Mobile & The Disintermediation Of Traditional Search
2012 is the year of mobile. Or is it 2013? Or maybe it was supposed to be 2011. Regardless of the calendar year that we’ll end up attributing the explosion of growth to, the mobile tide has been on the rise for some time.
This past April, the Interactive Advertising Bureau released a report citing that mobile is the fastest growing media channel, with ad spending up 149 percent in 2011.
As mobile continues to grow from a buzzy talking point to a standard marketing approach, it’s worthwhile to take note of some important trends related to mobile search and how they are bound to affect other forms of media.
The biggest driver of mobile growth is undeniably search. In fact, the volume of mobile local search is predicted to surpass desktop local search by 2016, according to research from BIA Kelsey. And with over 300,000 mobile apps created in the last year alone, apps are increasingly replacing browsers as the method of choice for connected consumers to find and use information.
Mobile Activity = Search
Think about how mobile usage plays into our daily lives. We search on mobile devices for restaurant reviews, menus and recipes. We search for videos on the YouTube app and turn to our mobile phones for real-time sporting updates. We search for plane tickets through apps from Kayak or JetBlue and even search and make purchases on e-commerce sites like Walgreens, Amazon and eBay.
Although consumer behavior may differ from channel to channel, the basics for marketers do not change – search is a strong indicator of intent and interest. In the case of mobile, all eyes should be focused on the applications.
Since I love food, I’ll reference my 3 favorite food-finding apps: Yelp, OpenTable, and SeamlessWeb. Each app has robust search capabilities and includes some of the obvious bells and whistles like geo-located results. Apparently, I’m not the only one that’s discovered the convenience of searching on my favorite apps.
While the exact volume of app-based search or local search is unknown, a recent comScore study revealed that half of smartphone and tablet users are using apps to find local information.
So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that all of the searching that’s done in these apps is outside of Google’s reach, and thus the data is actionable only for the creator of the app. This is pretty significant, considering Google is often regarded as the owner of the mobile search market.
As Yelp has stated, this is a very good thing for the companies that own the apps, and very bad news for traditional search engines. You can expect to see those app publishers with search functionality move aggressively to take over a greater share of what has been considered Google’s bread and butter – local search.
Mobile & Cross-Device Targeting
As mobile data collection becomes more sophisticated, it will be crucial for the leading players to address one of the biggest challenges in mobile: how to reach the scale that advertisers have come to expect from desktop media (display and search).
The answer? Cross-device targeting. The ability to reach consumers on the go makes mobile data even more favorable for the marketing community. There’s some pretty cool technologies popping up from companies like AdTruth and TapAd, which help advertisers to use the audience data gathered from one device to target consumers on multiple devices – all while maintaining privacy standards.
The combination of search, mobile applications and mobile activity produces useful insights for marketers. For example, when a consumer uses a branded app (JetBlue, Kayak, Walgreens, OpenTable), their brand affinity is most likely already secure – for marketers this may mean that they should target this specific customer with their customer retention strategy vs. spending media dollars on driving new customer acquisitions.
On the flip side, the search data being produced through a category app (such as Inside Sunday, Forkly, AroundMe, etc) may indicate that there is an opportunity to influence brand preference and target consumers higher up in the funnel. Either way, the search data flowing through both brand and category apps gives marketers a real understanding of everything from interest, intent, geographic location to demographic information.
Regardless of when the “year of mobile” is finally declared, it’s time for companies to build out a mobile component alongside their larger media strategy. Mobile search, specifically in-app search capabilities, will enhance their methods of data collection.
By combining mobile and desktop search data, advertisers will be able to piece together more complete data sets around consumers, which will improve their targeting strategy across all digital media channels. These data insights will help marketers determine who, when and what to target their customers with as well as how much that customer is worth to their brand. This will ultimately lead to more relevant ads, shown at the right time on the right device, and subsequently better performance.
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