Google, which recently shared some big numbers from its mobile advertising business, has some advice for marketers hoping to join in its success: make your mobile presence presentable, now.
“Businesses need to be ready for mobile as soon as they can, particularly this holiday season,” said Surojit Chatterjee, Google’s lead product manager for mobile search ads. “You need to have a mobile site irrespective of whether you think people will actually make purchases from it. How good your site looks on mobile determines how people think about your business.”
Even though mobile advertising is still in early days, he said, mobile search volume is growing at a rapid clip. Over the past two years, Google has seen mobile search queries grow fivefold—a growth rate he compared to the early days of desktop search.
According to research firm Forrester, while 13 percent of the U.S. population searched with a mobile device in 2010 (90 percent with Google), mobile searchers will account for 28 percent of the U.S. population by 2015 and will cross 33 percent up to 2020.
Early experiences now can have lasting consequences, Chatterjee said. Citing analysis from Gomez, another research firm, he said that 60 percent of users indicated they would be unlikely to return to a mobile site if they had trouble accessing it once and 40 percent said they would actually visit a competitor’s site. Beyond that, 63 percent said they would be less likely to buy from the same company through other channels (online or in the store).
“Users are looking at the mobile site to make conclusions about the business as a whole,” Chatterjee said.
Given the increasing number of smartphone users, he said as the holidays approach it will be ever more likely that consumers will try to reach marketers on the go.
This holiday season, Google expects that 44 percent of total searches for last minute gifts and store locator terms will be from mobile devices.
While Google has a clear lead in search now (on mobile and desktop), some industry watchers have wondered whether the search giant can maintain its top position as more consumers transition to mobile devices.
Its earnings report earlier this month, however, gave Wall Street a reason to have some confidence in CEO Larry Page’s belief that mobile search could be as big for Google (if not bigger) than desktop search.
In a rare move, the company broke out revenue from mobile advertising and said it was on track to bank more than $2.5 billion in that category in the coming year, and grew twofold in the last year.
Chatterjee said its success comes from building specifically for the new medium and catering to user behavior on the platform. For example, leveraging research that users tend to act more quickly after a mobile search, Google recently launched new ad formats that let users download apps from a mobile ad or reach a specific destination with a mobile app they already have on their phone.
A user searching for a pair of boots from her mobile phone, for example, can now go directly from an ad to a shopping app on her phone, so that she can more easily complete a purchase.
Other mobile features capitalize on the interest in local information—according to Google, 40 percent of mobile searches on Google are related to location. Two years ago, the company released a click-to-call feature that lets smartphone users call a business directly from an ad. This month, Google announced that proximity to a business would be a factor in mobile search ads ranking.
“We are building specifically for the medium,” Chatterjee said. “We are really, as an industry, speaking to the mobile user and taking into the account the signals we have on mobile phones, the constraints on mobile phones and the user behavior trends on mobile phones.”