That prize consumer you’re after could Google reviews of your restaurant on his laptop, make reservations from a tablet and then get directions from his smartphone, all within an hour. The trend of searching across multiple devices, by people transitioning from one to the other, is on the rise as users query search providers from nearly any location. Recent Microsoft research found that 16 percent of queries on one search engine were from multidevice users, despite the fact that the percentage of actual users was lower. In other words, those doing the searches are especially engaged, making them more accessible to digital marketers – but also harder to pin down.
It’s not just that we’re seeing people use more devices, but that the types of usage are also evolving. Marketers will have their work cut out as they anticipate changes in how consumers conduct different types of searches. The report points to the example of gaming console users, who can now conduct Web searches directly from consoles and use applications previously found only on other devices.
Growth of mobile search
It goes without saying that a big factor in all this back-and-forth action has something to do with cellphones. Search Engine Land reported that search queries on smartphones and tablets were roughly 29 percent of total search volume, due in part to all those extra cellphones in the market.
Meanwhile, PC query volumes have gone in the opposite direction, and that trend probably spells out things to come. ComScore’s “2015 U.S. Digital Future in Focus” report shows significant changes in how Americans interact with technology and consumed media. For instance:
- Smartphone search volumes were just over twice that of tablet volumes.
- The rate of tablet searches is growing faster than the rate of smartphone searches.
As users shift from Facebook to Xbox to product searches to steakhouse menus, more of them will be transitioning from PC console to smartphone to tablet – all for varying lengths of time. The longer they are away from home, the more likely these transitions are taking place on mobile devices.
What lies ahead?
Search engines are looking for ways to predict aspects of cross-device searches to retrieve device-appropriate content – think shorter documents for smartphones – including delay times in between transitions. One revealing tidbit of user behavior Microsoft found was that a spike occurs for all transitions at a delay time of about five minutes, perhaps due to their session terminating. Digital marketers may also start looking at those delays for a sense of how fast we need to get our messages to consumers before they’re on to the next device.
If researchers are thinking ahead, we should be, too.