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Quite a few notable findings in TMP Directional Marketing second annual Local Search Usage Study, which it unveiled today, among them a slight shift in users’ preferred medium for conducting a local business search.

Last year’s report had print Yellow Pages slightly ahead of search engines — 33 percent vs. 30 percent — while this year search engines topped PYP by a slim 31 percent vs. 30 percent. This one-year decline does add a data point to support the notion of a general shift in how users find local businesses. In 2007, 67 percent said they used print Yellow Pages less than once a week, which grew to 72 percent in the new study. The study also showed the number reporting “ownership” of a print Yellow Pages directory dropping from 89 percent to 86 percent. So while declining, print does remain a key part of the usage mix.

Some of the key themes emerging from the study include a clear connection between online research and offline purchase. When asked what they did after searching for a business online, 39 percent said they called a business, while 32 percent said they visited the store in person. Only 12 percent said they planned to contact the business online, down from 15 percent in 2007.

The TMP/comScore study also found that the number who said they made a purchase following an online search declined in 2008 from 61 percent to 52 percent. Between Internet Yellow Pages, local and general search, IYP had a slight edge in driving purchase behavior in 2008, with 55 percent making a purchase (in person, online or via the telephone), compared with 54 percent for local search and 50 percent for general search, which reflects the conventional wisdom that IYPs and local search sites are used closer to the purchase decision, while general search is used higher up the purchase funnel.

The study also found that mobile local search is becoming a significant factor, with 21 percent of consumers with an Internet capable phone using it to conduct a local business search. Satisfaction with the local mobile search experience was about as high as with online directories and print Yellow Pages (77 percent vs. 82 percent and 73 percent, respectively).

Here is the quote from TMP’s press release:

“As consumer local search grows with online and offline resources, national advertisers must develop strategic plans for integrating the various mediums into their national programs,” said Gregg Stewart, senior vice president of interactive, TMPDM. “Our 2008 study again confirms that consumers do a majority of research online, but continue to make purchases offline with a phone call or in-store visit. Additionally, marketers need to pay close attention to mobile search and sites that offer consumer user reviews, as they are growing in popularity.” 

A quick note about comScore’s methodology: The research combined survey responses with “actual observed online behavior.” The survey sample is 3,000 completed online surveys from users of online local business search. The survey took approximately 15 minutes to complete. This year’s survey was conducted in July. The 2007 survey was conducted in May.

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