Whether you’re a global brand or the shop around the corner, the shift to mobile is changing your customers’ behavior in and out of the store. Here, we share five insights into how brands can connect meaningfully with people in real time, in all of their micro-moments.

Written by
Matt Lawson
February 2016

Smartphone shopping has reached some remarkable new milestones. Mobile shopping-related searches increased 120% in the last year, a review of Google data shows.1 With this growth, retailers are finding that mobile plays a critical role in driving shoppers in-store. Shoppers now reach for their smartphones in every kind of micro-moment, from I-want-to-know to I-want-to-buy (and crucially, I-want-to-buy-again) moments.

These moments represent a tremendous opportunity for brands. Because with mobile, marketers have the unique power to match marketing messages with signals of intent and context. What are they looking for? Where are they right now? What kind of person is shopping? With mobile, marketers know.

Recent Google search data and mounting third-party evidence has given us new insights into how marketers can engage shoppers in these micro-moments. Here's what we've recently learned:

1. Smartphone shopping has created a new "front door to the store." That's the phrase the retail giant Target now uses after learning that three-fourths of its guests start their shopping journey on mobile, and that one-third of guests who click on a mobile search ad take a trip to a Target store. Similarly, the telecommunications company Sprint discovered that one in four people who click on their mobile search ads end up in a Sprint retail store.

2. Consumers are hungrier than ever for local information. Google searches with "near me" have grown 2.4X year-over-year.2 In fact, according to research, 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day, and 18% of those searches lead to a purchase.3

Eighty-two percent of shoppers say they consult their phones on purchases they're about to make in a store.


3. Ads that show local inventory drive shoppers into stores. One in four people who avoid stores say it's because they don't know if a product is in stock.4 If you're an omni-channel retailer, showing shoppers the items you have in stock at nearby stores can be half the battle. After adopting Local Inventory Ads, which show actual store inventory to online searchers, Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores saw a 122% increase in store visits. Furthermore, Local Inventory Ads drove eight dollars of in-store sales for each dollar invested.

4. Smartphones are the new in-store research advisor. Eighty-two percent of shoppers say they consult their phones on purchases they're about to make in a store.5 Amazingly, nearly one in four shoppers say they have changed their minds while in a checkout line after looking up details on a smartphone.6 The beauty and body-care retailer Sephora has been a leader in treating in-store mobile behavior as a major opportunity: They encourage in-store customers to scan products into Sephora's mobile app to receive product ratings, reviews and other key information.

5. Omni-channel shoppers spend more. According to MasterCard, customers who shop both online and off with a specific retailer buy 250% more on average. Macy's discovered that its omni-channel shoppers are 8X more valuable than those who shop in a single channel.

Taken together, the numbers say that whether you're a global brand or a local shop, mobile is changing your shoppers' behavior in and out of the store. It's essential to be there on mobile, yes. But it's even more important to create rich and relevant experiences that connect your stores with shoppers in all of their micro-moments—and encourage those shoppers to come back again and again.

1 Google global search data, November 2014–October 2015, as defined by searches that trigger Shopping ads.
2 Google Trends, August 2015 vs August 2014, U.S.
3 Google/Ipsos, "Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior" study, United States, May 2014, Survey n=4,500 and Smartphone searches =3,431.
4 Google, Ipsos MediaCT and Sterling Brands, Digital Impact on In-Store Shopping, published on Think with Google, May 2014.
5 Google/Ipsos, "Consumers in the Micro-Moment" study, March 2015, U.S., n=5,398, based on internet users.
6 Google Consumer Survey, April 2015, U.S., n=1130.