The growth of mobile search has been hindered by perceived high data costs and limited handset capability. However, higher bandwidths and the uptake of 2.5Gand 3G-capable handsets by more mainstream consumers means the medium is likely to become a more important driver of both revenue and traffic for brands.
Nokia estimates that by 2015, five billion people globally will have access to an always-on mobile internet connection, and there will be a 100-fold increase in mobile network traffic. What does this mean for brands? First, mobile internet users will use search in a different way from regular internet users.
While the latter tend to search for several keywords to refine their results, mobile users — particularly because of the small size of their screen — will look for only a couple. This means that only the biggest brands will appear to consumers in the majority of mobile search listings.
The biggest trend in mobile search, and use of the mobile internet in general, is for users to venture beyond their operator’s designated portal to access that of another brand. Mobile web advertising is encouraging this practice; clickthrough rates for mobile web ads are reportedly five to 10 times higher than those for other forms of online advertising.
Scott Gallacher, director of online and partnerships at Sky, bel i e v e s that many brands are wary of investing a huge amount of money in mobile search because it has not yet been seen to have sufficient penetration to warrant the spend. “I don’t think mobile search is on the radar for most companies because it’s just not that important a channel (to them), so why would they invest in it?” he asks.
Hugh Griffiths, director of mobile at Microsoft , says a lot of brands produce content that’s very campaign-specific : “Consumers, particularly teenagers and those in their early 20s, expect good-quality mobile content. In its current campaign, Vodafone is going to spend millions of pounds on the mobile web. What’s the expectation of users if the operators are telling them to use the mobile internet; what do brands want those users to experience? Do they expect them to just take a rendered version of their website? I think that’s completely the wrong approach.” He adds, “Brands have an opportunity to create a great experience for users.There’s an opportunity for them to be taken to a mobile microsite that features the same kind of creative as on the regular website.” The rise of mobile search is due to advances in handset technology. Says Dr Windsor Holden, principal analyst at Juniper Research: “The improved user interface on handsets is making it a lot easier for people to search on the mobile internet.
Google and Yahoo! are getting into the mobile space. Phone operators used to guard their fiefdoms terribly, as they wanted to have more control of the value chain, but that has become unsustainable because people clearly want to emulate on the mobile web what they do in the fixed space. The operators have invited the major search engines into their tent, rather than kept them out.” Although Gallacher is not convinced that brands should start spending millions on mobile search, he believes there are factors that could contribute to its growth: “Mobilespecific content and search make the mobile internet make sense.
But it needs to change. On mobile, it’s a different interface from online. Texting has developed its own language; you would expect a version of that to be developed for mobile search. The market is still embryonic.” Griffiths adds: “In the past five months, our mobile search business has grown by more than 250%, and anecdotal evidence from network operators says people are using bookmarks to avoid having the delay of going through the network’s portal.”
6 months ago