Google is the web service of choice for the vast majority of consumers looking for information on local businesses and activities - but a new survey indicates other brands are definitely in the mix.
Some 69% of users use Google in their search behavior for things nearby, with services such as Yahoo (23%), Apple Maps (23%) and Yelp (22%) coming further down the list, according to a study by Uberall and MomentFeed.
But the analysis of the local online performance of 80,000 business locations and a survey of more than 1,000 U.S.-based consumers found that travel brands such as Tripadvisor and Airbnb have managed to position themselves as useful search engines in their own right.
The study found that one in five consumers are using those two, for example, as local search services.
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The importance of local search to the likes of Tripadvisor and Airbnb has become a key marker in their pandemic strategies to offer detailed information to those who cannot travel to their usual trip destinations and are exploring their local communities and regions.
Greg Sterling, vice president of insights at Uberall, says: "Consumers are eager to book post-COVID travel and travel-related businesses would be wise to optimize their local presence on Google and other popular travel apps.
"Data shows that consumers use multiple travel sites when planning a trip and making dining, lodging, and entertainment decisions along their journey."
Another strategic shift in the search behavior of consumers is the switch from branded to non-branded searches, with the latter being the dominant method during the pandemic.
The study found that searches for "Hotel Near Me" have replaced popular terms prior to the pandemic such as "Marriott Near Me" and other brand-led terms.
Nick Hedges, chief strategy officer and executive vice president for North America at Uberall, explains: "The increase in non-branded local searches is a complex phenomenon, largely driven by the value consumers place on proximity, immediacy, and convenience."
Travel and activity brands will not be surprised to learn that 65% of consumers consider pricing the most influential element on purchasing decisions.
But the importance of information on COVID-19 hygiene and safety protocols is fifth on the same list at 29%, below business distance from home (38%), ratings and reviews (36%) and photos of products (31%).
The travel industry was hit especially hard during 2020, with a decrease in clicks for almost all conversion types, the study found.
Travel listings saw a decline in actions of 47% year-over-year, which can be largely attributed to the extensive travel restrictions in 2020.
Hedges says: "This isn’t too surprising, considering the industry is strongly connected to in-person conversion experiences, which couldn’t be substituted completely by a website visit or phone call."
* The full report is available here.