The Future of Search Series is supported by SES San Francisco Conference & Expo, the leading search, social and display conference. From August 15-19, get five days of education, inspiration and conversations with marketing experts across the digital space.
Smartphones are popular — a recent Pew survey indicates that 35% of Americans own smartphones, and IDC predicts that there will be 76.9 billion mobile app downloads worldwide by 2014. As the smartphone market balloons, so too does mobile search.
The group product manager for mobile ads at Google, and Andy Chu, director of Bing for mobile, to find out what’s hot in the world of mobile search.
1. Well, It’s Growing
“Search is actually serious part of our mission [at Google],” says Feng. With computers in so many consumers’ pockets, it becomes even more important for Google and other search engines to “organize a wealth of information and make it generally accessible.” Google has seen mobile search grow at an exponential rate — it’s augmented five-fold worldwide in the past two years. That rate of growth is comparable to the early days of Google’s desktop search.
Currently, Feng says Google sees hundreds of millions of searches each week. But it’s not just Google that’s experiencing the mobile surge — in 2010, 300 million smartphones were shipped, and average smartphone data usage doubled.
2. It’s Not That Different From PC Search
“It’s fair to say people aren’t searching for different things on mobile, they’re just searching at different times,” says Feng. With mobile, you can search for a restaurant, a museum or a shop right then and there, so mobile search tends to pick up in the evenings and on weekends, when consumers are on the go. Not surprisingly, desktop search is higher during the day, when people are at work — aside from a mobile spike during lunchtime.
While it may take a few years for mobile search volume to surpass PC search volume, mobile is taking an increasingly large stake in search queries. On Mother’s Day, 33% of searches for “flowers” were from mobile devices.
One shortcoming of mobile search, however, is that people’s thumbs aren’t very nimble — search sites see 1.5x more typos in queries on smartphones than on PCs.
3. We Search Because We Want To Take Action
Marketers are finding that mobile search is a new and excellent way to access consumers. Before, an ad might pop up in a search results page when the user is absentmindedly searching to procrastinate while at work. Now, these businesses can access users when they’re out and about — even in the neighborhood — and get them when they’re prepared to spend, thus increasing the ad’s conversion rates.
Chu says 50% of mobile queries have local intent, and 46% of mobile queries pertain to infotainment. This means that consumers are searching when they’re on the go, when they’re looking to find news and movie theaters. In short, they’re ready to take action or make a purchase — they’re using the web to figure out what to do and where to go next.
Google shared this data on the type of searches conducted on mobile devices:
- 15% of searches are related to “Consumer Electronics”
- More than 29% of searches are related to “Restaurants”
- More than 16% of searches are related “Auto”
4. Advertisers See the Promise of Mobile Search
We know that consumers search on mobile when they want to do something. On that note, Chu says 70% of task completion happens within one hour on mobile sites, meaning that if you search for a restaurant, you’ll likely eat at that restaurant within the hour. On the contrary, consumers who search on a PC at home might nor try out that restaurant until the weekend — they might be doing general research and opposed to spontaneous exploration. The immediacy of mobile search and the consumer’s readiness and willingness to do something means that mobile advertising will become increasingly important in the coming years.
Since consumers are shifting much of their online activity to the mobile web, Google has created new programs that seamlessly integrate advertising on mobile and desktop so they work together for the advertiser. Of course, mobile has a few advantages over the desktop: click-to-call and GPS search, for instance. Feng says 500,000 advertisers are running click-to-call campaigns — those ads see a 6 to 8% increase in average click-through rates than ads running without the click-to-call feature.
“We think of ads as information, and what we try to do is deliver the right information to users so they can make the right decision,” says Feng. “As more users start to use mobile search, we want to make it super easy for them to make decisions and do things.” One example is a new ad format that was just launched that shows product information, in addition to local inventory so the user can see what nearby store has the product in-stock. Knowing that information saves the user a phone call and makes the purchasing journey one step shorter. Feng says the ad division at Google will keep busy innovating on the mobile platform because it will be of increasing importance to consumers, businesses, and the relationship between them.
5. More Mobile Search Means Mobile Ad Rates Could Increase
While exact pricing on mobile search platforms varies depending on the keywords, Feng says that relative to PC search ads, “mobile search is quite a bargain” right now. But it might not be a bargain for long. According to Google, advertisers experience, on average, an 11.5% increase in mobile click-through rates when they run a mobile-specific campaign as compared to a hybrid (a campaign that runs simultaneously on both mobile and desktop). In short, campaigns that are specifically optimized for mobile perform better than those that aren’t.
Therefore, Chu says it’s “definitely a possibility” that mobile search ad costs could exceed those of PC search ads, since industry experts have forecast that mobile search volume will exceed that of PC search in a few years. So long as companies like Bing and Google innovate and provide better engagement for consumers, then the advertisers could have better capabilities to target consumers, which could drive up the ad rates.
Mobile search is the next frontier for search giants like Google and Bing. Consumers can look forward to better, faster and more relevant answers to their queries, while businesses can better target potential customers and increase their bottom line.
“As more and more consumers use these smartphones, we’re just going to continue to see a ton of innovation,” says Feng. “It’s a totally new area and there are a lot of things we can do.”
6. Mobile Coupons Could Replace Groupons
Chu says 56% of iPhone users compare prices while they shop. In light of the daily deals and coupon phenomenon, it’s not surprising to learn that more than 50% of consumers have expressed wanting to redeem mobile coupons. At this point in time, he says, only 5% of customers are redeeming mobile coupons, so there is massive opportunity in this market, especially since 39% of U.S. merchants plan to use mobile coupons.