mobile phone seems to be the go-to activity whenever anyone has a spare second.

Mobile usage in 2012

It's hard to believe that just three years ago in 2012, mobile Internet usage wasn't as prevalent as it is today. At the time, media and advertising experts BIA/Kelsey surveyed consumer Internet usage, specifically those searching for local information (local restaurants and bars, businesses opening hours etc.), to compare how many people were conducting these searches from their desktop computers compared to their mobile phones. At the time, desktop search far outweighed mobile. But due to the rapid uptake of mobile technology, BIA/Kelsey predicted that by 2015 mobile search would eclipse desktop search for local information.

BIA/Kelsey's research was conducted as a means to understand digital ad revenue projections. And the reason the survey was undertaken was because search was the fastest growing driver in mobile local advertising. The report surmised that generally there would be an overall growth in mobile advertising, simply because of the amount of time people spend on their phones. And local search ads, because they naturally fit mobile devices and the way consumers use them, would see a big piece of that growth.

Mobile Traffic vs Desktop Traffic:
September 2012

Presented by:

Mobile Traffic

Desktop Traffic

The rise of mobile in 2015

Now that we're in the year 2015, it likely wouldn't surprise anyone to know that the number of people who use mobile phones has increased, and overall mobile Internet usage has now surpassed desktop usage.

Looking specifically at search results, a recent report by Thrive Analytics for LSA confirms that we are well and truly past the tipping point where local search via mobile has overtaken desktop. In fact, desktop search decreased 9% in the past year alone. The report explains that the shift from PCs to mobile for local search is the result of heavy mobile phone users they call 'Mobile Fanatics', who are conducting at least ten searches a week from mobile devices.

These 'Mobile Fanatics', according to LSA, are "'always shopping' and considering products no matter their location, allowing them to be reached anytime and anywhere." The study highlights the fact that advertisers and marketers now need to develop strategies that will reach their customers when they are ready to buy, wherever they happen to be at the time.

Here are some other recent statistics from LSA that we found:

BIA/Kelsey's 2012 predictions about local search on mobile in 2015 were spot on. Since then, the explosion in mobile devices has created completely new ways people interact with their phones - ways marketers and advertisers may never have dreamed about. While local search is a vital consideration for advertisers and marketers, there are now more opportunities for mobile advertising than ever before, not just through search but via apps, social, video, data, and other services that offer new ways of reaching customers and creating revenue.

US Mobile Search Ad Spending, 2013-2018
Billions and % of digital search ad spending*

Note: includes advertising on search engines, search applications and carrier portals; ad spending on tablets is included; *includes contextual text links, paid inclusion, paid listings (paid search) and SEO Source eMarketer, Sep 2014; confirmed and republished, Dec 2014


As mobile usage, as well as local mobile search, continues to grow, BIA/Kelsey predicts mobile local ad spending will grow accordingly, quadrupling by 2019.

More interestingly, however, are BIA/Kelsey's predictions that the next frontier of search and Internet usage will no longer be a battle of desktop vs. mobile (given mobile has well and truly won). Nor will it be a question of smartphone vs. tablet or display vs. apps - it predicts the next big player on the scene will be wearables.

When it comes to wearables, there is so much information available that this opens up a new realm of possibilities. Ads can be targeted according to a consumer's physical location, level of physical activity, and even sleeping habits. BIA/Kelsey are calling it the "Connected Me" of local search, predicting that this will be the closest thing to the "nirvana of closed loop marketing."

Information provided by wearables creates an entirely new way to reach consumers. Where local search as it currently stands might cover things like business hours, address details, etc., incorporating data from wearables will allow advertisers to suggest customers have a treat if they've met their daily activity goal or promote offers and discounts based on recent activity. Data gathered from wearables could create the ability to deliver tailored ads and marketing campaigns that are more relevant and personalised than ever before.

Whether you focus on marketing, advertising, sales, SEO, social media, or app development, there's no denying that mobile needs to be a factor in your decision making. As consumers change the way they use technology, businesses need to change the way they're reaching consumers. They should be strategising how to gain customers through targeted search ads, mobile sites, apps and, potentially one day, through wearables. Some businesses might still be considering mobile as an "add-on" when planning their digital strategy, however those who embrace mobile and deliver what their customers want and need will ultimately be the most successful.