The Point of Search

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

The launch of a new, groundbreaking study into consumer search behaviours has revealed that mobile searches conducted out of home are much more diverse and 38% more likely to lead to a purchase compared with mobile searches conducted at home.

The study also shows that people who spend more time out of home search 58% more on their smartphones than those who spend less time out of home, and also search across more varied products and services.  62% of people are also encouraged to search when an out of home advertising campaign features a location call out.

The research study, called ‘The Point of Search‘, was commissioned by Clear Channel UK, Global, JC Decaux UK and Posterscope, and used a combination of three research techniques in the most comprehensive study of its kind on the subject to date. Designed to understand people’s search behaviours and how they differ based by location, the research explores why people search, where they search, how the specific attributes and priming factors of the out of home space encourage search and ultimately sales, and how to optimise Out of Home (OOH) advertising to maximise the search effect.

Additional insights uncovered

The three stages of the research uncovered further new insights into consumer search behaviour out of home:

Stage 1: Anatomy of search
A comparison of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with Six Core Search Typologies (as classified by Google) identified that Maslow’s need states are very much evident in these six search typologies. A national, online consumer survey then explored how these need states are reflected in people’s search behaviours and found:

  • People’s search behaviour across multiple categories parallels Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need states, both in the out of home and in home environment
  • People’s core need states are searched more often with “doing” and “understanding” searches, but all needs are regularly searched
  • The more time consumers spend OOH, the more often they search across different categories, and out of home searches span a wider range of search typologies, need states and motivations (especially location needs) than those searches conducted in home

Stage 2: Point of search

A bespoke online search diary completed by over 1,000 people recorded their mobile search behaviour over a seven-day period, creating an in-depth database of almost 10,000 mobile searches to determine how search differs when conducted in “OOHLocations” versus “At Home”, and discovered:

  • Mobile searches out of home have a wider variety of triggers, particularly location needs, the senses, and feelings:
    • The number one motivation to search when out of home was to fulfil a location need e.g., to find a store address
    • People are more impulsive and looking for inspiration when out of home
    • Search adds value and enhances consumers’ activities and experiences
    • Consumers see, hear and smell things out of home that act as triggers to search
    • Consumers have many location needs when out of home and location memories act as a primer and trigger to search
  • Mobile searches in out of home locations are proportionately more likely to take place Monday to Thursday, while in home searches are more likely at the weekends
  • Mobile searches out of home are more spread out across time periods (over 8 in 10 taking place between the morning and 7pm), while 4 in 10 searches at home take place in the evening post 7pm
  • Mobile searches out of home take place more often in the company of other people than at home searches, providing more opportunity for word of mouth

Stage 3: How to optimise OOH media to drive search
The final stage of the research looked at the specific attributes of OOH media (e.g., traditional billboards, digital OOH, etc.) that encourage people to search and identified that:

  • Specific OOH media attributes drive search, such as Classic and DOOH, size, frequency, dwell time and experiential
  • OOH advertising creative can be optimised by tailoring messages to needs and motivations, using specific creative messages, elements and dynamic DOOH

The study highlights the fact that search behaviour is a clear indicator of consumer needs and as a result, creative messages can be linked to these needs, and the optimisation of specific creative elements such as large logos, short succinct copy and large product shots can have a significant impact on search behaviour. While DOOH using dynamic and contextually relevant messages, such as location, weather and time also encourages people to search.

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