Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about mobile.

Don’t we all take it on faith that consumers, in rapidly increasing numbers, are clutching their smartphones as they charge into the mall looking for that perfect something? Of course we do. And now that we’ve gotten our heads around the fact that 140 million U.S. consumers have smartphones and 70 million have tablets (thanks comScore) and that mobile spending is increasing by 30 percent year over year, it’s time to remind ourselves of one thing: When it comes to search, desktop still rules. [caption id="attachment_7151" align="alignnone" width="300"] iProspect's Jeremy Hull iProspect's Jeremy Hull[/caption] Jeremy Hull does a great job of pointing out the importance of desktop search in a recent interview with eMarketer. Hull, director of bought (some call it “paid”) search media at iProspect and a digital marketing veteran, tells eMarketer’s Danielle Drolet that desktop search is never going away; and that for now, it is the foundation that smart Internet retailers use to build their mobile search on. And here’s the catch: Not only can you not have one without the other; but you need to find the tools to turn the two — desktop and mobile — into a team. “For example,” Hull tells eMarketer, “take a customer who has been doing searches and has been engaged with your brand on one device. If they move to another device and continue to search, and you’re not present, that’s an opportunity for them to drop off and for you to lose that conversation.” He elaborated a bit when I called him to talk about his thoughts on search: “Users don’t see channels. They don’t see devices. They just interact. And if you’re not there, where they’re looking for you, when they’re looking for you, that’s a miss.” [caption id="attachment_7148" align="alignnone" width="300"] Consumers don't think of shopping on smartphones, tablets and laptops as distinct experiences. Retailers shouldn't either. Consumers don't think of shopping on smartphones, tablets and laptops as distinct experiences. Retailers shouldn't either.[/caption] A miss, as in missed business, a missed sale, a missed opportunity. And maybe a missed opportunity that’s never coming back -- just because a business was categorizing customers as a mobile shopper or a desktop shopper or an in-store shopper, without considering how consumers use every channel at their disposal. Think about it: Deloitte Digital says 58 percent of shoppers who own mobile phones use them for in-store shopping. And once they get used to the idea, they stick with it. Deloitte says shoppers who do use phones while shopping, use them on more than half of their shopping trips. [caption id="attachment_7149" align="alignnone" width="300"] Consumers often combine shopping on mobile devices, desktops and in stores. Consumers often combine shopping on mobile devices, desktops and in stores.se them on more than half their shopping trips.[/caption] But mobile isn’t just a shopping aid. Goldman Sachs says purchases on mobile will soar from $70 billion this year to $173 billion in 2018. Sales on tablets will follow suit, Goldman says, rising from $130 billion now to $453 billion in 2018. In other words, retailers need to engage with their customers across shopping channels; that means smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop and in-store. Understanding what a shopper looks for on her laptop and puts in her cart one day is nice to know. But it’s a lot more helpful if you also know enough to offer her other products she’d likely be interested in the next time picks up her smartphone. “I feel like mobile strategy in many cases is still divorced from desktop strategy,” Hull said when we talked. Too often, he said, enterprises are building mobile platforms without taking advantage of all the data they can gather, all the user behavior they can track. He said he sees mounds of studies looking at what mobile means. But so many seem to forget that those who use mobile devices for shopping and buying also use desktops for those activities. “Everybody kind of ignores the fact that it’s the same damn person,” Hull said. There is plenty of evidence that consumers want to be recognized -- and want to be treated like an individual with particular tastes and desires. The key, of course, is to understand that consumers are looking for different experiences on mobile and desktop. Don’t assume what works on one works on the other. In the real world, consumers sometimes wander a convoluted path to purchase, visiting a store, checking prices on a smartphone, ultimately actually buying an item on their home or work (yes, it’s true, boss) PCs. Don’t make the mistake of losing sight of that and treating a loyal customer as a complete stranger simply because he or she is coming to you from a device different from the one they used to visit earlier in the day. It’s a choice Hull would say you’ll surely regret. Photo of man and woman with laptops by Vernon Chan, woman and child with tablet by Lachlan Hardy and by Eden, Janine and Jim published under Creative Commons license.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Reach him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com and follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.