Google has released a Mobile Search Moments study that's different from usual. Rather than ask people questions, Google tracked the actual behavior of volunteer participants.
With help from Nielsen, Google analyzed more than 6,000 mobile searches during fourth quarter 2012. It follow-up questions that confirmed conversions that resulted. Mobile here is defined as smartphone-only.
The majority of the travel themed searches on mobile devices were initiated in a browser, not an app. About 12% of searches resulted in a purchase.
Travel was one of the least popular mobile activities, with only 2% of mobile activity involving bookings of things like airfare.
That's half of "navigation" (4%) and a tiny sliver of general interest searches, such as entertainment (15%).
On the bright side, travel searches on smartphones led to an above-average number of follow-up actions, such as additional searches or phone calls. Only auto- and beauty-related mobile searches had more follow-up actions.
A majority of these follow-up actions occurred within an hour of the mobile search, a much more rapid move to potential conversion than is the average for desktop searches.
The majority of mobile searches take place in the afternoon and evening, and most happen in a place likely to have a desktop connection available.
Startlingly, smartphone users located at a school were more likely to launch a travel search—defined as searching for prices for flights, hotels, etc.—than any other type of search from a school.
The full Mobile Search Moments Study is free for download.