How Mobile Search Impacts Brands and Consumers

A whopping 70% of all mobile searches result in action within one hour. As a comparison, 70% of searches carried out on the Internet from a computer leads to action within one month (Borrell Association, 2011). Data from Google supports this, showing that 95% of smartphone users look up local information regularly with 88% taking action within a day. These statistics are significant, showing the integral part our phones play within our daily lives. What does it really mean? What are the pitfalls for companies who aren’t active?Brands that adopt mobile first can take advantage of mobile search by building location data into their search results. Google search on mobile already provides results based on the users location for certain key words – such as food, coffee, petrol station – but only if the user has first agreed for Google to use their location.

Branded or retail apps can also build in extra-personalised content or offers to users, helping them to find the nearest retail store. By encouraging users to open applications with the lure of tailored offers, apps can collate individual consumers’ usage habits, which in turn enable brands to issue intelligent notifications. A good example is the daily commute to work, when many people are tempted to grab a coffee on their way in to the office. If an app knows when and where a person buys their coffee, it can use this time and location data to suggest complimentary products, or send time-sensitive promotional offers at a particular moment. And if the person is in a different location, the app can also direct them to the nearest branch of their usual coffee shop.

As mobile devices come to know more about the user, they can start making smarter, more targeted recommendations. To some extent, we’ve already seen this with Siri on the iPhone 4S. With additional functionality on iOS 6, users are able to find restaurants based on location, peer recommendation and personal preference. It’s widely understood by marketing agencies and mobile technology providers alike that there is a huge potential for contextual relevance marketing on mobile. It is because of this that privacy concerns are also one of the most talked about issues in the industry.

The more we can get users to share, the better the results we can give them. Consumers rightly need to be assured that their data isn’t being abused. Apple has now introduced an option for users limiting how much tracking advertisers can do on their iOS 6 devices. While this does result in less relevant and useful adverts for consumers, it does offer peace of mind to those who want to limit what third parties are privy to.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced a new plan to monetise the vast amounts of data through search – in a similar vein to Google. Social is mobile. With Windows Phone, Android and iOS all being fully integrated with Twitter and Facebook sharing, it is evident how big a part mobile plays within social media. Social search helps to provide relevant results that are tailored around the individual user. 91% of all mobile Internet usage is social related; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc, compared to 79% of desktop Internet usage. What all of this does it provide more relevant results based on location, peer recommendation and reviews to help people find exactly what they are looking for in a smaller amount of time.

As with the fixed internet, understanding the importance of search engine optimisation (SEO) and building in the right type of relevant location data is key. And as with anything related to mobile marketing, mobile search needs to understand the mobile touch points – where consumers will be using their mobile devices, and what they’ll be using them for.

Looking to the future, mobile search will get to a point where it can start to predict what users are looking for. While this may sound like science fiction, the reality is that its virtually here now. It would work based on the time, location, personal preferences and actions being taken by users – for example, if a user has been in a recipe app and the phone calendar shows that they have a dinner party the next night, it could predict that the user will be looking for a shop to buy the ingredients. It could then make a suggestion of the nearest supermarket plus travel directions, opening hours. It may even incorporate availability data about the ingredients from the supermarket.

Mobile search is a function that each of us use, probably more than we realise. It is now at a point that when it delivers false or incorrect information, we notice. A good example is the reported issues surrounding the accuracy of Apple’s new maps. Mobile search is a culprit to the death of the lengthy pub debate about which team scored which goal during certain games. It allows us to quickly find products, services and information from the palm of our hands and will only become more intelligent as time goes on.

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