Google’s Top Mobile Takeaways From 2011

As part of a look back at 2011 Google has identified what it considers to be the most significant trends in mobile.  I’ve paraphrased, embellished and edited the Google list and added some additional thoughts. Many of these developments will continue their momentum into 2012. (Some of the data have been previously released.)

Mainstreaming of mobile

Clearly the big overall trend is the “mainstreaming of mobile” in the form of smartphone adoption and mobile internet access. Google repeated some stats released earlier this year from its research with Ipsos:

  • 79 percent of smartphone consumers use their phones to help with shopping (price comparisons, product reviews, locating stores)
  • 70 percent of consumers use smartphones in a store
  • 77 percent have contacted a business via mobile, with 61 percent calling and 59 percent visiting the local business

There are plenty of other numbers in the market that support these findings.

What the company didn’t point out in its post is that very early next year (Q1) more than 50 percent of mobile users will carry smartphones, the majority of them iPhones and Android devices. For younger users (under 45) more than 50 percent already have smartphones.

Mobilizing search

Not counting apps, browser-based mobile search has grown dramatically in the past year. For example, Google previously reported this year that 40 percent of mobile searches are related to location. Google also pointed out the following:

  • Price checks, deal searches, in-store lookups have changed the dynamics of retail. Google says, “more people are looking for deals both en route to stores and within them on mobile.”
  • Google also anticipates a huge percentage of last-minute holiday shopping search and store lookups this week to happen on mobile devices (44 percent, it previously said).

Progress on the mobile ads front

Google cites the maturation of HTML5 and emergence of new mobile standards to assert that mobile advertising is starting to come into its own. To that end Google introduced a bunch of new, more interactive ad formats this year for smartphones and tablets.

In addition, its Click-to-Call product also performed very well and proved very popular among marketers.

Problems and challenges remain for mobile advertising, especially around tracking and analytics. However new methodologies will likely tackle those issues in 2012.

Tablet traffic grows plenty

Everyone knows about the success of the iPad and, more recently, the Kindle Fire. By the time the smoke clears in January there may be millions more tablet owners in the US and around the world. Globally the number will likely exceed 60-70 million.

Google also said that there was “440 percent growth in traffic from tablets in November 2011 compared to December 2010 on the AdMob network.” And that’s before the iPad topped holiday wish lists this year.

Another thing to point out is that the early data show that users are more engaged with ads on tablets and they’re more inclined to make actual purchases on them vs. smartphones.

“Mobile first” more than rhetoric

Google argues that smartphones and tablets are entirely new form factors and not simply smaller versions of a PC. Accordingly these devices have to be “respected” and not simply be given slightly modified versions of PC websites or PC-based ad campaigns.

And while Google says that the new devices “complement” PC search they also cannibalize it to varying degrees, especially tablets. Marketers and publishers cannot afford to neglect mobile (and tablets). Indeed, some need to invest in mobile as a primary platform (e.g., news publishers).

In 2012 many of these trends will only accelerate. Later this week I’ll be doing a roundup and predictions piece for 2012 so be sure to look for it.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Mobile Marketing | Statistics: Mobile Marketing


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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