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The shift from print to PC was disruptive. The shift from PC to mobile is also disruptive, but the implications are more complex as consumer behavior becomes increasingly multi-screen. Today, half of U.S. mobile searchers begin their purchase research process on the mobile phone, and 46 percent use their mobile phone/smartphone as their exclusive research device.

On the final day of BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local conference, Telmetrics CEO Bill Dinan and BIA/Kelsey Senior Analyst Mike Boland dug into the implications of “Path to Purchase” research conducted in the U.S. and U.K. by Telmetrics and xAd. In addition to running Telmetrics, Dinan is chairman of the Local Search Association.

The Path to Purchase data, which has been covered previously on Local Media Watch, offers a wide range of insights that small businesses and publishers can use as they build their digital presence or advertising/marketing solutions for advertisers.

The data framed a conversation about the growing role of mobile in consumer purchase decision-making. The following are a few of the findings and implications that Boland and Dinan kicked around on stage.

Fifty percent of mobile searchers use their device at the start of the search process, while 49 percent start their search on the desktop. “We are getting into more of a multi-screen world,” Dinan said.

The fact that 46 percent of mobile searchers use mobile exclusively points to a growing role for mobile devices in the path to purchase. “Mobile consumers are starting and staying on their mobile device for research,” Dinan said. “This suggests a growth in device utility and user skill. People are figuring out how to reference data on those devices, allowing them to stay on that device.”

“The PC was a disruptor to print,” Dinan said. “Mobile is sort of a distruptor but in a multi-screen world, it can help all ships rise.”

The migration of desktop to mobile compels publishers to move more quickly. “Many in print world lost the battle of print to online. Some have learned from this. Dex Media, for example, is moving to an actions based concept. That is one of the lessons learned.”

Dinan said understanding how mobile devices work is key to taking full advantage of the mobile opportunity. Making sure location information is at the forefront is critical.

“Mobile is inherently local, and the reason is location. Location is what makes mobile mobile,” Dinan said. “It is an action device about local. If something that is not about local comes along [during a search], I am moving on. So while it is important to be local, it is also important to appear local.”

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